Welcome to the Pitching Planner for Week 22. There are just five full weeks of action left in the 2017 Fantasy Baseball season. Many of you are already preparing for the beginning of your league’s playoffs, and many others are fighting for every point they can get in rotisserie style leagues. Regardless of which league type you play in, I sincerely hope you managed to read Jake Ciely’s SOBB column this past week. Jake completely obliterated a long standing belief about pitching in September.
Personally, I’m not sure where I heard or read this particular maxim about September pitchers, but I am definitely certain that I’ve heard it, and I’ve even managed my team through September thinking of it as my guideline. It went something like this: “There is plenty of good pitching available in September because Major League lineups are weakened by the influx of Minor League hitters after September 1.” You really should read the article, which you can find here. However, I’m going to tell you what he found. **SPOILER ALERT**
Jake went back through five seasons of monthly pitching data, checking pitcher SOBB rates (strikeout percentage minus walk percentage) and ERAs to see if there was any truth to the “September plentiful pitching theory.” As it turns out, September is actually one of the weakest months of the season for pitchers. Jake essentially busted the maxim as nothing more than a myth. We can only theorize the reasons why the data showed a decrease in effectiveness in September (and May as well). The first thought I had was that both young pitchers and veterans alike seem to be gassed by the time September rolls around. So, even though there are fewer pitchers than ever amassing more than 200 innings per season, it appears that pitchers of all ages simply cannot pitch as effectively in September. However, please keep in mind that this is all theoretical.
Another potential reason for pitchers to be less effective in September could be related to how many times pitchers have faced batters from a team or a particular set of teams (like division rivals). Any pitcher will tell you that the more often they face a hitter, the more difficult it is to get the hitter to swing and miss or make poor contact. As hitters get used to seeing the arm slot a pitcher throws from and their motion towards home as they toe the rubber, the easier it is for them to more accurately predict when and where the ball will cross the plate. Either reason could explain why ERAs tend to rise in September, but no matter the reason, the data is crystal clear.
What are we to do with this profound knowledge? Well, to start with, we need to be extremely careful about how we approach the use of pitchers during the final month of the season. Many Fantasy owners choose this final month as the time of the season to begin streaming pitchers in a mad race to gain as many innings as possible – and by extension – as many wins and strikeouts as possible. In truth, September is the worst month in which to stream. The SOBB and ERA data clearly show that there are significant enough drops in pitcher quality that one should strongly consider keeping their inning totals as low as possible during September. If you must increase your innings pitched, doing so in July and August makes more sense since the majority of pitchers amass better statistics during the summer months.
As far as here and now in this current season, it’s time for the Pitching Planner to go into conservative mode. You will note that there are more SP4 and SP5 pitchers this week, beginning a trend that will increase further as we march toward the final games. You will also note that streaming pitchers will become more scarce as we get closer to October and post-season. We will begin sticking to the very best pitchers and let the lesser hurlers go back to the waiver wire.
You will also note a change in the Pitching Planner going forward. The grid and the recommendations within it will remain the same through to the end. We will list the two-start pitchers as well, but there will be limited commentary as we trim down the streamers to just the best options. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d love to hear what you’re thinking and will do my best to get back to you as well.
The table below will be published each week showing the expected pitching rotation matchups, whether the game is at home or on the road, and it will include the pitcher’s win/loss record as of the date the planner is written. Finally, you will note that each matchup is assigned a ranking numbered #1-5. This number refers to my recommendation as far as starting that pitcher in Fantasy play and the rankings break down as follows:
1 – Must-Start – These pitchers are aces and are virtually matchup proof.
2 – Favorable Start – These pitchers may or may not be aces but the matchup is favorable.
3 – Streaming Option – These pitchers are in a favorable matchup, so they can be started if needed.
4 – Risky Start – The matchup is prohibitively risky. Owners are advised to avoid this pitcher.
5 – Bench – Do not start this pitcher in this matchup.[table “2161” not found /]
TWO-START PITCHERS FOR WEEK 22[table “2162” not found /]