The day is Saturday in a Head-to-Head league and you are tied with the team you are playing against in wins. This is a great situation to add a pitcher for just one day to make a spot-start to increase your chances of winning the category. Let’s go through a few of the criteria that you should go through when selecting the spot-start pitcher perfect for you.
The overwhelmingly most important thing to weigh is the spot-starting pitcher’s skill. LIPS ERA, True ERA, xFIP—whatever measure of pitcher’s skill that works for you is the overriding factor. But if there are two or more pitchers available that have about the same level of skill, there are some tiebreaking factors that should next be taken into account.
Almost everybody takes into account the lineup the pitcher will face, which is smart because there is a better chance a pitcher gives up more runs against a better-hitting team. Another thing most people account for is how well the pitcher has pitcher in his last few starts. Even though small sample size alerts may be going off in a few people’s heads, The Book does show that hot streaks for pitchers do exist to an extent.
Although relatively unimportant compared to the other criteria used to evaluate spot-starting pitchers, many people also are influenced somewhat subconsciously by the team of a pitcher. There is something unjustifiably more enticing about adding a Dodgers starter than a Nationals one.
Admittedly, some merit exists in considering the pitcher’s team since we are looking for a win and a Dodgers pitcher is definitely more likely to get the “W.” Still, I would put it at the bottom of the list because there is another tiebreaking factor few people look at that has a much bigger impact on whether your pitcher comes away with the win: The opposing pitcher.
My theory is that it takes a little more effort—and by effort I do not mean eight minutes and running a mile, but 30 seconds and a couple extra clicks with your index finger—to find out the starting pitcher for the opposing team and that is why so few factor it in even though it can have a tremendous impact.
Sometimes it will not matter because the opposing pitchers for two potential spot-starters are about equal. Other times however, one pitcher will be facing Doctor Roy and the other Jamie Moyer. Clearly, you want the guy countering Moyer and not Halladay, as this will have a huge impact on whether your pitcher gets the win.
Overall though, the spot-starting pitcher’s skill is by far the most important factor and can override all of the others. When two pitchers are close in skill, then you can start looking at secondary and tertiary factors. For a reminder of their order of importance:
At the beginning of the article I made the context for needing a spot-start from a pitcher a daily updated, Head-to-Head league, but really I could have made it any type of league. Spot-starters are necessary in all league formats, just in some more than others.
Any factors you use that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments.