Trolling the Wire: Final Season Rundown

If you came to this site with any regularity during the baseball season, you likely saw plenty written about my weekly spot starter choices.  Every week throughout the season, I scanned the free agent pool of standard mixed leagues for the best starting pitcher matchups available.  Not every starter was going to be available in every league so I tried to provide as many quality options as possible.

Every Sunday I reviewed the previous week’s selections to see how they turned out.  Some crashed and burned horribly, but many others soared and offered above average performances that would have no doubted aided your team.  Week 18 was especially disastrous as my 16 picks posted an abysmal 6.27 ERA  and 1.50 WHIP in 93 innings notching just four wins.  That is pretty awful.

First off, the 16 picks were easily a single week high as I averaged 11 over the season and for that many picks to result in such poor numbers means more than one imploded.  In fact, just one of the 16 had an ERA below 4.03 (Cory Luebke in his second start of the week) while four starters had an ERA of 10.29 or worse with the biggest offenders being Gavin Floyd (10 ER in 2.7 IP) and Derek Holland (4 ER in 1.7 IP).  Oddly enough, the group still produced 6.4 K/9 and a 2.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the 1.7 HR/9 probably did them in.

Thankfully the picks closed out the season with great strength.  Three of the last four weeks saw the pick set post an ERA of 2.86 or lower and in the “off” week, the picks still yielded a plenty usable 3.93 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  So let’s take a deeper look at how everything shook out in the season of spot starters.

I made a total of 264 picks over 23 weeks with 254 of them actually pitching.  The other 10 were either skipped, rained out or injured.  The entire group managed a 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 1561 innings of work while striking out 1182 (6.8 K/9) and walking 463 (2.7 BB/9) yielding a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  With 85 wins, the group won 33% of their starts.  I didn’t keep an exact win-loss record and I’m sure a large percentage of the remaining 169 starts were no decisions.  They also allowed 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

With their body of work, the group essentially splits up into eight 195-inning pitchers from which you would have gotten the same 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but also 11 wins and 148 strikeouts.  In other words, they were a group of Jhoulys Chacins.  Chacin was 11-14 in 194 innings with a 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 150 strikeouts.  Other strong comps include Jaime Garcia (195 IP, 13 W, 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 156 K) and Ted Lilly (193 IP, 12 W, 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 K).

So the average sampling of the 254 spot start selections yielded you a Chacin, Garcia or Lilly.  A random sampling of the 33 starts (1561 IP ÷ 254 starts x 33 = 195 IP) could obviously return a performance better or worse than those comps, but as an average that is pretty solid.

Let’s look now at the pitchers most frequently picked and how they did when selected.  Edwin Jackson was the Spot Starter of the Year having been picked 12 times.  I have long been a fan of his and after watching him for an entire year in Detroit, I liked him even more.  I was happy to see him breakout with the Tigers not only because that is my team, but also because I knew he had it in him.

His skills have improved in the years since, but the results haven’t always been there to match.  The same went for me when I picked him as a spot starter.  Despite finishing the year with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, I picked him for 76 innings during which he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.49 WHIP with five wins.  His 6.8 K/9 and 2.6 K/BB during the 76 innings are right in line with his season-long 6.7 and 2.4 rates.

Two other pitchers surpassed double digits in terms of times picked: Tim Stauffer (11) and James McDonald (10).  Stauffer offered 71 strong innings with a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while McDonald was similar to Jackson in his 56 innings with a 4.17 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.  Stauffer matched Jackson’s five wins, but McDonald netted just a pair.  It was another Padre who stood alone with nine starts.  Cory Luebke needed one fewer start to match McDonald’s 56 innings while his 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP were among the best numbers for any pitcher.  Despite the strong numbers, he won just three of his nine starts.

Of the 86 pitchers who were picked in all, 17 were picked five or more times including the four covered above.  Those 17 pitchers threw 786 innings (50% of the total) pitching to a 3.37 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 44 of the 85 wins.  The king of that bunch was Javier Vazquez, who posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in five starts.  He would have made more appearances in the recommendations, but his availability surged at points during the season and he just wasn’t on the wire in enough leagues.

The worst of the five-plus start bunch was Derek Holland.  Despite his breakout season, I had horrible luck when picking him as he was totally boom or bust.  I mentioned his four earned runs in less than two innings (21.18 ERA) earlier, but he also had outings of 7 ER in 5.3 IP and 5 ER in 5 IP which contributed to his 5.45 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 38 innings across seven starts.  He did give us three gems, though, including two 7 IP/1 ER starts down the stretch (September 14th and 20th).  I would be surprised if he found on the waiver wire of too many leagues from the start of 2012.

Here is the five-plus start bunch sorted by innings:

Poor Doug Fister.  He throws 45 excellent innings with a 2.58 ERA and 1.01 WHIP yet didn’t have a single win to show for it.  Despite how horrid the Seattle Mariners were for the year, they had three starters on this list and all three delivered fantastic numbers despite netting just three wins in 17 combined starts.

There were 17 other starters who were selected at least three times this year.  Here they are with just their times selected:

The rest of the breakdown saw 16 pitchers picked twice and 36 picked just once.

Obviously this strategy requires a specific set of league rules to pull off, but assuming your league doesn’t have stringent transaction or innings limits and allows daily moves, then this is a strategy that can be of significant value.  The upshot is that instead of spending early picks of the stud aces like Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum or Cole Hamels, you continue to build your offense into a juggernaut.  There will still be plenty of pitching in the middle rounds to start your rotation, but then you leave your last pick or two to fill out the rotation and those will be your stream slots for spot starters.

I will run this again in 2012, so for those of who you enjoyed it this year, it will be back.  For those of you who want to try it out, you will have a shot to use my picks if you’d like.

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2 Responses to “Trolling the Wire: Final Season Rundown”

  1. Thanks Paul. Loved the weekly posts and can’t wait for the new season.

    Ironically, my potentially biggest single flop last year was ignoring your advice on James Shields. Well that and Jayson Werth.

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