This needs an update...coming soon in 2009

These are random thoughts and in no particular order.

Springfield claims that this game is all about pitching.  A great pitcher can shut down a really good hitting performance by the other team.  After scoring 900 games in the last season, I can say that there are cases where that's not always true, but you should probably build your pitching staff as though it were 100% gospel.  After all, they always say in the majors that "great pitching beats great hitting any day," or something to that effect.

This is a little different than Rotisserie baseball for pitching.  Pitching in a 5-category roto league is generally ERA, W, S, K, WHIP.  In this game, throw out the WHIP and W.  Ks are important, but you don't need to try to be first in the league in them.  Saves are important, but not for every reliever.  And modify your notion of the ERA a little bit.

For starting pitchers, the key is IP and ER allowed.  An earned run given up by your starter has a one-to-one relationship to a run added in your pitching half of the score.  IP is important, because the longer your starter goes, the less you need to rely on the bullpen.

So, essentially, that's ERA.  But, depending on how your bullpen did that day, you might be better off having a guy pitch 8 innings giving up 4 runs than you are with a guy who goes only 5 and gives up 1 run.  On other days, the second guy will actually be better.  (These are guidelines, not scientific laws)  Still you should shop for starters with decent or low ERAs and who log a good number of IP.  You'd want your top guys to average at minimum 7 IP per start...I'd rather have closer to 8.

WHIP isn't a direct factor, but that might just go into determining whether your pitcher gives up a lot of runs, so walks, hits, HR allowed, etc. can all be factors as you look for pitchers and set your rotation.

Here's a philosophical debate.  Do you put your #1 starter in your #1 rotation spot?  Let's face it, all season he's going to go up against Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Ken Hill (ok there are a few exceptions).  Now, does your guy keep you close enough to win in those games, or do you move him down to a lower spot in the rotation and try to dominate the games against the Jeff Fasseros, Scott Ericksons, and Jose Limas (version 2000) of the league?  Hmmm.

Be careful when moving your pitchers in the rotation.  Remember that a pitcher must rest for four games before pitching again, otherwise he sits out a game.  USUALLY that means you can move him down a spot safely.  But you also need to consider which pitcher is going to pitch game 1 of that week.  If you move him down to spot 4 in the rotation, but it just so happens that the week you move him is the week that the 4th pitcher goes in game 1 and 6, you've lost him for the first game.  You need to play with it on paper a little, I think, to do it right.  And it actually works out in some cases that you can safely move him UP in the rotation and not miss a spot.  But it makes my head spin to try to explain it.  Someone figured it out last season (I think Nordeast).

Relief pitching....

This is really tough.  One thing to remember is that since relievers don't pitch every game, a six-game span is used to collect their stats for a single fantasy game. But the same things hold true as for starters - IP and ER.  Ks are important too.  And Saves are critical, but only for your top 2 relievers.  First of all, let's review....go to Scoring Formula and scroll all the way down to the bottom...then come back.

Ok.  Very clear now, right?  Actually, maybe you want to open that link in a new browser window so you can switch back and forth.

Let's start with the saves.  Saves only count for your #1 and #2 relievers and only if they appear in the game.  A CG by your starter means saves are irrelevant and 8 IP means that only your closer appears.  Wichita had Isringhausen in the #3 spot all year.  Nothing wrong with that, just that the saves he earned did nothing for Wichita this year.

Now, let's look at ER.  It actually gets defined as ER per inning pitched.  That's pretty straightforward (Ks are the same way).  They just might show up in the formula kind of oddly.

How about # of relievers used in the formula.  That should be pretty straightforward too if you look at the "Relievers used" column.  Your 5th guy in the bullpen will be used in the scoring formula ONLY if your starter fails to make it to the 5th inning. 

Now, IP.  Obviously in most cases, your closers won't log a lot of IP in each game.  And they won't appear in every game.  But over a six-game span, your #1 guy should see 3.3 IP.  (Look at the minimum IP column).  That minimum IP figure goes up for each reliever needed in the game.  So, probably starting with the #3 guy, the rest of your bullpen should be averaging more than 1 IP per appearance.

So here's where people got hurt by their bullpen in 2000.

Since the bullpen stats are not listed individually in the box scores, it's up to each owner to track themselves and see how the guys are currently doing.

Addressing the "suck" factor shouldn't take any explaining.  The other two really come down to minimum IP.  Your relief staff might score pretty well in ER/IP determination.  However, if they don't reach the minimum IP for that six-game stretch, the calculation is adjusted to add one ER for each IP (or portion thereof) that must be added to reach the minimum.

So if you need 3 relievers, and collectively they only pitched 7 innings in the previous six ML games, you're going to have 5 ER added to the ER/IP formula (4 takes you from 7 to 11, but remember the "portion" of an inning, so you get another run added for the 1/3 inning to reach 11.3).

That problem is compounded if you don't have all relief pitchers currently pitching.  It's not generally a big deal if one guy doesn't really pitch.  If your 2nd guy is out all week, the 3rd guy moves up to 2, and so on.  But what if you need that 5th reliever spot?  Or, in the case of some teams at times in 2000, what if you have only 2 or 3 relievers logging major league innings?  This becomes a problem.

One other thought on the IP problem: take a look in the formula document at the designations of the relievers from "R1 = Closer" to "R5 = Mop up".  These are general statements for guidance.  Remember that R5 will only be used if your starter goes under 5 IP.  Yes, in classic theory you'd save your R5 guy for times when you need a lot of IP.  But if he's good enough in other areas you really might want to stick him higher in the order so that you make sure you hit your minimum IP in times when you use only 3 or 4 relievers.  If you need 5, his innings are going to count anyway.

So you want to try to find two real-life closers for spots R1 and R2.  The key to your bullpen, though, might be who you get to fill the R3 role.  This is a guy who will move up to R2 if one of the top two are out, so saves are a bonus.  But if he's a guy with a good ERA and generally pitches either a lot of games or gets a lot of IP when he does pitch...that's your guy.

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