Saturday, 28 January 2012

Must Win Situation: Chasing Wins in Fantasy Baseball

The recent trade of Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees has created a lot of buzz, both in baseball circles and fantasy baseball debates. In regard to fantasy value, many people have stated that Pineda’s value immediately increases with his trade from the lowly Mariners to the mighty Bronx Bombers. Why is this? Simply because he will win more games. Or so the theory goes.

It got me thinking. Since Wins are an entire category in most fantasy baseball leagues, there is always the chance that pitchers will get over-valued simply because they play for good teams (and thus should have the opportunity to win more games). I don’t like chasing Wins. Never have. Never will. The deciding factors which come into play when determining if a starting pitcher will be awarded a Win are far too diverse and reliant upon external factors to ever be predicted accurately.

A talented pitcher may throw for seven solid innings, surrendering only one earned run but if his team’s offense scores no runs, that pitcher is faced with a loss. Conversely, a pitcher may go six innings and give up seven earned runs but if his offense comes up big with eight runs of their own, that pitcher gets a cheap +1 in the Win category.

So, what’s the bottom line? It is simply too unpredictable to go chasing Wins in fantasy baseball. By looking at other factors, you will be much better served.

Going back to the example of Pineda, he is moving from one of baseball’s worst teams to one of the best. As such, it makes sense to predict that he will naturally be in line to see an increase in his Win total and as such, his fantasy value is on the rise. However, pitching in the American League East is much more treacherous than pitching in the American League West so Pineda may be in line to see some regression in his outlying statistics such as ERA and WHIP. Is this risk worth the chance of an extra Win or two over the course of 30 starts? Toronto, Tampa Bay and Boston all scored significantly more runs than the L.A. Angels or Oakland Athletics in 2011.

A better strategy would be to draft and fill your fantasy baseball roster with pitchers who display extraordinary skills, regardless of the uniform they wear. Pitchers like Madison Bumgarner (SF), Cory Luebke (SD), Brandon McCarthy (OAK) and Scott Baker (MIN) all have shown talent and promising peripheral statistics but are often undervalued by your fellow fantasy owners because the teams they play for don’t pile up the wins.

By choosing pitchers from winning teams, you may give yourself an opportunity to be in a position to pick up a few extra Wins. However, by focusing on one category too strongly, you may just overlook pitchers who can help you in several other categories.

In fantasy baseball, the only Wins you should be chasing are those against your league opponents.

* Michael Pineda photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
* Scott Baker photo by User Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "0923 028c") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. While agree with your anti one-dimensional view on wins. I wanted to touch on Pineda's value itself.

    Basically, opportunity cost.

    The AL West got a lot stronger than last year with Texas supposedly getting stronger, and Anaheim beefing up their lineup a lot. So Pineda leaving that league could be a blessing. However, leaving for the AL East isn't that great either, even if you play for the Yankees.

    So whats my point? There are factors outside Pinedas skill level. If your rotation is weak, hes a pretty good pick up. If you already have him, than there is no rush to get rid of him either. He is now in his second year, and he had dynamite stuff.

    I'll give the edge to people who own him though. The value for him is high regardless of where he is.


  2. Dear McVanderhuge (awesome name, BTW),

    Dynamite stuff will always rule the day. That is why I mentioned Bumgarner and Luebke. Chasing wins is a dangerous game.

    Although the Angels beefed up, there is still the park factor in the AL West which makes it more pitcher-friendly than the bandboxes of the AL East.

    Regardless, Pineda is a good fantasy pick. It could be argued that both his value and Jesus Montero's value declined with the trade. Only time will tell. It will be interesting to check back at the All Star break and see where things are at.


  3. I agree that Scott Baker has solid "skills" but I cannot overlook the huge HR rates each season.

    Then there is Ricky Nolasco... a player with all the "skills" yet allowed HRs at an alarming rate until last year.

    I also do not chase wins, well, at least not during the draft. Instead I stream pitchers throughout the season in win-able situations to gain the advantage in the category.

  4. Dear Kelly,

    It really is true that the majority of the value to a fantasy team comes during the season rather than at the draft table. At least in regards to pitching. The past few seasons, my pitching staff in Septemebr looks nothing like the one I drafted in March.

    Nolasco scares me a little due to his tendancy to have starts where he simply implodes. mBaker could be in for a decent year in 2012.

    Thanks for joining the conversation!