Streaming pitchers has become one of the most controversial strategies in fantasy baseball. Some argue it’s a cheap tactic, others don’t see the value in it, and then there are those like myself who swear by it. But can streaming pitchers really help you win a fantasy title? Let’s find out.
First off, what is streaming? During the season your league will allow you to draft starting pitchers based on their next start. If you drop one of your bench players, you can give yourself an extra start for the week, which has the potential to give you a significant advantage in the pitching category.
Wins, strikeouts, ERA, Saves and WHIP are the most common pitching stats for fantasy baseball. Starting pitchers are more valuable in these leagues, because closers can only really make an impact in saves. Considering how volatile relievers are year to year, you’re more likely to pick up a closer during the season than you are to draft one that lasts the whole year. Whether it’s due to injury or poor performance, closers can change overnight, meaning it’s a waste to draft one until the later rounds.
So it’s clear that from a pitching standpoint, starting pitching is key. But why bother streaming?
A successful pitcher will net you four of the above categories – Wins, K’s, ERA & WHIP. If you have 5 starters, you’re likely to get around 7-8 starts each weeks. So adding a starter can potentially net you big bonuses in the counting stats – strikeouts and wins. Obviously, there are drawbacks – if the guy you picks up struggles, you’ve hurt yourself in the long run. Which is why it’s important to look for certain attributes when streaming pitchers.
Park factors: A pitcher may be lousy, but if they’re pitching in Safeco or another pitcher’s park, they’re unlikely to give up a ton of runs. Even Luke Hochevar can be quite valuable if he’s pitching on the road in Oakland. On the other hand, stay clear of hitter’s parks like Texas or Philly. Even a good pitcher can kill your fantasy team just because you started him in a hitter’s park.
Quality of the Opponent: Another key thing to look out for is who the pitcher is facing. Seattle and San Fransisco had two of the worst lineups in the game – so if you can grab a pitcher facing them you’re unlikely to give up a lot of runs. Additionally, both these teams play their home games in a pitcher’s park, so if your pitcher is playing Seattle in Safeco field, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Lineup Construction: If you’ve got a lefty on the mound, and a team with a significant number of left handed bats, this should be a good match up. The Mariners and Braves were the two worst teams against southpaws last season, coming in at 278 and 284 wOBA respectively. Take advantage of teams that can’t handle left or right handed starters.
Rookies: This one could go either way, as rookies are pretty unpredictable. But high upside pitchers generally do well in their first couple turns around the league, because teams aren’t too familiar with them. Of course, if you’ve got someone like Matt Moore lying around in your league, then you need to find a new league because you’re playing with newbies.
The one time I wouldn’t advise streaming pitchers, is when you’ve got the lead in ERA and are in a tight pitching matchup. Normally I like to be aggressive with streaming pitchers, but since ERA is the tiebreaker you don’t want to hurt your lead in this category. Otherwise, as long as your league settings allow you to stream pitchers, outsmart your opponents by streaming the pitcher with the greatest chance of success.