Hey gang, sorry I missed Tuesday’s scheduled posting. This one’s going to be a little short as well, I am trying like the dickens to finish the bulk of the premium content by the weekend so we can focus on being as up to date on playing time situations as possible.
There are a couple of things I want to get off my chest, one is the continuation of the manner pitching is still being misread and the other is a bit of a rebirth of an older pet peeve that I have seen manifest a lot this drafting season.
With respect to pitching, the take home message is not going to be to draft Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander with your first three picks. Please keep that in mind as I reiterate this thought process.
The faux pas that is being bandied about everywhere is because MLB pitching is better than it used to be, fantasy pitching is better and deeper, therefore you can continue to wait until well into the draft to get your pitchers, and perhaps wait even longer because the inventory is so deep. I won’t sugar coat it, that is plain and simply horrible advice doled out by “so-called” experts (oh yes I did just write that) who are not doing their homework and following the herd, unfortunately the herd in this case is stuck in the mid 2000’s when waiting on pitching was indeed the smart manner to approach things.
Here’s the deal – VALUE IS RELATIVE. Come October, the team with the best ERA and WHIP in your league is going to sport marks lower than the first place total than in previous seasons. The second place total will also be lower and it goes all the way down to the last place team. But here’s the kicker. The 20th best pitcher is still the 20th best pitcher. The 3oth best pitcher is still the 30th best pitcher and so on. The numbers of the 20th and 30th best hurler are superior to their counterpart from a few years ago, but the impact they have on your fantasy team is the same. The 40th best pitcher influences your ERA and WHIP exactly the same as the 40th best pitcher influenced it a few years ago. Does he have better stats? Yes, he does. Is he more valuable? No, he isn’t. The better stats are worth the same.
The second part of this rant deals with the difference between drafting cheap pitching and drafting pitching on the cheap. The reason for waiting on pitching back in the mid 2000’s had to do with the availability of GOOD PITCHING cheap. By good pitching, I mean GOOD FANTASY PITCHING. Presently, no one can dole out fantasy advice without using the words lucky or unlucky. While I have another issue with the misuse of that concept which I will save for another day, the point is, overall, the manner the fantasy populace evaluates pitching has improved by leaps and bounds the past few years. Most serious fantasy enthusiasts are able to recognize when a pitcher pitched better or worse than his peripherals and do not project future performance based solely on ERA and WHIP. The result is this is pitchers that used to be available late in the draft because their ERA was high the previous season due to misfortune with their BABIP, HR/FB or LOB% are projected with a regressed ERA and are no longer available later in the draft.
Previously, if you waited and knew what you were doing, you could draft good pitching on the cheap. Now if you wait, all you will do is draft cheap pitching. This dynamic occurs throughout the draft. The SP1 you used to get in the 8th round is going in the 3rd or 4th. The high skilled SP2 and SP3 you used to get in the teens are no longer there. The 15th round is knocking and James Shields is no longer at the door. The end game gems you used to snag are now going in the teens and the sweet reserve arms you picked up are now end game fodder.
I have two challenges for those still refusing to believe me. First, next time someone advises you to wait on pitching, ask them what round they took their first pitcher in last season then ask them if they won? When they tell you they didn’t and start making excuses, interrupt them and ask them what round the winner drafted their first pitcher?
The second is to sit down and do a little exercise. Using last year’s league as a guide, find out what ERA and WHIP were necessary to finish 3rd or 4th in the category. This usually suffices to compete. Now assemble what you feel is the perfect staff to accomplish your goal, top to bottom, calculating the staff ERA and WHIP to make sure it is within range of your target. Now objectively determine where you need to draft those pitchers. Next, map out two different plans, one starting with a better pitcher as your SP1 and the other with a worse pitcher as your SP1 and determine what those staffs would have to look like to meet your goal. The point of this is not to demonstrate the staff with the worst SP1 can never meet the goal, it can. You will just have to focus on pitching for the next several rounds, completely ignoring hitting and picking from an inventory less reliable from the better pitchers. You see, that’s the part many are forgetting, or do not even realize. Pitching at the top is actually fairly reliable. At minimum, it is as reliable as top hitting. It used to be another reason to take hitting was its reliability. This gap has significantly narrowed if not disappeared. This is going to be a project I undertake, investigating this.
Anyway, back to the point, take a look at the three pitching staffs and decide which one is most likely to actually meet the goal at the end of the year in concert with what kind of offense you can put together. Maybe you still opt to wait on pitching and that is fine, but at least you did some evaluation and decided in your league, you could pull it off and not follow archaic advice spouted by people who advise what other people advise and do not do the research on their own to see what works and what does not.
My second little harangue deals with the notion of taking a player at a perceived scarce position because the drop-off to the next player at the position is larger than the drop-off at other positions. More often than not, those espousing this little ditty of advice pick out an arbitrary player and make a comparison like, “who would rather have, Green and Black or White and Brown?”
Here is my issue. The real question is “do you prefer your entire roster if you choose Green or White?” It is not a two on two comparison, but how your entire roster would have developed with one player versus the other. Who is to say you would have had to take the arbitrary player the person chose to make their argument work and not someone better?
Keep in mind the premise here is drafting a player with lower potential production over a better player, just because of the drop off in talent at the position of the lesser player. I have a little secret for you, some close. YOU ARE MAKING MORE PICKS BEFORE YOU WOULD HAVE TO DRAFT THIS ARBITRARY PLAYER DESIGNED TO MAKE THEIR POINT (yes, I am yelling). Trust me, at some point in the draft, a player at this weak position will be at or near the top of your cheat sheet. If you insist on doing the two by two comparison, this is point to make it, when you are drafting the player at the position. Keeping in mind that my contention is eventually this player will be available to you at value, this means the other players are of similar value, including those at the position you bypassed way back in round 1 or 2. Now, who do you prefer, a top first baseman better than a top shortstop then a shortstop as good as the available outfielders at the time or a top shortstop inferior to the top outfielder or first baseman and an outfielder on a par with the shortstops available at that time?
Just as the first rant will be misinterpreted as draft Halladay and Kershaw, this diatribe will turn into “Zola says take the best player available at all times, even if you fill your outfield, corner and utility by round eight." That’s not what I am saying. I am saying in the first round or two, do not leave stats on the table just to get a so-called scarce position filled. The delta between players at the top of a draft is pretty significant. This difference gets smaller and smaller as you transverse the snake. Once you get to the 4th round, the difference is nil, meaning you can now jump the shortstop over an outfielder and a first baseman, because they are fundamentally the same player.Well, I guess it wasn’t so short after all. Thanks for indulging me