ALTERNATIVE: 2020 Strat-O-Matic pitching targets

Every year we examine pitching targets when Strat-O-Matic reveals their new ratings. These ratings utilize the previous year’s statistics, adjusted for ballpark ratings and the fielders behind the pitchers. The more offense the park allows, the worse the fielders, the more adjustments Strat makes to favor the pitcher.

Why look at Strat-O-Matic ratings?  Strat players focused on skills long before the invention of Rotisserie. Managers of Strat teams used stressed great bullpens, especially in the playoffs, decades before the major leagues.  Similarly, they prioritized on-base percentage, experimented with different lineup constructions, focused on strikeout ability and walk avoidance by pitchers, and noticed that relievers per inning possessed greater effectiveness than starters.

So we begin with relievers.  While starting pitchers still command a premium due to their scarcity, the number of great relievers declines each year, as well. With most playoff series limiting usage to between seven and ten percent, relievers still double their ordinary ratio of innings in the playoffs. Being brought into high leverage situations, great relievers value to winning rises in importance.

Starters fail to go deep into games, with only three Strat starting pitchers featuring a tiring factor more than six innings. Relievers become more important than ever, with each team needing more relief innings. They still come much cheaper than other positions, so building a deep bullpen, especially with setup guys, remains the cheapest and easiest way to build a good pitching staff.

In this talent pool, you must note the lack of quality southpaw options. Only five of the top 25 relievers throw left-handed. So acquiring one, or two if you can, gives you a significant advantage. With lineups able to stack small sample sizes against left-handed starters make them less effective, the increased number of right-handed starters make lefty relievers even more valuable to flip the lineup over.

Middle Relievers

The best middle reliever card in the set belongs to Anthony Bass (RHP, TOR). Bass is a bit backwards right-hander, excelling against left-handed hitters by allowing baserunners less than 4% of the time. Yes, 4%. His 21% hit rate resulted in a card exempt from ballpark single factors, so if you use Coors Field or Fenway Park as your home, Bass is even more effective. Bass can also retire three hitters in a closer situation (within one run in the ninth inning).

Aaron Bummer (LHP, CHW) offers similar performance but from the opposite side, making him one of the game’s most valuable commodities.  You can get either of these two free agent relievers in the third round in nearly every league as shown in our Draft Review article found here.

For the past two years, Seth Lugo (RHP, NYM) provided at least eighty excellent balanced bullpen innings with the ability to retire a few batters in the closer situation. An 11.7 Dom powered a 6.5 Cmd for a 183 BPV in 2019. These top notch skills can’t get much better, but right now his high inning total makes him a solid anchor in any bullpen.

The past two seasons, Pedro Baez (RHP, LA) has kept the ball in the ballpark resulting in amazing effectiveness.  A declining Dom, Fpk%, and rising FB% causes future concern but value him highly this year. Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, STL) posted a 17% SwK%, 65% FpK, and 11.7 Dom for a 163 BPX. Some homer chances are the only blemishes on his card. He also makes a great future investment.

The next three guys share the common traits of right-handers who get lefty hitters out and give up a few homers to right-handed batters. So avoid ballparks with a high right-handed home run factor with these guys for shut down performance.

Tyler Clippard
Ryan Pressley
Will Harris

Ultra-valuable portsiders include Zach Britton (LHP, NYY) and Julio Urias (LHP, LA). Britton offers balance and few hit chances with only his 4.7 Ctl keeping the card human. Urias struggles a bit with his control against left-handers and gives up some doubles and triples to them, but overall he still makes a great pitcher now and in the future.

While you can acquire many of these middlemen at reasonable cost, here is a list of arms you can acquire at the very end of a draft or inexpensively from someone not realizing their value.

JB Wendelken
Keone Kela
Austin Adams
Jimmy Cordero
Stefan Crichton
Rowan Wick
Jarlin Garcia
Javy Guerra
Tommy Kahnle
Josh Taylor
Brandon Brennan

Closers

Since perfecting his splitter, Kirby Yates (RHP, SD) peaked in 2019 with a 244 BPX and a 2.31 xERA. With below average defense behind him, Yates card tops all pitchers. From the left side, Felipe Vazquez (LHP, PIT) tops the closers with a 13.5 Dom and 210 BPX (though he is obviously not a long-term option with his current legal troubles).

Liam Hendricks (RHP, OAK) emerged as a force in 2019. Hendricks not only limits baserunners, but his -5 hold rating keeps the lucky few at bay. Aroldis Chapman (LHP, NYY) has consistently dominated with his now declining 98.4 Vel.

Ken Giles (RHP, TOR) quietly posted an excellent season with the Blue Jays. His 19% SwK yielded a career high 14.1 Dom. Factor in a hitter-friendly environment and moribund defense behind him, and you have an incredible closer card. Giles does have minor home run yielding issues against left-handed batters. The man traded for Giles, Roberto Osuna (RHP, HOU) offers a similar card in reverse, with a few home runs given up to right-handed batters.

Some less heralded but still excellent closer options include:

Hector Neris
Alex Colome
Brandon Workman
Taylor Rogers
Hansel Robles

Beware of big names like Josh Hader (LHP, MIL) whose 1.8 HR/9 and 21% HR/F make his card a landmine. Hader allows few baserunners and sports a 16.4 Dom and 24% Swk, but all those homers create a rollercoaster season with him as your closer. Have the guts to use him if you have to but be aware in a homer haven he will disappoint you time after time.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (RHP, NYM) tops the list of starting pitchers as the only ace without a major home run problem. Along with solid lefty ace Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP, TOR), they are the only top tier starters with a tiring rating of seven. The next three excellent starters limit baserunners but do give up an inordinate share of long balls for the top cards in the set.

Justin Verlander
Gerritt Cole
Jack Flaherty

Despite posting a career high 10.5 Dom, enjoy the great season of Sonny Gray (RHP, CIN) now as his declining FpK dropped to 55%. Charlie Morton (RHP, TAM) on the other hand, raised his FpK and Swk at age 36 – another excellent anchor to your staff. When healthy as in 2019, Stephen Strasburg (RHP, WAS) can top any rotation.

Three young stud right-handers garner tons of press as writers drool over their upside.

Luis Castillo
Walker Buehler
Lucas Giolito

These guys not only represent solid options in the current year, but bode well for the future in keeper leagues.

As we get to #2 starters, veterans top the list.

Zack Greinke
Max Scherzer
Lance Lynn

Lefties fall victim to their opponent’s exploitation of the law of small numbers. It’s easier to have a skewed monster card against southpaws with so few at bats against them. So Strat managers find it easier to stack lineups against portsiders. limiting their effectiveness. These four can still get enough batters out to function as a second or third starter on a playoff team.

Mike Minor
Clayton Kershaw
John Means
Patrick Corbin

Rounding out the second tier of starters are two masters of control with great future potential In Shane Bieber (RHP, CLE) and Mike Soroka (RHP, ATL). Bieber features a 6.5 Cmd but in Strat watch out for the home runs given up to lefties. Soroka’s indicators trail Bieber’s but he avoids the homer issues. A 282 oBA against lefties reflects his only weakness.

If you don’t need innings or want to piece together a rotation spot, here are some starters who failed to pitch a full season, but become postseason weapons in the games they can start.

Tyler Glasnow
Luke Weaver
Mike Clevinger
Frankie Montas
Kenta Maeda
Jordan Yamamoto
Ryan Yarborough
Chris Paddack

The first three of these represent the most dominant weapons. Beware of Chris Paddack (RHP, SD) in the wrong park as he gives up a lot of home runs when his statistics are adjusted from his pitcher haven at Petco Park.

The talent on the mound drops off sharply as you get beyond these starters. If you plan to compete this year, you must pay up for the scarcity of starters. Overpay in talent here because unlike discounting for injuries in Roto, Strat uses actual stats so you have perfect information regarding performance and stamina.

If you lack extra assets to trade, go the less expensive bullpen route to support your rotation. This strategy works for all good teams. With these targets, have a great season!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.