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Preparing For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft: Part VII

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Published February 22, 2012

Over the course of the next week, we’ll be running a series to help you prepare for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. This particular series will be more focused on the methods behind your draft preparation than specific players, but we’ll use a few examples as well.

Part I: Overview
Part II: Knowing Your Enemies
Part III: Draft Prep - Part I
Part IV: Draft Prep - Part II
Part V: Keepers, Trades, and Prospects
Part VI: Positional Nuances - Hitting
Part VII: Positonal Nuances - Pitching

Positional Nuances - Pitching

While this won't be nearly as long and prophetic as the batting section, it still remains a major consideration. The injury rule is pretty simple; If a pitcher has an arm injury, it's pretty self-explanatory... stay away. With pitchers, there are always so many options and players that are on a similar plane. Take the other guy and play it safe. The other major consideration for pitching relates to younger pitchers who have their innings capped. This is especially true if you are in a head to head league with a playoff format.

The Verducci Effect

I am sure that by now you have heard the Verducci Effect. I am not going into the exact details because the rule doesn’t hold entirely true and it has been proven wrong time and time again. The basis of the Verducci Effect is that a pitcher who dramatically raises his workload (or Innings Pitched) over the previous season(s) will:

  • Increase the likelihood of fatigue that may affect the pitcher even beyond the current season
  • Increase the likelihood of an arm injury, often due to fatigue

Again, this is has been proven wrong numerous times, but it can still hold true for a few players. Take caution when looking at players who qualify for the Verducci Effect, but do not discount them all together.

Innings Caps

If you are in a head to head league with playoffs and a tight pitching lineup, be aware that many young pitchers will be shut down later in the season approaching increased career workloads. This is not going to apply to shallow leagues because the waiver wire is generally strong. However, if you are in a league where pitching is thin, you may want to consider players who are likely to give you similar production (usually older ones) who are less likely to be shut down. You don't want to lose a guy who was productive for your team in the middle of the playoffs.

This is going hold most true if you have a SP that is with a team who is out of contention. The obvious caveat is that if you are in a league where you can easily pull off a trade before the deadline, keep them on the block and hope to sell them before the news comes out that player x is being shut down after 5 more starts. Identifying those players is pretty simple. If you do not come across one of the 3,000 Verducci Effect articles produced before your draft, a simple web search will tell you some of the candidates.

Pitchers Returning From Injury

This doesn't just apply to young pitchers. Bear in mind that players coming off of major arm surgery, such as Adam Wainwright or Stephen Strasburg, will fit into this category as well. Wainwright is less likely to work deep into ballgames than he has been the past few seasons because he missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery. The Nationals have outlined the same plan for Strasburg that they used with Jordan Zimmermann upon his return from Tommy John surgery last season... They say they're going to shut Strasburg down at about 160 innings for the year.

Pitchers who are returning from Tommy John Surgery or shoulder surgery usually need a year or two before they're ready to handle the workload that they have in the past. For those players, teams generally have a predetermined innings limit set on those players before the season begins. Not all are extreme risks, but make sure you rank them within your comfort zone. A Strasburg or Wainwright will go pretty high in your draft.

Roto vs. Head to Head

Save for the rare Head to Head league that eliminates a playoff format and determines the winner based on Head to Head standings, the difference here is that Head to Head leagues use a playoff format. In roto leagues, if a pitcher is likely to be capped at 160 or 180 innings, it's likely to cut into his value a bit as well. However, those 160 or 180 innings could be big when the pitcher is in the lineup. These pitchers should probably be knocked down a peg in your rankings, but they will often end up a little undervalued if everyone is using that mentality. Sure... We'd love to see those extra 30-40 innings, but 160 innings of ace level production (if you believe in the player that much) are well worth a fairly high draft pick.

A pitcher who is likely to be shut down in September should see his value take a bigger hit in Head to Head leagues, though. Why? This is the most important time of the year for teams in Head to Head leagues, and the expectation is that the pitcher won't be helping them then. There's certainly something to be said for making the playoffs in the first place, so they still have some value. However, an owner in a Head to Head league that is burning a high pick on a pitcher who is expected to be shut down in August is probably setting themselves up to be a man short when their season matters most.

We'll be back tomorrow to conclude our series with a final look at how to set up your preseason rankings or draft lists.

Thomas Hess

About , West Coast Correspondent

Seattle, WA

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  1. Pingback: Preparing For Your Fantasy Baseball Draft: Part IV - FIC

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