End game and maximizing limits

I’m sure many of the readers (and perhaps even some of the authors) here at THT play poker either recreationally or at a somewhat serious level. In fact, my recent absence was partially due to participation in this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. Maybe you guys haven’t played in the WSOP, but I’m sure many of you have at least played a small home tournament. And if not, here’s a quick disclaimer:

In no way am I, or THT, advocating or promoting gambling.

With that out of the way, there’s a concept in tournament poker (not unique to poker) called endgame. The details can be somewhat complicated but, generally speaking, a player’s tournament strategy should change as the tournament progresses towards its later stages.

One of the (obvious) ways this idea applies to fantasy baseball has to do the total number of innings pitched. I’d imagine that most, if not all, roto leagues place a cap on the number of total innings a team can use during the season. Many times, I’ll find that at this point in the season, the total number of innings I’ve used up projects to a total significantly below the maximum. In other words, if my “innings pitched” were to maintain its current rate, at season’s end, I would come up way short (anywhere from 60 to 100 innings) of the maximum amount allowed.

But this makes some sense, doesn’t it? If I focus or concentrate mostly on hitting, my pitching will most likely suffer in quality or, in my usual case, quantity. My draft may have been hitting-heavy, and I may have been reluctant to use, or selective about using, the “on-the-fringe” pitchers that I had. Or, I may have traded a couple of my pitchers in an attempt bolster my hitting or fix the leaks in my lineup. At any rate, I’m sure I’m not the only one dealing with low inning counts

This probably isn’t the best situation to be in, since the trade deadline has most likely passed and it becomes difficult to find high quality pitchers. But again, its not necessarily quality that we’re seeking. At this point in the season, a team in a standard 5×5 league has probably accumulated at least 800-850 innings, and with a typical cap of 1250 innings, a few mediocre or bad starts shouldn’t really damage your “rate” categories (i.e. ERA and WHIP). Instead, the categories you typically need to catch up on are Wins and Strikeouts.

Its probably obvious to many of our readers here that it is important to try to maximize the number of games played and innings pitched. To help illustrate the point, I’ll quickly use one of my teams from this season. As of this article, I am sitting in fourth place in the strikeouts category with 792 strikeouts in 853 innings pitched. However, on average, my strikeouts per nine innings pitched rate is 0.71 better than the average of the top three teams ahead of me in that category (8.36 vs. 7.65). So it should be clear that I am leaving some points on the board by not maximizing the number of innings pitched. And at this point in the season, that potential four point swing can be huge.

(It’s a potential four point swing because of the three points I would gain plus the one point that would be deducted from the teams ahead of me in the strikeouts category, which are most likely teams ahead of me in the overall standings).

And a quick note, a maximum of 1250 innings, which is the Yahoo league default in a standard 5×5 league, averages out to about seven innings per day for the regular season (which I believe consists of 178-183 days, according to Wikipedia). And if someone can verify this, that’d be much appreciated. Before I discovered the wonders of the internets, I once actually counted the number of days in a season manually, and I really don’t want to do that again. At any rate, I tend to use that seven innings/day rate when I am trying to play this type of “catch-up.”

So all that being said, I’m going to reference one of Paul’s recent articles about strategies involved with spot starting. While Paul is primarily talking about Head-to-Head leagues, the ideas in that article pertain to Roto leagues as well.

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  1. Josh said...

    I know that is the yahoo limit, but don’t Yahoo leagues have a very small starting lineup compared to what many other leagues use?  And don’t they have required RP and SP spots?

  2. Derek Ambrosino said...

    I think, as roster space allows, spot starting should be a strategy employed by virtually all teams throughout the season, albeit to various extents due to roster make-up and circumstance.

    With that in mind, it is not a bad idea to tilt more heavily to spot starting earlier in the season than later. In essence, at the 100 game mark, I’d rather be 35 innings over than 35 innings under.

    There are a number of reasons for this. One, fewer teams employ the spot start in the earlier months so the pool of candidates is often stronger.

    Two, you increase the likelihood of finding a gem. Sometimes, you pick up a guy who you are tentative about thinking is deserving of a permanenent roster spot because of a spot start against a weak team. Then, he tosses a great game and you keep him around until his next turn. Then, he throws another one. In the early season, maybe you found Cliff Lee last year, or Jared Washburn this year, that way. You found a diamond in the rough. All those guys are already rostered in the second half of the year.

    Three, if you’re ahead of the pace you can dump pitchers for bats around the deadline. Sure you can do the reverse, but I like to think bats are more reliable short term bets, just because of sample size. (It’s often easier, mentally, to trade a high quality pitcher than a position player, becaue one plays every day and the other does not.)

    Four, playoff-bound and cellar dwelling teams do weird things with their line-ups and rotations toward the end of the season, often skewing the likelihood of pitchers’ earning wins.In brief, it just gets harder to predict playing time, relative strength of team, and innings caps over the last month of the year. I don’t want to be chasing wins with Roy Halladay pitching in front of Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate. (What’s that, Syracuse?)

    Five, and this also relates to #3, you have a better idea of your teams needs later in the season. Do you need Ws more than Ks, or vice versa? This may help you determine who you pick up for future starts when you’re on a tight budget.

    Finally, I’ll offer one other piece of advice, especially as innings become more of a premium and the gap gets wider. Elite set-up men are all over the wire. On a per-inning basis, many are more efficient at tallying not just Ks, but Ws, than many waiver-wire starters. Consider spending some innings that way. Pick up several for a day, pick up two who are playing against eachother, behind marginal starters. In short, diversify your risk. And, if you get a clunker, you’ll have spend one inning as opposed to six, and incurred much less damaga. (Contrary to what many might be tempted to think, 1 IP, 2 ER is not the type of line that really hurts you – in fact it’s prefereable to 6 IP, 6ER, even though your Stattracker will show the respective ERAs at 18.00 and 9.00)

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