Us guys like a good experiment, even if it’s as simple as determining how many M-80s it takes to blow the legs off a GI Joe action figure, or how many seconds it takes to explode a Peep in the microwave. Experiments are fun.
Colorado is trying a pretty big experiment with their pitching staff, utilizing a new look 4-man rotation. Colorado is using 4 starting pitchers on shorter rest, but limiting them to a 75 pitch limit. This means they pitch through the lineup twice plus some change, then a middle reliever comes in for a couple innings, only to give way to 8th and 9th innings guys.
Everyone knows that hitters perform better when they see a pitcher several times in a game, and that a reliever’s numbers trend better than a starter’s because of this fact. Here are some numbers for you:
1st PA vs SP: .247/.310/.393
2nd PA vs SP: .260/.321/.417
3rd PA vs SP: .271/.332/.444
For reference, the first PA against a reliever in a game is .241/.316/.375 – only a smudge better than the first PA against a starting pitcher, but considerably better than the 3rd time around. Colorado in going to the 4-man rotation is looking to capitalize on this fact by having starters go through the opposing lineup fewer times, while maximizing the relief pitcher effect.
So far, so not-so-good for the Rockies, but my money says that this is due to the fact the their pitching staff is just downright atrocious, regardless of how they are used. And I really hope that they stick to this experiment because I do love the absolute innovation of it, having been a sabermetrics nerd for years and realizing that the modern 5-man rotation wasn’t necessarily the only or best way to do things. Baseball tradition is hard to change though, and I’m guessing that Colorado’s experiment ends at the end of the season.
But what if a passionate group of fantasy baseball writers could extol the virtues of having a Colorado like rotation for your fantasy baseball teams? I’m talking about a fantasy baseball rotation that would heavily utilize cheap middle relievers, allowing you to drive down ERA and WHIP, while saving draft resources for hitters. Where would we find passionate fantasy baseball writers like that?
Yes, we’ve encouraged fantasy baseball players to maximize relief innings (the MRI method) several times now, but I want to give it one more go in honor of the current Colorado Rockies pitching staff. I give you the “Fantasy 4-Man”, which oddly will just be a 3-Man, as you’ll soon see. Here’s a step-by-step:
- Understand that you are trying to line up approximately 1200 innings for a typical fantasy baseball team. Most leagues have some sort of an innings cap anyway, but 1200 innings is typically the sweet spot you are aiming for (Trivia: An average MLB team needs to throw about 1450 innings per season).
- Draft 3 starting pitchers and pay only about $25 for them total. You are hoping for about 180 innings each from these 3 guys, giving you 560 innings so far. These three starting pitchers will break into 2 types, but you are looking for the same qualities. You want insanely high K/9 guys, you want them to be command pitchers (meaning they don’t walk many guys), and you don’t want them to give up more than a home run a game (look for high GB%).
- Spend $15-20 on an “Ace.” Obviously, $20 bucks won’t get you Justin Verlander but you aren’t looking to pay big money for pitchers. You are looking to get a good deal on a guy that meets the above criteria.
- Spend $2-3 each on two more starters. These are guys that fit into the LIMA mold. To keep this post under book length I’ll let you read more about LIMA here.)
- Draft 2-3 closers. You’re only going to pay $12-13 bucks for these guys and you’ll want approximately 50 innings each from them. 3 x 50 = 150 + 560 = 710 innings thus far.
- Spend $10 of your closer budget on one solid guy. Make sure he’s high K, generally healthy, and that his team will be in a position to get some saves.
- Spend $2-3 and take a flyer on a high upside closer. Get him late in the draft and look for potential.
- You won’t pay a dime for your 3rd closer. There are always saves on the waiver wire during the season. Jump on a guy early and you have a source of saves for free.
- Notice you’ve only spent about $37 on pitching and that’s all you’ll spend. The bulk of your remaining innings will come from middle relievers. Over the course of the season you’ll want to grab about 4 middle relievers and count on them for about 50 innings each. These extra 200 innings take you to 710. The beauty of middle relievers is that they are free and they have insanely low ERAs and WHIPs. You’ll win the league in those categories. They’ll also grab you an occasional vulture WIN, but you’ll trail in this category most likely. Keep your middle relievers in a pitching slot and only remove them if you have to replace them with one of your starters, and only replace them on the day that your starter is starting. This is how you maximize your innings.
- Finish off your innings with spot starters by streaming in pitchers under ideal circumstances. These pitchers are also from the waiver wire and free. If you stream well you are collecting WINS and racking up Ks. Best of all, by spending less than $40 on pitching you have a mint to spend on hitters.