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Sunday 20th Aug 2017

I have always pushed more towards making sure my pitching is strong in my fantasy leagues over my hitting. It isn't that I neglect my batters, but rarely do I invest in a Giancarlo Stanton or Bryce Harper once such players manage a salary over $35 in auctions. As for straight drafts, I do look at hitters, but again, if Clayton Kershaw (who can alone help push pitching totals to the top of the standings) is available, that is my path.

In fact, when I think of the fun Bay Area Roto-Fantasy League (BARF), where I did indeed grab Kershaw with my first selection, I went A.J. Pollock with #2, and then Chris Sale as pick three, I have been struggling to replace my outfielder. But thankfully, my pitching is stable enough to keep my team in the hunt thus far.

But, aside from Kershaw, Sale, and that Jake Arrieta guy, the pitching aces of the year thus far are J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello and Mat Latos. David Price and Sonny Gray would be great only if their ERA's could be converted to batting average with the related numbers following in kind.

But, if we remember back to all the pre-season analysis and mock draft choices and flurries of experimentation, one thing was clear: there was no dearth of good pitchers. That meant sometimes stacking in favor of hurlers, and sometimes waiting until maybe the sixth round as I did as part of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) #MockDraftArmy.

In the end, I suspect most of us drafted and built our squads around paths and methods that are familiar to our respective comfort zones. Certainly in my most visible leagues--LABR and Tout AL--I went pitcher strong with the purchase of Chris Sale in LABR and both David Price and Sonny Gray in Tout.

Needless to say, I needn't go into the pain and concern I have around Price and Gray. But, in this year where we all knew pitching was abundant, how did the hurlers do versus the hitters in the Majors over the first month of the season? Mind you, pitchers usually do have the advantage over the first month of each year, when the combination of cold weather and timing give the tilt to the chuckers of the pill.

However, this year, at least over the first month, is not like last, as the pitcher's numbers below suggest:

Year K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WAR
2016 8.15 3.30 1.06 3.98 65.5
2015 7.64 3.03 0.91 3.93 67.1

It is worthy of noting that in 2015, these totals involved 327 March/April games while this year, an additional 27 (354) games were played, and this difference is probably mostly due to rainouts and related schedule changes. But clearly, pitchers are biting it more than their hitting counterparts with nearly a half a run per game and .15 more dingers being hit this year. And, my suspicion is that control for pitchers might be a struggle, so although strikeouts are up, so are walks. This suggests that in critical situations, hurlers are pointing towards their power. Although that means strikeouts, it also means walks, hits, and homers as pitchers are forced into the middle of the zone. 

Similarly, adjusting these numbers around the Rays and Astros--both of whom are on pace to set seasonal records for whiffs--might be appropriate as the season progresses. But for now, the numbers speak for themselves.

What about the yang hitter's numbers to the pitcher's yin?

Year PA HR R RBI AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
2016 26757 740 3001 2863 .249 .319 .405 .316 95
2015 24708 592 2794 2645 .250 .315 .390 .307 92

Again, let's remember there were 27 more games played in 2016, but what jumps out are the 148 more homers hit, which breaks down to 5.48 homers per game over those unplayed contests.

And, though certainly strikeouts are up this year, average and OBP are pretty much the same between the two seasons. But the .015 bump in slugging is hardly insignificant.

Obviously, my "bed" is literally made at this point of the season, and I owe it to Price, Gray, and my own plotting to stick things out at least through June before I decide time is short and desperate times are upon my squads. And, knowing that hitters usually find their own zone with the warm weather not only makes me nervous, but has me thinking about just what I might even be able to do come July if pitchers are nothing and hitters are everything?

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