Increasing AL-Only Pitching Return On Investment
At this point in the offseason, most fantasy sites and experts have reached the consensus that a successful way to conquer a league is to draft or purchase hitting first, second and third. Pitching has become relegated to the middle and late rounds. This strategy has immense value and has been the strategy that I have used in every single one of my mocks. To make this strategy successful in AL-Only, however, you can’t simply rely on an ability to stream pitchers because the league sizes don’t permit it. Therefore, to increase the value of the pitchers that you draft, you have to identify the correct pitchers to draft. The following players are all being selected in the later rounds of AL-Only drafts and are not generally considered fantasy studs.
Vance Worley, Minnesota Twins: Worley had an absolutely incredible 2011, becoming just as valuable to the Phillies pitching staff as the other superstars. In 2012, his .BABIP rose from .283 to .340 and saw his velocity dip all across the board. These factors contributed to his transfer to the Minnesota Twins. Worley won’t have a solid lineup behind him and therefore won’t have the same win probability, but he does have the potential for a bounceback year. Even in a poor 2012, his FIP was 3.85, signifying some potential room for improvement. Part of Worley’s problem may have been that he transitioned from throwing his slider 21.3% of the time, to throwing it only 3.6% of the time and introducing a cutter. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Worley through his cutter 19.5% of the time and that pitch accrued -1.77 runs below average per 100 pitchers. Perhaps is Worley reintroduces the slider to his arsenal, we could see a repeat of 2011 which would certainly help pitching starved AL-Only squads.
Tommy Hanson, Los Angeles Angels: Tommy Hanson used to be a really, really good starting pitchers. From 2009 to 2011, he posted sub 4.00 ERA’s like a champion, won double digit games and even submitted a season where he struck out over a batter per inning. 2012 was not the same story. His FIP was 4.57, his fastball velocity dove from 91.1 to 89.6 MPH and he simply wasn’t good. However, as seen from the Worley example, gambling on these pitchers who are coming off down years can pay off significantly. While the same positive indicators don’t exist for Hanson, his previous performances show his excellence. If Hanson has a healthy and productive spring, he should be an AL-Only target.
Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics : In the realm of expert drafts and baseball nerds, Tommy Milone is not going to be available for cheap in auctions or late in drafts. He still might return value to those experts who jump on him early and as a target in your home league, it doesn’t really get much better. Milone posted 3.74 ERA with a 3.93 FIP, in combination with a relatively regression proof .310 BABIP, even though his line drive rate was 24.7%. Milone is a pitching stud, relative to what it will cost to acquire him in an AL-Only format. While everyone blows their money on the Verlander’s and David Price’s, sit back and let Milone’s value come to you.
Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians: How Masterson is available at this cheap of a price is mystifying, going at 192 overall in ADP, according to CBS Sports. Granted he had a bad year with ERA, but his FIP was only 4.16. In his spectacular 2011, his HR/FB ratio 6.3%, which is significantly lower than his career average, but his BABIP was only .302. It appears that Masterson’s problems in 2012, were related to control as his walk percentage rose to 9.7% and his WHIP rose to 1.45. It’s certainly possible that Masterson’s 2011 was an anomaly, but you aren’t winning your league by playing it safe.
Other than Milone, the options I presented are high upside players who could not pan out for you in a successful manner. Gambling on pitching is imperative in an AL-Only format, due to the scarcity of power hitting and cost of the most talented pitchers. These are 4 players that I will be targeting to supplement my pitching staff due to the reasons outlined above. If you have any questions, contact me on twitter, @davismattek.