I've been thinking a lot about the streaming of players both in fantasy, and extrapolating those thoughts to the Majors the last few weeks, for the topic has come up during my new talk show on the FNTSY Sports Network, The Tout Wars Hour (each Thursday at 9:00 PM, ET).
During discussions over the week, my partner Justin Mason and I talked not so much about just streaming pitchers with Peter Kreutzer, Steve Gardner, and Jeff Erickson, but the thought of players in a shallow league basically drafting a team and streaming the hot hand in and out of one's lineup, using the reserve pool and FAAB as a replacement path, is something we have all witnessed.
To be sure, there is nothing illegal or I suppose even wrong with drafting Ender Inciarte on draft day in a 10-team mixed league, snatching up Aaron Judge a week into the season, and playing Judge theoretically till he gets cold. Then said owner would dump Judge back into the free-agent pool and pick up say Danny Valencia (laugh if you will, but Valencia's numbers from May through August are historically wicked).
And, if Valencia, true to form cools off after a few weeks in the lineup, said owner would drop the Seattle utilityman in deference to ideally another hot bat--perhaps Judge or Inciarte if still there--and fuels his or her team as such. That means all 23 players are subject to dumping, and theoretically recall at any time over the course of the season.
Playing like this, as suggested, is certainly within the rules of most leagues, but at the same time, the process seems contrary to the intent of a league in the first place, and that is to try and draft the best team on draft day, augmenting and filling holes as necessary via that same free agent pool.
I do have to say that it makes me think because the latter is the game I want to play, and truthfully, I play in deep leagues as a rule, so there is very little opportunity to even try a tactic like "roster streaming", as I have dubbed it.
Similarly, I am in general against making rules that favor or inhibit any particular kind of strategy, meaning I am very conservative thinking. You have a tight set of rules and constitution within your league, and that set of guidelines becomes much more constant than dynamic with tweaks and changes every year.
Furthermore, I think that roster streaming is a tough way to try and win much of anything, not to mention it could be a lot of work relative to the payoff.
However, innovation and thinking out of the box are things I admire, even if the path at hand is not one I conjured or employed. However, think about coaches like Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick, or managers like Bobby Cox and Whitey Herzog, and understand the unorthodox approach they took not only led to success, but widespread change in the industry. Meaning I am hard-pressed to sit in judgement.
Which brings me, seemingly inexplicably, to the Colorado Rockies and their pitching staff, which as inexplicably sit at third in the Majors with a 4.26 ERA coupled with a third-best in league 5.2 WAR.
What is particularly compelling about the success of the Colorado pitchers this season is that the team is 22nd in the Majors in whiffs per nine at 7.67. My truth is that I always thought the only way a Rockies starter would really be successful was if he was dominant, and going into this year I thought a push towards Jon Gray, who bagged 185 whiffs over 168 frames last year, was the way to go.
Gray was supposed to lead the pitching staff this year, but instead he has been injured while the likes of Tyler Chatwood, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela have led the Rockies to a first-place, 23-13 mark through Thursday. And, they have been doing it with ground balls.
In fact, Freeland and Chatwood are among the league leaders in ground balls induced with 66.7% and 55.7% outs recorded on the ground for the hurlers, suggesting the very opposite of my solution for pitching success in Colorado. In fact, the Rockies lead the league in ground ball rate at 55.2% and are last at fly ball rate at 22.7%.
Of course, just six weeks into the season, it is too early to tell, but it seems to me three or four off-speed ground ball pitchers, coupled with one hard thrower to move around in the rotation, along with one each of a lefty and righty ground baller and power pitcher for set-up and/or closing seems like it could be an effective way to go.
Of course, pairing a hard-thrower with an off-speed guy is nothing new in MLB, but employing the use to such an extreme is not something that has been exploited.
Either way, it will indeed be interesting to see how the Rockies fare as the season progresses. And better yet, if it works, will the other 29 teams think about following suit just like using the shift, or situational pitchers, or any other like tactic?
Better yet, it will be equally fun seeing how hitters try to adjust back, for we all know adjustment is always on the menu for hitters and pitchers. It is the name of the game.
Whether you agree or not, you can always find me @lawrmichaels, and do tune into the Tout Wars Hour. Great guests, lots of strategy, covering baseball, football, hockey, golf, hoops, soccer, and NCAA!