Last week I wrote about some of the strategies you can use to help you win standard Yahoo public leagues, and other similar daily transactions formats. The part of the article that generated the most interest was my use of middle relievers, so I thought I’d answer some of the questions that were raised and discuss how to use middle relievers in a little more detail.
By not drafting starting pitchers early, I can use my picks to ensure that I’ll be among the top teams in all offensive categories. In addition, I’ll be near the top in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. I can probably hold my own in saves. So the only category where I’ll tend to be really weak is wins. Note that I’m not advocating dumping wins. Unless you’re in a particularly strong league, I think you should still be able to pick up a few points for wins with this strategy. I’ve yet to see a league (including experts’ leagues) where everybody was a good judge of pitching talent. Everybody “knows about DIPS,” but there are an awful lot of people out there who don’t really BELIEVE in it.
One reader commented on the fact that by allocating some of my 1250 innings to middle relievers rather than starting pitchers I’m going to limit how many wins and strikeouts I can accumulate. That’s not completely accurate though. While it will limit my wins, the top middle relievers are going to have similar strikeout rates to the top starting pitchers, and since I’ll only be using middle relievers with favorable matchups, I’m actually going to increase the number of strikeouts I can squeeze out of my 1250 innings.
Several people commented on the similarity of my approach to Ron Shandler’s widely know “LIMA Plan.” While that’s true, my strategy is tailored pretty specifically to daily transactions leagues with characteristics similar to Yahoo default leagues. You’re not going to do too well using 2 or more middle relievers at a time in most weekly transaction formats. And you’re also not going to have much chance against me using a straight LIMA Plan approach without rotating players on and off of your roster based on daily matchups.
The last criticism was that this strategy is going to work best in leagues “full of novices.” I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but its true that if two or three other people are employing similar strategies, it’s going to be a lot tougher to pick up the middle relievers (and starters) with favorable match-ups, and you’ll be forced to lock up roster spots a number of days in advance to keep others from getting to the players you want before you do. As with any strategy, you need to be ready to adjust. If you find that too many people are doing the same thing, you’ll need to figure out how to take advantage of that. If everyone is rotating pitchers with good match-ups, then they’re going to be forced to drop some pretty decent players. That may be the time for you to go with a more stable roster.
Some of the most useful players when employing a middle reliever based strategy are relief pitchers with starting pitcher eligibility. One standout who has SP eligibility in Yahoo leagues this year and is likely to pitch in relief is Hong-Chih Kuo. Get him if you can! Others who have SP eligibility but could find their way into the bullpen at some point during the season include Philip Hughes, Clay Buchholz, Carlos Villanueva, and maybe even Joba Chamberlain (although I doubt it). As Spring Training nears its end, other names are likely to emerge to add to this list.