Playing out the season

Today is the Sept. 8. Labor Day weekend is behind us, the kids are back to school, there’s a new found briskness in the air (in New Jersey at least), and the baseball regular season is in its home stretch. Most teams have about 25 games left to play until postseason baseball begins.

With that finite number in mind, let’s run through some numbers and see what we can expect over those 25 games.

Starters

Most starters will mostly likely get four or five more starts in before the season’s end. Some will get more—like CC Sabathia last year with the Brewers—and plenty will get less. I’ll say on average starting pitchers will get four more starts; or you will start them in your lineup four more times. And I’ll also say those pitchers will average six and one-thirds innings per start, which is about league average.

As I’m sure is known, better pitchers will generally have longer outings. This chart has probably been produced a million times, but here are the innings pitched per start numbers for every pitcher with at least 100 innings thrown in 2009 compared to their ERA:

image
Following the dotted green line will show you the reverse correlation. If you want to get detailed, you can project seven innings a start for your elite pitchers and six innings for pitchers with ERAs over 4.00, but for now I’ll stick to six and one-third for everyone since that 2.22 ERA pitcher of yours should only be expected to average seven innings a start if he will continue to pitch at a 2.22 ERA level. Otherwise, he should get the innings per start of his rest of season projection, not that anyone can reasonably predict what will happen over a mere four starts.

Anyway, 4 X 6.333 is 25.333 or, rounding down, 25 innings. So you can expect your starters to pitch about another 25 innings from now till the end of the season. Let that number give you a perspective on how selective you should be when deciding between sitting or starting a pitcher as you approach your league’s maximum innings limit.

Twenty-five multiplied by your number of starting pitchers and you’ll get approximately how many more innings of work your starting pitchers will give you if you start them every time. Depending on how far over or under your limit you project should determine how selective you are with playing your starting pitchers.

Relievers

Relievers must also be taken into account. Closers and the best relievers (i.e. the ones owned on fantasy teams) pitch, on average, one inning every 2.34 games. That means we can expect relievers to pitch about another 10 to 11 innings before the end of the season.

Again, multiply 10 by the number of relievers you start, and add that to your projected starter-innings pitched total to get your very own, custom rest of season innings projection. If you are currently on pace to finish above or below your league’s max innings limit, use these numbers to help you decide how many starters and relievers is best for you to carry.

Final thoughts

Even if you have to sit decent pitchers because you are projected to overshoot, remain hesitant to drop those pitchers since then you are providing free talent to other teams who may have been smart enough to stay below the limit pace and will benefit from your cuts. Do not keep too many pitchers languishing on your bench either, though, if you are in that situation.

All in all, the most important thing is to maximize your limits, and if you did not do a great job of planning in the beginning of the season, at least now formulate a plan of how you will use your pitchers from now till the end of the season.

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