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A Happy, Sad, Wonderful, Terrible April

Posted By DominicanRepublican On March 30, 2014 @ 9:30 am In Lineups,Research | 2 Comments

If you’re anything like most fantasy players, you may find yourself investing in similar players across multiple leagues. If you’re anything like me, those players seem to get injured more than others. If you are me, this year you invested in Mat Latos and Doug Fister everywhere you could… and are furious.

But if you need a placeholder for April while your starters heal, full-season projections might not be as relevant to your replacement decisions. While it’s always smart to go with skill as your primary determination, often the free agent pitching pool is fraught with pitchers that are more similar. In such instances, the pitcher’s April schedule could be of use. If you need a pitcher for one month and one month only, his May – September prospects are of little concern.

Either because I’m a simple man, or because I’m receiving $0 in compensation for this short piece, I decided a fair estimator would be to simply use the FanGraphs 2014 Projected Rankings and input each opponents Runs Scored per Game (RS/G) for each team on a schedule grid for the month of April. I then averaged out the projected RS/G of all opponents for each game in April. This is what I found.

Team

Division

Games

Opponent

Avg RS/G

Atl

NLE

27

3.979

Cin

NLC

28

3.999

Was

NLE

28

4.000

Col

NLW

29

4.004

Mil

NLC

28

4.058

Ari

NLW

29

4.063

StL

NLC

29

4.070

NYM

NLE

27

4.087

ChC

NLC

27

4.093

LAD

NLW

26

4.095

Pit

NLC

28

4.110

Mia

NLE

27

4.127

Phi

NLE

28

4.153

SD

NLW

29

4.174

LAA

ALW

27

4.190

Tex

ALW

28

4.194

Det

ALC

26

4.195

KC

ALC

27

4.196

SF

NLW

28

4.203

Cle

ALC

29

4.212

Oak

ALW

29

4.244

Tor

ALE

27

4.254

Min

ALC

26

4.267

Sea

ALW

27

4.284

TB

ALE

29

4.301

ChW

ALC

29

4.318

NYY

ALE

27

4.319

Hou

ALW

28

4.345

Bos

ALE

28

4.370

Bal

ALE

27

4.383

What do we see here? First, as expected, on average the AL teams face more projected runs. You’re welcome for that valuable information. One interesting note, though, is that the San Francisco Giants will face an even tougher aggregate offense than four AL teams. What do we take from this? Maybe if you’re thinking about Tim Hudson vs. Marco Estrada in a shallow league for a rental, you take Hudson. In a shallower league in which this is a real decision, however, you can probably stream matchups with a high efficacy throughout the month. But as a FanGraphs reader (ego-stroke), there’s a fairly high probability that your most difficult decisions come in deeper leagues. So we shall redirect our attention to pitchers farther down the ranks.

“But DomRep,” you might smirk, “aren’t AL/NL differences factored into preseason rankings to a large degree?” Yes, observant reader, they are. This is why this table is much more useful when comparing pitchers in the same league. The NL is below:

NL

Rank

Team

Division

Games

Opponent

RS/G

1

Atl

NLE

27

3.979

2

Cin

NLC

28

3.999

3

Was

NLE

28

4.000

4

Col

NLW

29

4.004

5

Mil

NLC

28

4.058

6

Ari

NLW

29

4.063

7

StL

NLC

29

4.070

8

NYM

NLE

27

4.087

9

ChC

NLC

27

4.093

10

LAD

NLW

26

4.095

11

Pit

NLC

28

4.110

12

Mia

NLE

27

4.127

13

Phi

NLE

28

4.153

14

SD

NLW

29

4.174

15

SF

NLW

28

4.203

In the NL, there may be a built-in feeling that, when two pitchers are similar, you’re probably better off just taking the guy from San Diego. Poppycock! San Diego will face the Dodgers, Brewers, and two AL teams this month (Tigers and Indians). Exclamation point! It should be noted that San Diego likely has a less pitcher-friendly park factor than they used to, but even still, a quick glance at the table above should help you decide to maybe choose Jhoulys Chacin, Taylor Jordan, or Tanner Roark over Eric Stults if you think they’re similar pitchers.

Here’s the AL:

AL

Rank

Team

Division

Games

Opponent

RS/G

1

LAA

ALW

27

4.190

2

Tex

ALW

28

4.194

3

Det

ALC

26

4.195

4

KC

ALC

27

4.196

5

Cle

ALC

29

4.212

6

Oak

ALW

29

4.244

7

Tor

ALE

27

4.254

8

Min

ALC

26

4.267

9

Sea

ALW

27

4.284

10

TB

ALE

29

4.301

11

ChW

ALC

29

4.318

12

NYY

ALE

27

4.319

13

Hou

ALW

28

4.345

14

Bos

ALE

28

4.370

15

Bal

ALE

27

4.383

In the A.L., one might take a quick gander and be encouraged to use Garrett Richards over Bud Norris because they face the easiest and toughest April pitching schedules, respectively. Pseudo-sleeper Tyler Skaggs might also be expected to start out well.

As we mentioned before, preseason rankings and projections take league into consideration. So when considering two pitchers in different leagues, it might even help to take a quick peek at their respective schedule rankings within their own league. For instance, while San Diego (#14 NL schedule) can be expected to face less run-scoring potential this month on average than Anaheim (#1 AL schedule), this will be the case the whole season and is, therefore, factored in when rankings show Tyson Ross and Tyler Skaggs in similar places. But the rankings eke out that Ross’s month should be harder than his average month while Skaggs’s month should be easier.

If you’re in a position to stream relatively strong pitchers throughout April, this is probably useless to you. The sample size of a month’s worth of starts can also blow all of this up. It’s common practice to look at September strength of schedule for pitchers, but everyone tends to ignore April because their eyes are focused on the whole season. But if you’re anything like me, and Latos/Fister are giving you fits, hopefully you’ll keep strength of schedule in mind.


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