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Fantasy Baseball Word Problems: Waiver Wire Scenarios

San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults
San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults

Jul 26, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Stults (53) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Remember growing up and how much your hate for math class exponentially increased when the teacher made you do word problems? Your initial thought process probably sounded like this:

  • What is this nonsense?
  • What exactly am I trying to solve here?
  • Math was already hard enough with numbers, but now you’re adding words to the mix?
  • I’m never going to use this in real life, so why bother?

Well, it turns out that some of those word problem skills would come in handy, especially if you’re into baseball and baseball statistics. The following is a simulation of what many fantasy baseball owners are probably going through today as they rummage through the waiver wire in the hope of getting help in setting their pitching rotation for the upcoming week. The names on the data tables have been removed in order to do away with any bias. Your assignment is to pick the appropriate pitcher for the scenario in question, based on the numbers alone. Good luck!

[All pitchers listed have an Ownership% of less than 60% of fantasy baseball leagues at CBS Sports. All stats are based on the last 30 days of play. Outside factors, such as what team will the pitcher face this week or whether their next start is a home or road game do not play a role in scenario. While the stats are real, the scenarios are based on possible events, therefore the names used, along with the correlating information, are fake].

SCENARIO #1:

Bob from Poughkeepsie, New York is the owner of the fantasy baseball team, CupCheck Strykers. Bob plays in a 12-team, traditional 5X5 roto-league. Bob is looking for a pitcher who can be a cheap source of strikeouts, but without hurting his tight lead in ERA for the upcoming week. Lineups are locked for the week once the first pitch of the first baseball game on Monday occurs. Based on what’s currently available on the waiver wire, Bob has decided on what he has deemed to be the four best candidates out there.

Based on this particular scenario, which of the following starting pitchers will give Bob an extra boost in strikeouts without hurting his ERA?

FREE AGENT PITCHERS: 60% < OWNED

Roto Payoff in Last 30 Days

Player

Owned%

W

L

INN

K/BB

K/9

BB/9

ERA

WHIP

HR/9

Player A

52%

2

1

40.1

1.5

4.7

3.1

2.68

1.19

0.67

Player B

59%

2

4

34.0

2.1

5.0

2.4

5.03

1.56

0.26

Player C

50%

2

2

27.1

5.7

7.6

1.3

5.60

1.06

2.30

Player D

53%

1

2

24.0

2.7

6.0

2.3

2.63

1.04

1.50

Player D has the best ERA and WHIP of the group, but Player C has displayed the better K/9 and has done an excellent job in controlling his walks. Both Players C and D have seemingly struggled with the long ball recently. It doesn’t directly affect Bob’s team because he plays in a 5X5 league, but one can argue that too many home runs allowed can eventually increase ERA and WHIP, cancelling out the strikeouts a starting pitcher might get in their next outing. Player D might be the best choice here, but Bob is seriously thinking of going the safe route and picking up Player A because his ERA and WHIP are low enough and has not given up many long balls in the last 30-day period, despite having mediocre strikeout totals. Then again, Player C might bust out with a great outing based on his K/BB.

So Bob is leaning towards D, C, and A in that order. He decides to look at advanced data to help him make a final decision (here’s a glossary of pitching terms for the stats being used):

FREE AGENT PITCHERS: 60% < OWNED

Advanced Stats and Batted Balls % in Last 30 Days

Player

BABIP

FIP

SIERA

K%

BB%

LD%

GB%

FB%

IF/FB%

HR/FB%

Player A

0.244

4.08

5.01

12.7%

8.4%

17.1%

44.7%

38.2%

8.5%

6.4%

Player B

0.341

3.19

4.80

12.2%

5.8%

29.3%

36.6%

34.1%

7.1%

2.4%

Player C

0.234

5.24

3.48

20.5%

3.6%

17.9%

44.0%

38.1%

6.3%

21.9%

Player D

0.214

4.62

4.47

16.7%

6.3%

25.0%

30.6%

44.4%

6.3%

12.5%

Bob is actually more confused than before. Player C has great strikeout and walk rates, but he sees that even with the low BABIP, his FIP and HR/FB% are still incredibly high. He is encouraged to see that his SIERA is the lowest of this group and his line-drive rate has been kept in check, but he is still disappointed in the home run totals.

Just like Player C, Player A has a low BABIP, helped by the lowest LD% in this group, but Bob is turned off by the high FIP and SIERA. Bob is also not a fan of the high walk rate, therefore he has all, but eliminated Player A from this mix.

Bob is impressed with Player B’s grit. Though he doesn’t have a high K%, the fact that he has not given up many long balls despite the high BABIP and line-drive rate, has left an impression with Bob. The positive review is justified by the low FIP that Player B has posted in the last month of play, although doubts still lurk due to the high SIERA.

Which leaves us with Player D, the pitcher that Bob was favoring before he looked at the advanced data. Bob is wary of the extremely low BABIP as he believes that it’s an indication that this pitcher will be due for some sort of reality check soon. He is further discouraged by the high line-drive% and HR/FB% as he is alarmed at the notion of what more damage can Player D suffer through once his BABIP rises again. Player D’s high FIP and SIERA are not very appealing to Bob either, but he is reminded that he’s looking for a boost in strikeouts and Player D can be that source.

Based on the information provided to you, which one of these starting pitchers should Bob consider to help him in the strikeouts’ department, but without costing him his fragile lead in ERA  for the upcoming week?

WARNING: THE PITCHERS’ IDENTITIES ARE BELOW. 

I don’t know Bob that well, but it sounds like Bob has himself a very tough decision ahead of him. If he were to ask me for advice, I would remind him that he just needs to roll the dice on one of the strikeout pitchers so that eliminates Player A and B. Though Player C has the better SIERA and K%, it’s hard to ignore his HR/FB% of 21.9% and FIP of 5.24. At the same time, Player D’s high line-drive rate is just as alarming and though Player C has the highest FIP among this group, Player D’s high FIP and SIERA leave very little hope that he will be pitching better any time soon. To Player D’s credit, he is a fly ball pitcher so one can hope that he will turn those fly balls into flyouts and not home runs.

My advice: roll the dice on Player C as his impressive K% and BB% is encouraging enough to be optimistic on his next start.

What about you? Who do you think Bob should pick for the upcoming week?

Stats courtesy of fangraphs.com and are good through July 27, 2013.

  1. Player A: Dillon Gee
  2. Player B: Eric Stults
  3. Player C: Jeremy Hefner
  4. Player D: Phil Hughes
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