Now that the fantasy baseball playoffs are upon us, a good number of owners turn to streaming pitchers in the hopes of increasing their edge in the pitching statistical categories. This can be risky business however. By using spot starters in and out of your fantasy line up, you increase the chance of amassing counting stats (wins and strikeouts) but you could be placing the ratio categories in jeopardy by utilizing a system of streaming starting pitchers. Let’s face it, starting pitchers would not be available on the waiver wire if they were top-notch talents, so you will find yourself picking over lower-tier pitchers when considering spot starters for your fantasy roster. The most important thing to remember is the fact that baseball players are human beings, not robots. They will not perform exactly the same in every situation. They are prone to ups and downs, good days and bad days, just like the rest of us. Not to worry though, with a little research you can determine which waiver wire pitchers are more likely to succeed than others and getting the edge is what fantasy baseball is all about. Here are some things to consider when looking for spot starters:
Home/Road Split Stats –
Try to pay close attention to a pitcher’s statistics when pitching at home as opposed to their road statistics. It could be the rousing cheer of a home crowd. It could be home cooking. It could be a good night’s sleep in their own bed. Whatever the reason, some pitchers simply pitch better at home than on the road (and vice versa). A good example is Mike Pelfrey (NYM). His home ERA from 2008-2010 was 3.16. On the road during that span it was 5.47. The same holds true for 2011, when at home he sports a 3.86 ERA as opposed to on the road where he has put up a 5.36 ERA. Take a look at a pitcher’s split stats and if there are noticeable splits, use them to your advantage!
Day/Night Split Stats –
This is often less prominent than home/road splits since the majority of games are played at night, however, it is worth noting. A majority of games on weekends are played during the day so it certainly holds true for games on Saturdays and Sundays. Some pitchers struggle under the sun and some struggle under the lights. As an example, Matt Garza (CHC) has pitched better this year during the day (2.96 ERA) than he has at night (4.03 ERA). Find out the stats on the pitchers on your current waiver wire and claim them accordingly.
Stats vs. Opponent –
Some pitchers simply have great success against certain teams. It may be a bizarre quirk, but there are examples of pitchers who simply have more success when pitching against particular foes. For an example, if you are looking to stream Bronson Arroyo into your line up, since 2008 against Pittsburgh he owns a 1.93 ERA and the Pirates hitters have only managed a .198 BA against him. In the same time frame against Atlanta, he has put up a 7.29 ERA while allowing the Braves batters to hit him to the tune of a .310 BA. When looking at particular waiver wire pitchers, make sure and check their past numbers (both for the current season, 3 year trends or career stats) against the team they are currently facing.
Hot & Cold Streaks –
Sometimes if a particular pitcher is on a hot (or cold) streak, he can defy recent trends and put up a decent spot start. For example, if there is a pitcher available on the waiver wire who has traditionally put up poor stats against a particular team you may at first consider passing on him as a spot start option. However, if you notice his past 5 starts have been outstanding, that pitcher may have made a mechanical change, tweaked their delivery or even added an additional pitch to their arsenal. Sometimes, a player gets on a hot streak and defies their previous tendencies.
Park Factors –
Much like the fact that a pitcher may fare better against a particular opponent, a hurler may also show great success (or failure) at a particular ball park. Also keep in mind park factors as well. Watch this closely as the results may not always be obvious. For example, Rockies starter Juan Nicasio pitches markedly better AT Coors Field even though it is statistically the worst ball park to pitch in.
If you are going to practice the art of streaming starting pitchers for the playoffs, make sure and do a little homework. Being prepared will go a long way to making wise decisions when picking over the waiver wire in your fantasy baseball league.