I’m not intending to hurt the feelings of three quarters of you all, but this post is mainly for those of you fortunate to be in serious contention for money and/or bragging rights and/or special unnamed prize. Or whatever else you might be playing for that I probably don’t want to hear about. Chances are, if you’re still coming to Rotographs in late August, you’re at least sniffing the top third of your league or perhaps your day job lacks any level of mental stimulation.
I tend to use innings pitched as a gauge as to whether a team has an inflated win or strikeout total (ahead of pace) or if there’s a team lurking, behind pace in innings. It can put standings into context. This applies in leagues with an innings limit, of course. The rest of you can just move on. But if you’re up there still shaking a menacing fist at the leader of your league, or if perhaps you are the leader, I encourage you to just blow up your innings now.
Why? There are a few reasons – two practical and one kind of psychological.
It’s not news that some pitchers may face some kind of innings limit or they might have their workload reduced. This season, it seems like the list has grown longer than ever (this is unverified and likely embellished by my sense of urgency). There are no doubt many of you that have been relying on the likes of Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Gerrit Cole, Shelby Miller, Jarred Cosart, Tony Cingrani, Taylor Jordan, Sonny Gray, Zack Wheeler, Julio Teheran, and Danny Salazar. I’m probably missing several names here.
Some of these pitchers have hard and fast inning limits and it’s been well publicized for some time. With others, the club gives us the nebulous, “we’re keeping an eye on his workload” which translates to “he’ll frustrate your fantasy team” to me. For a couple of the guys listed above, the team has actually said there will be no inning limit, but as a fantasy manager, you just have to bet they’re not going to be allowed to run up high pitch counts — and fewer innings pitched impacts you in points leagues and certainly impacts overall strikeout potential. At an absolute minimum, I just don’t like the uncertainty. I don’t like not knowing if a pitcher might get pulled at 85 pitches, have starts moved up for unknown reasons, or worse — simply get shut down.
Even if you set aside the issue of rookies or “limited workload” candidates — overall innings go down in September. Looking at 2012 and the average innings pitched per start by month, it’s pretty clear that all starting pitchers have their workload reduced:
Of course, it makes perfect sense. If you’re the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels of another city and you’re sitting there 15 games out in September, what motivation do you have by letting Felix Hernandez or Jered Weaver throw 120 pitches? The debate can rage all it wants relative to the Washington Nationals’ decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season, but the fact is, you’ll get less bang for your buck out of your starters in September (and in fact, strikeouts per start actually dips to the lowest level in September, if you really wanted to know…).
Lastly is the psychological, so it’s probably not even a thing. But in leagues where I’m in first, I like to bludgeon the competition. Even if I’m left without a starter to use the last two weeks, I like to build a lead so formidable that other managers start to get sloppy. You know even if you’re a dedicated fantasy manager, there are those teams you check twice a day and there are those teams you occasionally forget about because you’re not sure you’ll be competitive come October. That affects games played and that’ll only help you during the sprint.
Go on, win your league. Blow. Them. Up.