Picking up pitchers

Let’s talk about adding players, pitchers specifically.

With adding pitchers as opposed to hitters, the short-term schedule is a much greater determining factor. If one guy has the Cardinals and Yankees on the upcoming schedule and another is facing the Padres in Petco and the forecast calls for strong inward gusts, you probably want the second pitcher. In that case, circumstance trumps talent.

If all you are looking for is a spot starter, then fine, add the pitcher facing the Padres for one start and then dump him after. No one’s feelings get hurt.

If you want something more long term, though, then obviously one start at Petco isn’t a deal breaker. In fact, I would argue it can be smart to look for a pitcher you’re interested in who has an upcoming start against the Cardinals, Yankees, or even (gasp) the Rangers.

Think of that start as an opportunity for the pitcher to prove himself. Add him before and let him sit on your bench for the one start. If he does pitch respectably against the potent lineup, his stock will likely jump and then you can start him with confidence against whomever he faces next.

What’s the point of adding a pitcher before he faces the Mariners if you aren’t going to trust him after, even if pitches well?

A player who exemplifies my point is Drew Smyly. Smyly was an unproven youngster who was promoted aggressively into the Tigers rotation after spending only one year in the minors. After his first two starts against the Rays and Royals this year, he appeared on people’s radars, having allowed one run in 10 innings with eight strikeouts.

Instead of adding him though, I would bet many people shied away, seeing his next two scheduled starts were about as bad as it gets—one at home vs. the Rangers and the next at Yankee Stadium against the Bombers.

Smyly ended up pitching great against both teams: going six innings, allowing one run, and striking out seven in both starts. Afterwards his value skyrocketed and he was already scooped up in most leagues. And since then, Smyly’s tossed two quality outings against the White Sox and Mariners.

Of course, this strategy isn’t foolproof. Just because someone shuts out the Yankees doesn’t mean he won’t get blown up by the A’s in his next start. Stranger things have happened. Also, what I’m asking requires a roster spot to lay barren for a few days—a luxury you might not be able to afford.

In the right situation, though, thinking of a tough start as a opportunity for a pitcher to prove himself instead of simply avoiding it can pay dividends later. You might think quite differently of Jerome Williams if he holds his own against the Rangers on Saturday.

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