Thursday, June 19, 2008

Living a Lie: Stuck in the Middle

Living a Lie will be a weekly installment delving into the annals of the world of fantasy sports and will hopefully run until the end of the baseball season.

Let's say you're done with the draft, and the season is underway and you take a look at your roster and see a less than formidable starting staff. You heeded the advice of experts everywhere, and didn't overpay for the Johan Santanas, and Brandon Webbs of the world. Let's say you planned on nabbing that great sleeper candidate later on in the draft, but just missed out on him. Or let's say that you drafted Eric Bedard hoping for greatness and just got mediocrity.

What are you to do?

First of all, there's usually pitching talent hiding on the waiver wire early in the season, as well as upshot starters that no one expected to be good (think Cliff Lee, Edinson Volquez). However, these types are often more lucky than good, and strangely enough their luck seems to run out right when you decide to pick them up (take the flyer on them anyway if your second best starter is Jeremy Bonderman).

However, an easier and sometimes more reliable way to tackle this is by using a different approach.

Assume you are in a normal 5x5, 12 team league with the starting pitching spots of SP x3, RP x3, P x3, and categories of W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP.

Instead of filling your remaining P spots with Matt Garza and Aaron Laffey, you might be better off looking towards middle relief.

There are a few benefits to the elite setup-man over the mediocre starting pitcher.

[Note: This is just a way of patching things up, not how to assemble a top-notch staff. This probably shouldn't be your goal, just something that you are forced into employing.]

1. ERA and WHIP.

These are the categories hurt most by using starting pitchers who are less than top of the line. If you carry a couple starters on your team with ERA's above 4, those ratios are going to take a big hit. Elite set-up men rarely have ERA's above 3, so that will give you a big advantage in those two categories.

2. W and K/9.

Obviously, not all set-up men strikeout a batter an inning, but a lot of them do. Common sense would tell you that by replacing starting pitchers with reliever, you will automatically lose W and K. However, while their lower innings pitched will usually cause them to have lower K totals than starting pitchers, they usually make up for it with extremely good K/9 ratios.

As a case study, look at Carlos Marmol, a set-up man who should be owned in virtually all leagues. On the season, he has a blistering 63 K's, more than John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Justin Duchscherer, Jon Garland, Adam Wainwright, Ian Snell, and a slew of other ownable starters.

Look at Heath Bell and Damaso Marte with their 4 wins. Clearly, this isn't as many as Brandon Webb, but it rivals that of Edwin Jackson, Aaron Laffey, and Bronson Arroyo.

3. Closer Possibility

A lot of managers have a short lease when it comes to their closers. A lot of set-up men are just closers in training. If you keep an eye out for struggling closers or ones that are going to be traded, you might be able to nab the next-in-line before anyone else sees them. And even if he doesn't take over the job, at least you have an able set-up man on your hands.

Ownable Set-up Men (In order of goodness)

  • Carlos Marmol
  • Heath Bell
  • Scott Linebrink
  • Taylor Buchholz
  • Santiago Casilla
  • Tony Pena
  • Damaso Marte
  • Hideki Okajima
  • Scot Shields
  • Manny Delcarmen