Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Beware the Arms of April

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on April 9, 2013 @ 09:39:56 PDT

 

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Just the other day, at our Mastersball site, Amanda Scarborough, manning the Mastersblog, noted the combined ERAs of Matt Cain, Jered Weaver, David Price, R.A. Dickey, Stephen Strasburg, CC Sabathia and Cole Hamels was 6.89 after a week of play and a couple of starts each. "Surprise, surprise," a la Gomer Pyle, was Amanda's header on that piece.

Philadelphia Phillies SP Roy Halladay
Dejected Doc

The reality is I was working the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals game Sunday, when after cruising for three innings, Cain ran into the buzz saw of seven straight hits, which wound up as nine fourth-inning runs, sending the Giants workhorse running to the showers in what seemed an untimely way.

The questions, though, are two-fold. As in first, does this mean pitching is going to be down this year since hurlers generally have the early season advantage over hitters?

Second, and equally important, should you own one of these guys -- not to mention Roy Halladay, Chris Tillman and Matt Harrison, as I do -- what should you do with them?

Well, the answer to question one has to be one of it might be a tough year for those pitchers, but alternatively strong performances from Matt Moore, Matt Harvey, J.A. Happ and yesterday even Ervin Santana should reassure a little that getting good steady pitching from anyone is often as ephemeral as getting good hitting from a seemingly steady producer.

But clearly from the above information, we can indeed deduce that good pitching has not gone south everywhere in baseball even if the universe of some of the guys considered the most steady is topsy-turvy.

More challenging is the question of what to do should you own an exploding arm.

For now, I would suggest nothing.

As in suck it up, for just as your team ERA is not likely to remain at 5.84, neither is your team batting average likely to remain .417.

Baseball, due to its incredibly long complement of games, offers probably the most reliable baseline of statistics of any sport, let along much of anything else worth measuring statistically.

And while, for example, Halladay did get clobbered over his first 3 1/3 innings, allowing nine base runners and five runs, he did strike out nine. Meaning only one hitter who made an out did not whiff prior to the Doc getting the hook.

Similarly, though Sabathia looked to be having major trouble with his velocity and stuff during his first start of the year, on Sunday he put it together in quieting the Tigers down as the Bombers beat Justin Verlander.

In fact, if you look at Sabathia's career, you can note the big lefty was 3-0 with a 4.58 ERA last April. He was 3-1, 3.12 for April 2010 but then 1-2, 5.15 over May, and finally, 1-2, 4.73 in the first month of 2009.

Meaning the early months have traditionally been up-and-down for Sabathia as often as not.

The reality is, a week into the season, you picked the players you picked because you had reason to believe they would deliver over the course of 162 games, not six starts -- or in the case of pitchers, maybe two.

So, while it is tough to swallow the lumpy stats a terrible start hands us, over the course of the first month or so that is indeed the best course.

Mind you, if you have enough bench strength to rest a Halladay or Tillman, replacing them with a seemingly more reliable arm while you wait for them to get it together, that is acceptable, but even then be wary.

Streaming pitchers is a delicate path, and often you can wind up flip-flopping hurlers much more to the overall detriment of your team and numbers than to their advantage.

However, the real advice is to take a deep breath and remember there are still 156 games to go.

You can get the Mastersball Top 250 Prospects as part of our Platinum package, with more information at 2013 Mastersball Platinum Package. Mastersball Platinum is the edge that supported four of the top five finishers in the NFBC in 2012. You can get the same insights and analysis that helped Dave Potts with the $100,000 grand prize last year by subscribing to Mastersball at 2013 Mastersball Platinum Package.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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