ALTERNATIVE: Pitching Tiers in Points Leagues

Each year at, we identify tiers of talent in basic points leagues. Points leagues appeal to the fantasy football player looking for a baseball league that works in a similar manner. They need to feel a “score” as they watch a baseball game.  Without having to worry about categories and rankings, points leagues give the owner immediate gratification. For our purposes, we will assume a basic scoring format for pitchers of fifteen points for a win, seven for a save, and a point for each strikeout.

While more complicated formats exist, this basic format should provide a great starting point for your valuation. Be careful, though, as too many categories detract from the ease of playability that makes points leagues so popular. Also, with too many categories your ability to accurately measure and predict performance can actually lessen.

When analyzing pitchers with the basic format, a few basic assumptions should influence your draft strategy. While closers can represent a solid point play, their ceiling is limited without the chance for double digit wins or two hundred innings for strikeouts. 

Your ideal strategy is to nab high Dom starting pitchers with a winning team. You need the strikeouts as the reliable points with wins to push up his point totals. Since wins remain difficult to project, and pitchers tend to injure more often than hitters, the most effective strategy may involve saving most starting pitchers for the end of the draft.

But we will show you all the tiers so you can determine your own strategy or nab a better starter that slides in your draft. With Wins representing such a large point total, a few close games can skew the point count by 45 points, or 15% of a starter’s value. So tiering becomes much more important than focusing on specific values.

Tier 1 – Elite

Justin Verlander (517)
Roy Halladay (491)
CC Sabathia (488)
Craig Kimbrel (485)

This is much earlier than we would value Kimbrel. It represents a best-case scenario including five wins and 73 IP, so you may want to drop him down a tier or two in case he fails to reach either number.

Tier 2 – Aces

Clayton Kershaw (466)
Zack Greinke (466)
James Shields (462)
Cliff Lee (455)
Jon Lester (446)

Shields seems the highest risk in this tier. The 18 wins represents the highest total he has achieved. It also assumes Tampa can continue their winning ways, always a dangerous assumption on paper in the American League East. Shields also possesses the lowest Dom of the tier.

Lee and Lester could easily exceed their sixteen win projection, providing the best upside of the tier.

Tier 3 - #1 Starters

Gio Gonzalez (437)
Yovani Gallardo (436)
Felix Hernandez (432)
Tim Lincecum (432)
Daniel Hudson (426)
Jered Weaver (425)

Gonzalez represents the most risk here, as we project 16 wins compared to 14-15 for most of the others. We also project seventeen wins for Hudson, which means he could easily fall to the next tier. This is especially true with his 7.6 Dom, the lowest of the tier. Lincecum’s 9.5 Dom makes him the ideal target here.

Tier 4 

CJ Wilson (416)
Jonathan Papelbon (415)
Mat Latos (414)
Cole Hamels (411)
Brandon Morrow (409)
Josh Beckett (405)
Ian Kennedy (404)
David Price (402)
Derek Holland (398)
Drew Storen (398)
Brandon Beachy (397)
Heath Bell (395)
Trevor Cahill (392)
JJ Putz (391)
John Axford (390)
Ubaldo Jimenez (387)
Max Scherzer (385)
Matt Garza (385)

Here the risks lie in the low 7.3 Dom of Derek Holland  Derek DeDDD(LHP, TEX) and the 6.1 of Trevor Cahill (RHP, ARI). The most upside here lies in CJ Wilson (LHP, LAA), who only projects for 14 wins, and Brandon Morrow (RHP, TOR), who posts a 9.8 Dom.

Tier 5

Dan Haren (377)
Ryan Dempser (376)
Kyle Farnsworth (376)
Madison Bumgarner (374)
Gavin Floyd (373)
Jeremy Hellickson (371)
Colby Lewis (371)
Jose Valverde (370)
Jordan Walden (369)
Joe Nathan (365)
Clay Bucholz (364)
Carlos Marmol (364)
Cory Luebke (363)
Michael Pineda (362)
Sergio Santos (361)
Andrew Bailey (359)
Jaime Garcia (358)
John Danks (356)
Tommy Hanson (356)
Jason Motte (356)

The most upside resides in Michael Pineda (RHP, NYY), who we project will have an 8.8 Dom and 13 wins with a great Yankee offense behind him.   Ryan Dempster (RHP, CHC)  tops the tier with an 8.4 Dom, while Dan Haren (RHP, LAA) could easily exceed his 13 win projection with a solid 7.8 Dom.  A healthy Tommy Hanson (RHP, ATL) could return major profits with his 9.1 Dom.

Be careful with Clay Buchholz (RHP, BOS), as he owns the lowest Dom of the tier (6.4).   Similarly, Jaime Garcia (LHP, STL) and Jeremy Hellickson (RHP, TAM) project to strike out only seven batters per nine innings with 15 and 14 wins, respectively.  A slow start could deplete the value of Jason Motte (RHP, STL) with so many solid closers-in-waiting in St. Louis.

Tier 6

Mariano Rivera (352)
Ricky Romero (349)
Ted Lilly (347)
Matt Moore (346)
Ervin Santana (344)
Johnny Cueto (344)
James McDonald (344)
Yu Darvish (342)
Chad Billingsley (340)
Wandy Rodriguez (335)
Daniel Bard (334)
Huston Street (334)
Matt Cain (333)
Brian Wilson (333)
Hiroki Kuroda (332)
Bruce Chen (332)
Joel Hanrahan (331)
Neftali Feliz (330)
Doug Fister (329)
Anibal Sanchez (328)
Vance Worley (328)
Chris Carpenter (328)
Bud Norris (327)
Rafael Betancourt (326)
Josh Collmenter (324)
Adam Wainright (323)
Shaun Marcum (323)
Jhoulys Chacin (319)

With a 10.5 Dom, Matt Moore (LHP, TAM) may top all starters in strikeouts per nine innings.   The big questions remain how many innings the Rays will allow him to pitch and how many wins he racks up in the AL East.  If Daniel Bard (RHP, BOS) and Neftali Feliz (RHP, TEX) can handle the workload, they could move up a few tiers.  Right now their innings total remains a question mark, lowering their projected points total.  The same holds true for Adam Wainright (RHP, STL) as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.  Doug Fister (RHP, DET), Johnny Cueto (RHP, CIN), and Hiroki Kuroda (RHP, NYY) possess the lowest Dom of the tier, but each has wins upside by pitching for teams projected to make the playoffs.  Wandy Rodriguez (LHP, HOU) provides an 8.1 Dom and remains a trade candidate, which could improve his win total.

The rest of the hurlers rest at or near replacement value.  Some targets with upside include the following:

Stephen Strasburg
Francisco Liriano
Jordan Zimmerman
Chris Sale
Phil Hughes
Josh Johnson

The injury risk or resulting lack of innings cause these pitchers to fall this low in our projections.  While they possess skills, the points format rewards pitchers most likely to rack up innings, with the wins and strikeouts following suit.

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