Last week, I discussed how it is no longer wise to wait on drafting pitching except in the shallowest of leagues. The essay can be reviewed here. This week, I am going to present a process to track the quality of pitching you draft, as a means of assembling a staff of the necessary quality to compete in your leagues.
For a couple of years, I have been championing a philosophy I call “draft the pitcher, not the round”. The idea is to predetermine the quality of pitcher you want, and draft a pitcher residing in that tier when that tier is being drafted, as opposed to predetermining the rounds in which you will draft pitching, especially your early selections. I have been following this procedure on a rather intuitive basis, and it has been successful. But then I had an idea, and I was somewhat amazed at the findings. I have turned these findings into a strategy I wish to present to you now. As a note to our Platinum subscribers, you will be getting a more detailed description in a couple of weeks.
Chances are, you are familiar with the concept of tiered drafting. This is where you determine positional ranks by tiers, considering all the players within each tier to be of the same value. You then look for pockets of value and areas with severe drop-offs, and plan your draft strategy to take advantage of these pockets and drops. The process I am about to describe borrows heavily from the tiered drafting philosophy.
Even though we are still about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting, drafting season is in full force and I have already completed three leagues that count. They are all 15-team mixed leagues with no trading, so my strategy, at least with respect to pitching, is pretty similar in each. I have an end-result in mind with respect to the quality of my staff. I decided to manifest a means of quantifying the quality, which led to the amazement alluded to above.
I started by breaking the starting pitching into six tiers. The top tier being best of the best with the bottom tier being pitchers I would only have on reserve until they proved themselves worthy of contributing to an active roster. The fifth tier is composed of pitchers I would only deploy in favorable situations. Tiers two, three and four are in between.
Closers are distributed in three tiers. All three tiers are made up of closers I feel are full-timers, since it is my strategy in leagues of this nature to roster two full time closers. The closers are therefore ranked by skills, since I assume 35-40 saves for every full time closer. By means of example, relievers like Ryan Franklin and Brandon Lyon comprise the third tier.
In each case, the top tier is assigned a point value of one, the next tier two, etc. So starters are scored one through six and closers one through three. I proceeded to “score” the pitching staffs of the three leagues I drafted and found that they all ended up at the same number: 26. This is where I shook my head in amazement – three separate drafts, no designed strategy, just intuition, and all three pitching staffs scored exactly the same. Then it struck me. While it is fine for some to rely on intuition, others prefer to be guided through the drafting process with a bit more rigidity. Hence the birth of, well, I still need a name. So with apologies to my compatriot GaryJ, I will borrow from his weekly column and call this temporarily, the strategy to be named later.
For me, 26 was the magic number. Two times, the components were 22 for starters, 4 for closers. The other was 23 and 3. But this is a perfect illustration of another point I have been championing the past several seasons, and that is drafting a top tier closer allows you to sacrifice a little on the starting pitching as the ratios of the upper echelon stoppers are so off the charts good that even in minimal innings, they in effect make a third tier starting pitcher the equivalent of a second tier guy.
The objective is to draft seven starting pitchers that score 22 points and two closers scoring four points. If you take a closer in the top tier at slot and one in the second tier at slot, you now have the luxury of aiming for 23 points in starting pitching, meaning you can adjust your tiers for one roster spot, so instead of taking say three each in the third and fourth tiers, you take two in the third tier and four in the fourth tier. The adjustment can be anywhere; that was just an example.
Note the purposeful use of the term “at slot” above. This means you draft the pitcher in the midst of the run for that tier. Keeping in mind we will all be using different rankings, there is a very good chance that there will be a pitcher you like that slides to a lower tier. For fun, let us name that pitcher Dan Haren. Okay, I will come clean. I do not buy into the first half/second half analysis for Haren and since his peripherals are very good, he resides firmly in my second tier, but others do not share my optimism and I have found him available when my third tier is coming off the board. So if I am lucky enough to draft him, I have a decision to make. He gets two points in my ranking system, but I can often grab him when other pitchers earning three points are drafted. I can therefore opt to adjust my plan and alter the number of pitchers I target in each tier, or I can stick with the rest of the plan and end up with a score of 25 in pitching. If I do the former, “on paper”, I will have the same quality of pitching I originally intended, but my hitting could be a little better since I can wait a round or two for one of my pitchers since one’s target tier was lowered. If I opt for the latter, my hitting is the same as I originally planned, but my pitching is a tad better. What you do is up to you, and completely revolves around how you feel the rest of the draft will proceed and which path will lead to a better chance of winning. The larger point is keeping score of your pitching in this manner may facilitate the delicate hitting versus pitching conundrum.
While the number 26 was magical for me, this does not mean that should necessarily be your target. If you are intrigued by this concept, I would recommend putting together some ranking tiers and putting together some representative staffs that you feel will compete in your various leagues. Then I would tally up the points and see where you end up. If the number is pretty consistent, set that as your goal. Truth be told, there is nothing special about six tiers for starters and three tiers for relievers, either. Those can be seasoned to taste as well.
So there you have it: The Strategy to be Named Later. Remember, Platinum subscribers will get a treatment in some greater detail. While I admit to being an intuitive drafter, probably more so than many perceive, I do think this concept has some merit and welcome, if not encourage comments here or on the forum. And who knows, maybe there will be a prize for whoever can come up with a clever name. I’m sure Gary would appreciate it.