ALTERNATIVE: Winning in Strat-O-Matic 2019—Pitchers

Each year, we help you find the hidden gems that can help you win in Strat-O-Matic simulation. Yesterday, we looked at hitters; today, we'll cover pitchers. Since the game engine uses the previous year’s statistics, we know the probability of player performance. This is particularly important for pitchers, as there is no injury risk compared to Rotisserie or Scoresheet.

These ratings also give the Rotisserie player insight into which players have unique rate stats, like hits per innings pitched, ballpark effects, and fielding abilities that earn or detract from playing time.

Our goal is not to master the obvious. You don’t need us to tell you how good Max Scherzer (RHP, WAS) is. We focus on finding hidden value—guys who will perform better in Strat-O-Matic than you would ordinarily imagine, and make you aware of potentially overrated players you may want to jettison in trades. For this exercise, we will focus on current year value (2018 performance) without regard to future values.

RELIEF PITCHING

We start with relievers because in Strat-O-Matic, the importance of relief pitching increases exponentially. Relievers retire more batters per at-bat than starters. The ratios rule in Strat-O-Matic.

Sean Doolittle (LHP, WAS) only allows baserunners less than 2% of the time. Yes 2%! Against lefties, he cannot allow a baserunner on his own card. Only 4% of right-handers get on base against this top closer. This seems extreme. But half the time the game will use the pitcher’s ratings and half the batter’s, so extreme performances yield extreme ratings to account for the other half of potential outcomes beyond the player’s control.

Need a killer setup man? Oliver Perez (LHP, CLE) does not allow a baserunner versus right-handed batters. With perfect information, the Strat manager can utilize pitchers with reverse splits like this to neutralize opponents. Perez only allows baserunners 9% of the time against southpaws.

How many leagues do you think Edubray Ramos (RHP, PHI) will dominate? Not many Roto leagues, but he will key winning Strat-O-Matic teams. Opposing batters only get on base about 12% of the time against him with Ramos specializing in retiring lefties (8% on base chances).

Elite closers Edwin Diaz (RHP, SEA) and Blake Treinen (RHP, OAK) also rank near the top. Treinen adds a longer tiring factor, allowing for additional multiple inning appearances.  Craig Kimbrel’s (RHP, FA) FpK sank to a measly 56% as his Ctl climbed to 4.5. Kimbrel also gave up too many home runs against lefties to make it to the top tier.

Underrated closing options include the following hurlers, who retire batters and keep the ball in the park to limit the chance of yielding a game-winning homer:

Will Smith
Pedro Strop
Jose LeClerc
Kirby Yates
Seranthony Dominguez
Jeremy Jeffress

Pedro Strop (RHP, CHC) has quietly posted an ERA under 3.00 seven of the past eight years, including five in a row. His xERA has risen above that mark the past two, as his 2018 GB rate fell below 50% for the first time in five years.

Jose LeClerc (RHP, TEX) does not give up any hits on his card thanks to a 18% SwK. He does walk guys, but he cut his Ctl in half in 2018. If he keeps at that level or improves like he did in the second half in 2018, he will be a superstar.

The same phenomenon affects Seranthony Dominguez (RHP, PHI). His Ctl went from 1.3 to 5.3 in the second half. When that happened, his WHIP doubled and BPV was cut in half. More interestingly, the SwK dropped for Dominguez and LeClerc as batters chased fewer pitches. Dominguez, like Treinen, has a higher endurance rating to allow more multiple inning appearances.

How about great setup men? The guys you never hear about but who retire men at a similar rate to Scherzer. Strat-O-Matic managers employed “bullpenning” long before the majors.  They did with relievers like these and many others a tier below:

Ryan Brasier
Josh Fields
Taylor Rogers
Taylor Cole
Colin McHugh
Diego Castillo
Jose Castillo

Diego Castillo (RHP, TAM) allows very few hits but a few long balls to lefties. Expect Castillo to regress a bit due his 24% hit rate. Control remains his big question mark. He posted a 2.9 Ctl but his 48% FpK makes you wonder if he can maintain this level. Jose Castillo (LHP, SD) features a 70% FpK to go with a 15% Swk to create a killer southpaw with a 160 BPV. Not bad for someone who just turned 23 this offseason.

STARTING PITCHERS

Beyond the surface statistics, Strat-O-Matic adjusts pitchers for ballpark and fielding effects to isolate a pitcher’s skills, like we do at BaseballHQ with xERA. Pitching in a hitter-friendly park with poor defense will result in fewer chances on a pitcher’s card because the home park and defense is utilized for statistical accuracy. Moving a pitcher from a pitcher-friendly park to a hitter’s park will negatively affect his performance.

The other factor you must consider in simulation is that left-handed starters face more difficult lineups. With fewer at-bats against southpaws, a batter’s results against them become skewed. More lefty-killers exist, especially among batters with fewer total at-bats, as the small sample size can make them great solely for the purpose of facing portsiders. This happens less frequently against right-handers as the sample sizes get larger and the law of regression takes over. Finally, a pitcher needs to balance his effectiveness against both types of batters so your opponent cannot load his lineup with lefties, for example.

So the top pitcher in the 2018 set is not a Cy Young winner—Aaron Nola (RHP, PHI). Even with pitching in Citizens Bank Park with shoddy defense behind him, his card tops the list. He averages less than a 10% chance of allowing a baserunner against both types of batters.

Here are the obvious aces:

Jacob de Grom
Blake Snell
Chris Sale
Max Scherzer
Justin Verlander
Gerritt Cole
Corey Kluber

Only thing to note here is that Justin Verlander (RHP, HOU) gives up a lot of homers, so be careful with him in a hitter-friendly environment. Same with Corey Kluber (RHP, CLE) against lefties. Don’t put him in Yankee Stadium.

Since it’s ratios that rule, not wins, here are some other top pitchers who may not top the Cy Young boards:

Trevor Bauer
Walker Buehler
Mike Foltynewicz
Miles Mikolas
Jose Berrios
Zack Wheeler
Clay Buchholz
Mike Clevinger
Carlos Carrasco
Dereck Rodriguez
Trevor Williams
John Gant
Jack Flaherty
Charlie Morton

You know the top names, but these guys provide superior value to acquire via trade or draft. Miles Mikolas (RHP, STL) dominates right-handers, but gives up plenty of hits against lefties. His lack of Dom (6.5) and reliance on extreme FpK (70%) makes him a risk to repeat.

Underrated Carlos Carrasco (RHP, CLE) offers great card balance. For the future, his Dom, FpK, and SwK all continue to trend upwards.

John Gant (RHP, STL) quietly limits opponents' hit chances and does a great job of keeping the ball in the park. A 4.67 xERA forbodes a shaky future, but in 2018 he will pitch effectively and can be acquired inexpensively. 

Jack Flaherty (RHP, STL) severely limits opposing batters to an average below .050 on his card. He does have an Achilles heel, however, in that when right-handed batters make contact, they crush an inordinate amount of home runs. So be very careful which parks you use him in.

Charlie Morton (RHP, TAM) also limits hits and keeps the ball in the park. His xERA has not surpassed 4.00 since 2012 and his Dom continues to rise the past three years.

With these pitching targets, you will successfully dominate your Strat-O-Matic opponents.


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