Jeff Gross

AL/NL Auction Strategy - Pitching

Specific Fantasy Baseball strategies should be undertaken in AL-only & NL-only leagues given the smaller player pools. Shawn Childs shares his thoughts on the subject.

Pitching is the hardest part of fantasy baseball. It would be easy if you could spend a ton of money on your pitching staff in an auction. You could build a strong base and leave yourself room for a mistake or two. Your offense would suffer for sure. In the NFBC, you have no way of trading your pitching for hitting. It’s amazing to see how hard it is to keep half of your pitching points never mind getting 66 percent of the needed winning pitching points. With no trading, you need to find a balance in your budget between hitting and pitching. Pitching is the most frustrating because of the high rate of injuries and failures.

If a fantasy owner had a choice, I believe they would spend most of their money on hitting and screw pitching. I guess this should be the plan every year at least in the pre-game planning.

When you are evaluating the pitching pool, you need to look for buying opportunities. It could be a closer in waiting who might get the job early in the season. Maybe, it is a $10 pitcher who could match a few $20 pitchers. After reviewing the players, you then have to decide if you think you can build your staff for less money than expected.

Many teams will buy one closer. If your one closer gets 35 saves, you might get four saves points in a 12-team Roto leagues. It doesn’t seem like much return on a $15+ investment. The truth is you need to get over 50 saves in most seasons in AL or NL auction leagues to get in the top third in saves. This is one reason many fantasy owners punt or try to buy saves cheap. It’s hard to justify spending 30 percent of your pitching budget to get minimal points. This is why I think you have to decide first what you want to do with saves during the auction. After reviewing all the relievers, do you see anyone you wish to invest at full price? If not, is there someone discounted who could return top value? Then, is there a player who you believe will get a job at some point in the season? After answering all of those questions, you then have to decide how much you want to invest in saves. I would never punt saves totally. Why not grab a couple of closers in waiting in the reserve rounds. It won’t cost you any of your auction budget. You never know how the season unfolds. Saves is a category that could be the difference in winning or losing a league. The better you are at getting a high percentage of saves per dollar invested; the better fantasy player you will be. I know a stud closer offers more than just saves. If the price is right, you might have to bite. A few years back, top closers were going for close to $30. The market had corrected itself where the best closer might cost around $20. If you decide you are willing to pay $15 for a closer, you better be ready if one of best closers is going for less than $20.

Once you have decided on your plan for saves, you need to find a couple of starters who will be the anchors of your pitching staff. This is where an auction is a great equalizer. If you invest top dollar on say Clayton Kershaw, it restricts the rest of your pitching staff unless you are willing to spend a higher percentage of your budget on pitching. When Pedro Martinez was in his prime, you could pay over $40 for him and still dominate the pitching categories. He had a huge gap over the rest of the field. You could invest $30+ on Kershaw, but how much of an edge does he have over the rest of the top pitchers in the National League? Are you better off buying two $20 starters to build your base? Is there enough talent where you could get four solid starters for around $50? Is it better to get 200, 400, or 750 good innings? The answers to these questions are in each year's pitching inventory. In some years, the pitching inventory does not appear to have much top talent. Others years, there might be enough to go around. After looking at the pitching inventory, I think it is best to come up with two maybe three pitchers you want to have as your core pitching staff. Just like the hitting side, you have to find real prices to see if you can build your base of your pitching staff. If you decide you want to spend $60 on two starters and one closer, you need to know if those player’s prices will fit into your plan. If you view a pitcher as the key to your team, you might need to throw him on the mat early to see if you can execute your plan.

Most teams will spend between $60 and $80 on pitching. By making a $60 investment on three pitchers, you are hoping to set up your base for all pitching categories. Your next six pitchers will be the difference in winning and losing. With limited funds, you will need to be well prepared and disciplined to fill your staff. If you bite early on an $8 pitcher, it might cost you a chance at two $4 pitchers you want later on. Sometimes it isn’t the price of the player; it’s the timing of when you roster them.

Your plan for pitching will dictate how much money you have to build your hitting team. It is easy to cheat pitching and spend the money on hitting. In some years, there will be an opportunity to do this. In others, you could be punting era and whip. You can still get over 50 % of the points if you can lead wins, strikeouts, and saves. There are so many different ways to go in pitching. You need to find a plan that allows you the best chance to win year in and year out. In a non-trading NFBC auction league, I believe you invest in your core players. You do your homework to find opportunities in the auction. You have an early game plan and a late game plan. You have to have enough discipline to execute in the late game that allows you to get the players you want. The players you believe are the difference makers.