Evaluating pitchers in points is different than evaluating them in standard roto leagues. First of all, stud pitchers generally outscore the stud hitters in points leagues. In general, pitchers that are studs in roto formats are also awesome in points.
There are a handful of things (listed below) to look out for that can help you mine for value you need to consider when evaluating pitchers in this format. I also outlined a number of starting pitchers that I believe to have added value in the points format as well. First, what to look for:
Every out a pitcher gets is worth some amount of points. A starter can have a bad outing where he gives up a lot of runs, but if he gets through the 5th, 6th, or maybe even 7 inning – that can salvage some positive points for the start.
There is also a cumulative effect when it comes to this. A pitcher that goes 60 innings more than his counterpart will be worth somewhere around 60 points more for the season. Generally the point per ⅓ of an inning pitch ranges from 0.8 to 1.5.
Inning eaters also tend to stay in games later, which gives them a better shot at factoring into the decision. Wins are generally worth a ton in points leagues; I have seen them worth anywhere between 4 and 7 points each.
Strong lineup/run support
They say you can’t project wins. I would argue this instead: you can’t project wins precisely. Just because a good pitcher is on a good team, it doesn’t mean he’ll win 20. I do still think the guy on the 90 win team has a better shot at 20 than the guy on the 65 win team. Just seems too logical for me to ignore.
A guy with a bit higher ERA for fantasy, say 3.60 or above, might still be very usable if his team can keep him in games and help him steal some victories. It’s nice to know that you have a chance at the big point potential of a W even if your guy doesn’t show it on that particular day.
Other than simply looking at innings pitched, one great way to identify good pitcher for points is to look at the IFFB (Infield Fly Ball) leaders. There is a leaderboard on fangraphs that you should check out.
This is part of why I believe that Marco Estrada is not a fluke. You will find some other names you might know on this list as well. These are some other guys that tend to outpitch their projections. Believe in the power of the pop up!
Low walk rate
Walks are minus points in this format. Walks are really bad in any format as they raise WHIP and increase the likelihood of runs being scored, but they have an immediate and negative effect in points leagues.
Some very mediocre pitchers can be quite useful in points leagues if they don’t hurt themselves with the free pass. Bartolo Colon was a good streaming option for this reason. I also think of the Phil Hughes year from a 2014 when he managed to momentarily curb his addiction to giving up free passes, and moonshots.
High K rate
Much like not giving up walks is a positive in points, having an extremely high K output can make a points pitcher really useful. Scherzer gives up too many homers and walks more than most aces, but he was the best SP in points last year because he is a strikeout machine.
You didn’t need me to write an article to tell you that Scherzer is good, I know. Think about fringe guys like Jon Gray and Robbe Ray, though. These guys should strike enough people out that they will still be pretty good in points leagues, even if they give up a bunch of runs. Guys like this are must starts in 2 start weeks. This is true even if they are in a hitter’s parks.
You still can’t project wins precisely, even a few paragraphs later. I do believe that having a lights out bullpen gives a starter a much better shot at coming away with a decision though. I can tell you that Chris Sale had his share of lost Wins from his garbage bullpen the past few years in Chicago. Good, deep, bullpens convert wins. Starters in the Bronx and Cleveland definitely had an advantage here in 2016.
This is a little bit softer of a factor, but a good defense can definitely help a pitcher out. On the same token, a bad defense can hurt a pitcher. Just ask Sonny Gray who was the victim of an absolutely brutal defense last year. This applies even more to guys that induce a lot of grounders. A 50% ground ball rate is less shiny if the left side of his infield are doing their best Messi and Ronaldo impressions.
This one is kind of obvious but worth considering. If a flyball pitcher with homerun problems is moved to a park where the outfield is spacious, this might be awesome for a potential points pitcher. If someone like Ivan Nova breaks away from the wiffle ball park known as (the new) Yankee Stadium – he might be in line for some better luck. I still don’t think I’d draft Nova in a shallow points league, but it’s close. Look for guys like him, but hopefully with a bit more upside.
Below are some pitchers and groupings to consider.
Rick Porcello and Kyle Hendricks
Both of these guys checked many of the boxes that I’ve listed above. One guy won the AL Cy Young, and the other was certainly in NL contention. I still wouldn’t pay for either as a top 15-20 guy in a draft, but if they slip they should still be quite valuable. This is factoring in regression. I would slot both into the very wide range of top 25-40 in this format.
Johnny Cueto, Carlos Carrasco, Carlos Martinez, and Masahiro Tanaka
All of these guys are considered close to aces in other formats, and I expect them all to be at least low end aces in points. Only Carrasco has an impressive K rate of the group. Still, all of them put up good innings and keep runs off the board.
I’d be fine with any of these guys as the anchor of my staff. I’d prefer to pair two from the group, but even just one of these guys with an army of solid mid level guys should be enough to help you compete.
Guys that don’t seem good
but are points assets
I’ll be honest: I’m not thrilled to draft any of these guys, but here’s the deal – they should all be safe middle of the rotation options for your points team. If you can pair a few guys like this with a true ace, or even one of the guys above, your pitching should be golden.
Jose Quintana – People have started to come around to realizing that Quintana is pretty good. He’d be in the Porcello and Hendricks tier if he got traded to a team with a better park or offense.
Marco Estrada – Estrada feels like a scrub, especially when you factor in the brutal park and division. He is the king of infield pop ups, though. He shouldn’t cost you much, and should average solid points per start.
Kenta Maeda – Maeda was awesome for more than half the 2016 season. I think he got tired in the second half, but was still useful in h2h formats. I think he adjusts to American ball this year and repeats as a top 25-30 SP in this format.
Tanner Roark – I don’t know why he’s good, and I don’t like watching him pitch. Still, he’s been great the two years he was a full-time starter, so it’s hard to keep doubting him. He plays in great division and has awesome team support. Not as confident as I am about the first three, but trying not to be a hater.
Ian Kennedy – I hate Ian Kennedy. That is all.
No, no just kidding! I’m sure he’s a good guy, and he is better in points than you might think because of his solid strikeout numbers. This holds true even though he has a penchant for giving up long balls. Kennedy is basically a lite version of what James Shields used to be.
Jon Lackey – He’s older than dirt, but his slider is legitimately nasty. Should be poised for another decent year for the reigning champs whose defense and offense are second to none.
Likely Ace(ish) Bouncebacks
Zack Greinke – His arm slot, velocity, and just about everything (but the results) were about the same for Greinke. Don’t expect a return to the ERA title or anything, but he’s a great bounceback candidate in general and especially for points. Great bet to pitch a lot of innings and should have some better luck this year.
Gerrit Cole – Another obvious bounceback in any format, and should be an ace in points. Pretty high K rate, and he has huge park with an elite OF defense behind him. Pittsburgh shouldn’t have a hard time putting up runs for him either. I’d love to have him as my SP2 or even SP3 on almost every team.
Sonny Gray – Another young stud that struggled because of injury. He also had one of the worst defenses ever by the statistics last year. Danny Valencia is gone at least! Gray has always been a borderline ace in H2H despite the middling K rate. The low ERA and general effectiveness have been repeated enough that I expect a full bounceback. The defense may still screw him now and again, but the huge park and young talent should carry him to a solid year. I expect him to come very cheap this year as well.
Hisashi Iwakuma – People may not realize it, but he’s been a low-end ace in points since coming to the states. He is a must start if he can stay on the field. He’s getting up there in years, but at the expected cost – I love his value in this format.
Former Aces Unlikely to Bounce Back
None of these guys are exciting to me anymore. They are former studs whose glory days are likely behind them, I believe to the point that they’re all in the streaming class. Still, Justin Verlander came back from oblivion, so I don’t want to put the nail all the way in their coffins just yet. Then again, Verlander still threw pretty hard – these guys are legit soft tossers at this point..
Adam Wainwright – I like his chances the best of the former 3 aces. He’s got bravado similar to JV, and he plays in the favorable NL, and his team and defense should be good. At the very least, I’d feel pretty good streaming him at home. When the deuce was on in 2016, he was still solid.
C. C. Sabathia – Not much belief in this one, since he can’t stay on the field. He did develop a cutter when he was healthy, though, which is a little interesting. I’d consider streaming him at the start of the year, especially against lineups that struggle against LHP.
Felix Hernandez – I believe the least in Felix of these three. He’s throwing 88 consistently and just seems done to me. I just don’t want to completely write him off since he has been the 2nd best pitcher of this generation and has a decent home park and offense as positives. Odds are he’ll cost more than he’s worth because of the name brand value.
Lance McCullers, Jon Gray, Robbie Ray, Michael Pineda
All of these guys strike enough people out that they should be usable points pitchers. These three guys are likely on quite a few people’s breakout lists, including mine. All three should be at least rosterable even if they don’t take the next step from the second half of last year.
Fringe point values
Colin McHugh – He’s kind of my boy. I think he is constantly undervalued and viewed as a scrub. We all have a soft spot for someone: an uncle that drinks too much; a girlfriend or boyfriend that’s a bit overweight but has a great personality. Colin McHugh is my guy. I legitimately think he’s good. Like seriously!
He pitches on a team with a great offense, his first two seasons were really valuable, and last year was basically a repeat of 2015 if you remove the handful of extreme blowups. I’d bet on 14 wins, around 175 IP, a strikeout per inning, and an ERA around 3.80. That’s good for a double-digit point average, which is plenty valuable.
Bartolo Colon – Everyone loves ‘tolo! Even though everyone loves him, he has become a bit of a punchline. He’s actually still pretty good in points leagues. Don’t pitch him at Coors, Fenway, and other obvious bad matchups, but outside that he should be pretty useful.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he stayed in the weak NL East. At the very least, I’d feel fine streaming him against the Phillies 10 times a year. We don’t know how the new park will play, but here’s to hoping that it’s a pitchers park for ‘tolo’s sake!
Tyler Anderson – He reminds me a bit of Andy Pettitte. He’s actually pretty good and wasn’t bad at home. He repeats his mechanics as well as anyone else I can think of, which leads to great consistency. Anderson is a must start for me in 2 start weeks, and I’d consider keeping him on my roster for most of the year. He also shouldn’t cost you much, if anything, in a shallow points league.
Hopefully this overview helps distinguish some of the differences in value for SPs between points and roto. Definitely pay attention to all the factors I set out in the beginning, and take a deeper look at the guys I’ve highlighted for yourself. I think you’ll find that I’m on the right track with quite a few of these guys.
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