No matter your draft strategy in regards to pitching, streaming is an important aspect to winning in any fantasy baseball format.
In season-long leagues, it’s not always about finding the 2015 Dallas Keuchel or 2016 Kyle Hendricks late in drafts. That weekly quality start you get from a player that will never find his way on a permanent fantasy roster can win you a weekly matchup or bolster some counting stats in rotisserie leagues.
Look at it from a daily fantasy sports (DFS) standpoint. The aptitude to find a starter that will cost you half as much as the chalky ace of the night can allow you to spend up on superstar hitters.
The purpose of this article is to highlight the major ingredients to selecting streamers that might not be obvious. I’ve listed six vital rules to achieve semi-consistent success when streaming starters!
Fantasy Baseball Streaming Guide
Rule 1: Don’t pay attention to batter versus pitcher (BvP) data.
In Tom Tango’s ‘The Book’ (first of many references), it is said that hundreds of plate appearances are needed in order to decide whether or not a trend can be determined in regards to one batter’s chances against a pitcher. Show me any player who has ‘hundreds’ of PAs against a pitcher in today’s game and I will show you a picture of me in a leopard-printed leotard prancing around a night club.
SPOILER: It doesn’t exist. (I promise about the picture at least.)
I’m sure there’s some cases where a certain batter just has a pitcher’s ‘number’, but that’s more of a mental aspect of the game. Not really something that can be predicted by us fantasy players. If you are like me, you aren’t doing hours of research just to figure out who to pick up. I wouldn’t waste time on BvP when the other information to come is so much more useful.
Rule 2: Avoid selecting pitchers primarily because they are in a ‘hot streak’.
So stop me when you hear something you haven’t done before – you are looking through the waiver wire to replace an injured or underperforming player. You filter the stats/points/whatever-the-hell-you-look-at to show ‘last 15/30 days’ to see who is catching fire. Then, right as you pick the player who is ‘on fire’ up and throw said player in your starting lineup, BOOM, they start regressing. Why, you ask, must I curse this player?
It’s called natural regression, folks. Remember that this player was on the waiver wire for a reason, as their stats previous to their ‘hot streak’ probably looked like a ‘hibernation’ of sorts. If you missed out on the streak, cut your losses (or at least only pick them up for your bench to test legitimacy).
Rule 3: Utilize batted ball data to your advantage.
‘The Book’ is spoon-feeding us this one – fly-ball pitchers dominate fly-ball hitters and ground-ball pitchers dominate ground-ball hitters. As you would infer from the previous statement, ground-ball hitters would dominate fly-ball pitchers and fly-ball hitters would dominate ground-ball pitchers. Use this to your advantage when selecting or avoiding streamers!
A good example of a player with extreme batted ball data would be Dan Straily, fly-ball specialist. Out of Straily’s 31 starts in 2016, he only had five games in which he gave up 4 or more earned runs. Three of those games were against the Cubs, Rangers, and Rockies, which is understandable. However, the other two games were against the Angels and Braves. He’s a quality start machine apparently, so why did he struggle against these teams?
Well, the proof is in the batted ball pudding. Each of those teams sported high ground-ball rates as a collective unit. When you are looking at matchups, it’s easy to say ‘oh, just start decent pitcher against the Angels and Braves’ based on some statistics like team wOBA. However, if you aren’t analyzing batted ball data, you are potentially missing out on the best streaming options available.
Rule 4: Don’t ever ignore the platoon splits.
Remember that I am strictly speaking of waiver wire pitchers. There aren’t going to be many waiver wire pitchers who pitch as well against their opposite-handed batters as they do when facing the same-handed hitters. If that’s the case, just count your lucky stars that you are in a league of fantasy-challenged folk!
Nah, this article isn’t for the faint of heart. You have gotta want to embrace the opportunity when Bartolo Colon faces a right-hand heavy lineup like the Brewers or Diamondbacks! Don’t be afraid to throw a decent left-handed streamer against teams like the Dodgers just because of their team name.
Don’t ignore the platoon statistics – they just may separate two close options in free agency.
Rule 5: Ballparks can be a deciding factor.
The best way to incorporate ballpark factors is to project the batted ball data of a pitcher in the ballpark. If a ground-ball hurler finds himself starting a game in Cincinatti, it’s not really going to matter that Great American Ballpark plays to the long ball. If fly-ball-inducing Drew Smyly is starting that game, it suddenly matters quite a bit.
The next thing to do is to look at which parks play well for handedness of hitter. If you have a right-handed pitcher slated to start at Yankee Stadium, the short porch could be deadly. On the other hand, streaming southpaws at AT&T Park in San Francisco could be advantageous.
Additionally, ‘ballparks’ in the sense of NL or AL makes a big difference considering the ongoing DH debate. I would be foolish to not at least mention that aspect as an important factor. I wouldn’t put all my stock in it. But, if I’ve narrowed it down to two players and one is in an NL park, bingo.
Rule 6: Don’t go all in because he could ‘get the win’, but pay attention to the bullpen.
Whoa, that rhymed on many fronts!
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone get burned because they are going for the win. You aren’t going to roll Martin Perez out every time the Rangers have an easier opponent. Some guys are just to bad to stream, regardless of the team they pitch for or the opponent they face. Getting a win won’t be able to overcome whatever damage they allowed in the form of runs, hits, walks, etc.
However, teams with elite bullpens can bump up fringe starters on any given day. A clear example of this would be the backend of the starting rotation in Cleveland. With the two-headed monster of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen along with others, the Indians have a great chance of winning games where their starter gives them a lead after 6 innings. This would bump up guys like Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin who have a history of shorter outings. The bullpen can bail them out of jams and straight up shut down the opposition in the final innings.
When selecting streamers, here’s a narrowed down checklist to ensure success:
- How does the pitcher fare in platoon splits? Do the platoon splits of the projected matchup line up with the pitcher’s strengths?
- What does the historical batted ball data look like for the pitcher in question? How does that batted ball data pertain to the opposing team and ballpark?
- Does the manager use the pitcher correctly in combination with a great-to-elite bullpen?
- Will the pitcher be starting a game in an NL park, thus erasing the designated hitter?
- Ignoring some of the popular and commonly-heard notions can help rule out fool’s gold:
- Disregard BvP stats because the sample size too small.
- Avoid selecting a guy just because of his recent hot streak.
By following this guide, streaming starters can become more of an art/hobby and less of a pain!