Checking the schedule

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We might be witness to a lot of this face from Mr. Britton in the coming weeks. (Icon/SMI)

Brandon Beachy cannonballed off the DL six days ago and made quite the splash in his first start back, pitching six innings, allowing six baserunners and just one run, and striking out 11 Blue Jays. The first thought a savvy Beachy owner should think is, “Is this guy’s value at its peak right now? Should I try to trade him?”

Granted Beachy was impressive before he got injured, certainly better than Mike “good on paper” Minor, so maybe our hypothetical savvy owner would decide to hold onto him for now. Beyond just his brow-raising season thus far though, there is another reason why it was the wrong time to trade him after his splashy start, and mentioning last night’s dominance of Seattle should provide you with a solid hint.

The other reason is his upcoming schedule, of course.

Anyone who checked the schedule, as Woody Paige would say, would have seen that his next start was against the offensively challenged Mariners. Over one start anything can happen but Derek Carty over at Fanduel showed that facing a poor offensive team has a fairly significant effect on a pitcher’s performance. Derek’s article is somewhat unclear in expressing how much of an impact this has on a player’s ERA, since his example uses FanDuel Dollars, however from another chart in his article we know that a pitcher facing an offense of the Mariners’ caliber can expect to allow 10 percent fewer earned runs than normal.

Simply put, a hypothetical 3.50 ERA pitcher, facing a bad team, should pitch like a 3.15 ERA pitcher and against a good team like a 3.90 ERA one.

We aren’t turning lead into gold here, but the effect is a tough one to simply ignore. If you were trying to shop Beachy, waiting for his Seattle start would be smart because it is much easier for someone to believe in two great starts than one. Or for example, Zach Britton might be a tough player to trade since people feel he is getting lucky, but you still might be able to get a decent player for him at the moment. After taking a quick glance at his likely upcoming opponents, the Cardinals, Rangers, and Red Sox, you might want to trade him for anyone you consider at all useful. He could very well be dropped in a lot of 12- or 14-team mixed leagues come the All-Star Break.

I’ve found myself checking pitchers’ upcoming schedules frequently in my fantasy leagues and often it can make a difficult decision into an easy one. When I am faced with a tough decision of which pitcher to drop and there is no obvious candidate, it can be worth it to give a quick glance to which teams each pitcher will face in his next couple of starts. If one of the pitchers has an unusually unfavorable schedule, my dilemma becomes much more manageable.

I will caution you against using this for pitchers with any difference in talent level since favoring a short-term schedule over actual talent can only be described as short-sighted. Another time when checking the schedule is helpful though, is when evaluating a trade. Let’s say you are considering accepting a trade in which you receive a pitcher in return. It never hurts to make sure this pitcher doesn’t have a brutal upcoming schedule, since not only will you not want to own this pitcher over that stretch but also after it, if the pitcher does in fact struggle, the asking price could easily drop significantly.

It sounds silly for the other person to change his or her opinion of a player so drastically over a short period, but almost everyone does it and admit it, you do too. I know a few weeks ago I never would have traded Mike Stanton when he was batting .275 and had just hit six homers over a 10-game stretch. I thought this was The Beginning. Now, sure, I’d flip him if the right offer came. I’m sure if Jhoulys Chacin struggles in his next start like he did yesterday, the average asking price from his owners will be much more reasonable.

Past small samples are fluky and that makes basing current decisions off expected future small samples even less appealing sounding. But for pitchers, at least, I think you do yourself more harm than good when you ignore the immediate upcoming schedule.

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