Welcome to the 2020 Fantasy Baseball: How the Short Season Will Affect Pitchers article!
Baseball is finally back! After three months of waiting, the 2020 Major League Baseball season will officially begin on July 23rd.
There are a ton of rule changes that will undoubtedly affect both pitchers and hitters alike. In this article, we go over how the shortened 60-game season will affect pitchers on your fantasy team. Should you expect more innings pitched per game, quality starts, and wins from your fantasy staff? Are there pitchers you should target later in your fantasy drafts?
Let's dive in!
2020 Fantasy Baseball: How the Short Season Will Affect Pitchers
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With starting pitchers taking the mound every five games, most of your fantasy studs should see somewhere between 10-13 starts this season. The number of starts will depend on your pitcher's place on their respective team's starting rotation.
Assuming your fantasy team contains the MLB team's No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 starting pitchers; you can expect your pitchers to pitch anywhere between 70-80 innings. More innings pitched per game should lead to more quality starts, wins, and strikeouts.
Also, the universal designated hitter (DH) implementation could boost the value of NL pitchers since there's no need for managers to pull pitchers in favor of a pinch hitter, increasing the chances of earning a quality start. This rule change could give starting pitchers an extra inning or two each game.
Quality Starts + Wins
A starting pitcher records a Quality Start (QS) when they pitch at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer.
Managers usually pull their pitchers after five or six innings pitched to keep them fresh for the entire 162-game season. With only 60 games this season, there is no need for managers to keep pitchers on a pitch count or innings limit. I predict we will see on average 100-120 pitches per game from each team's No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers.
Along with QS, starting pitchers also have a higher probability of earning wins. How many times have we seen a pitcher leave a tie game only to have their team rally and win? The starting pitcher cedes that win to the relief pitcher that replaced him.
Since this season is a sprint and not a marathon, there's no reason for managers to take pitchers out of the game early. No pitch count or innings limit means more chances for starting pitchers to earn wins.
Implementing the universal designated hitter will lead to fewer strikeouts for NL pitchers. Gone are the days of striking out the opposing pitcher. Each team will have a skilled hitter as their DH, which means there are no more easy strikeouts.
The universal DH should affect how you stream pitchers this season. NL pitchers no longer have an advantage over AL Pitchers. NL pitchers now have to pitch against the opposing team's best nine hitters instead of being gifted with free outs and strikeouts.
Let's look at season's comparison between NL and AL pitching from last season:
As you can see from the table above, NL pitching was more successful in ERA, QS, and IP/Start in 2019. I believe that the universal DH will make these numbers an even split between the two leagues and may even favor AL pitching.
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My Top-Five starting pitching rankings in March:
With the addition of the universal DH and a shortened season, my new Top-Five rankings:
I had deGrom as my No. 1 ranked SP back in March. I always favor the dominant NL pitcher over the AL pitchers because NL pitchers have the advantage of pitching against the opposing pitchers. Now that the MLB has a universal DH, NL and AL pitchers have fair competition.
Verlander is healthy and pain-free, which immediately vaults him to the top of my list. Verlander threw his third career no-hitter last season on his way to winning the Cy Young award. He's the most valuable pitcher in the MLB with one of the best offenses. He's the first pitcher I'm taking off the board, no question.
Underrated Pitchers to Target
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Here's my list of Top 10 pitchers I'm targeting in the middle-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts. I believe the following pitchers will produce SP1 numbers in the upcoming 2020 season (ADP 100-plus):
- Mike Soroka
- Sonny Gray
- Zack Wheeler
- Kenta Maeda
- Rich Hill
- Frankie Montas
- Eduardo Rodriguez
- Kyle Hendricks
- Dylan Bundy
- Mike Minor
There are some obvious names, but also some surprises. I believe the shortened season will help older pitchers like Rich Hill. Usually older pitchers breakdown later in the season, but a shorter season benefits Hill. With a brilliant Minnesota Twins offense backing him up along with a league-best 2,724 rpm spin rate on his pitches, Hill could return Top-100 value for your fantasy team this upcoming season.
Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.