Fantasy baseball: Hardball High week 2, the art of streaming pitchers


Hardball High

Alright, students, the professor is in once again, so stop cutting class and pay attention because this week’s lesson is particularly valuable.

Most of the time, we leave Fantasy Baseball up to chance and simply let our players play. While this may work for a few lucky individuals, the rest of us have been plagued with one fantasy ailment or another, whether it be injuries or stark underproduction. Between injuries to Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, and more, many teams are without their ace starter. And the way pitchers like Jered Weaver, Matt Garza, and Stephen Strasburg are pitching, they may as well be.

Today, however, things are going to change. Today, we discuss a way to drastically increase your odds of winning the pitching battle in head-to-head matchups. This tactic is known as “streaming pitchers”.

Cincinnati Reds

Aaron Harang has already rewarded everyone who took a chance and “streamed” him so far this season.

First, let’s start with some basic theory. Say a team has five starting pitchers. And let’s say, on average, two of them have two starts in any given week. That gives that team seven starts on the week, or seven chances to earn strikeouts, try for wins (or quality starts), and improve your WHIP and ERA. And say everyone in a ten team league has five starting pitchers. That would make James Shields the 25th best starting pitcher based on Player Rankings last year, an average pitcher in the league. James Shields had a WHIP of 1.24 and an ERA of 3.15 last year. He won about 60% of his games, and struck out 196 batters over his 34 starts, for an average of 5.76 K’s per start. Projecting those same average numbers over a week of seven starts, an average team gets 4.2 wins per week and 40.32 K’s, with a WHIP of 1.24 and an ERA of 3.15 from their starters.

Now let’s see what happens when we start to “stream” our pitchers. In a standard league, each team gets four acquisitions per week. Rather than spending them on batters (who, for the most part, bat every day) the wise consumer spends them on starting pitchers. While the pickings may be a little slimmer on the waiver wire, the streamer has not only an advantage in quantity of starts, but also by choosing pitchers with favorable matchups for that day. Then, once they’ve had their start, you drop them for another pitcher to be “streamed” that day.

Some basic stats form the regular season last year: in 4,862 total starts last year, SP’s won 1,658 games, for an average of a 34% win rate. But, given the liberties taken by the streamer to select who they want pitching on which specific day, it’s not unrealistic to bump that number closer to 50%, with around 5 K’s per start. The league average ERA and WHIP for a pitcher was 3.86 and 1.30, respectively, so we’ll use these numbers when calculating averages for those four streamed games. After crunching the numbers, here’s a direct comparison of the streamer and the non-streamer:

– NORMAL: 4.2 Wins, 40.32 K’s, 3.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP. –

– STREAMER: 6.2 Wins, 60.32 K’s, 3.41 ERA, 1.27 WHIP. –

As you can see, the tradeoff is clearly worth it. The difference in average wins and K’s gives a definitive advantage to the streamer, while still keeping them competitive in ERA and WHIP. Ultimately, it remains impossible to guarantee results in Fantasy Baseball, but using the waiver adds wisely can maximize one’s chances of success.

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