The $9 Pitching Staff

In 1996, Larry Labadini spent $251 of his $260 auction budget on hitting in the early years of LABR. That meant that his pitching staff was completely filled by $1 hurlers. Labadini finished fourth that year, but his strategy has forever been known as the Labadini Plan. I have been dying to try this in an auction, but never actually went through with it. It’s obviously high risk and there are always too many pitchers I want to own that cost more than a buck. One day though, it must happen.

Though I wouldn’t necessarily advise implementing this plan unless you’re playing in a league just for fun, it would be interesting to see what a $9 pitching staff might look like. Using the actual winning bids of the pitchers auctioned in this year’s 15 team Tout Wars Mixed auction league, I have a pool of 28 pitchers that went for a buck or in the reserve round to choose from. So as to be a little more interesting, I only considered starters and ignored closers and middle relievers. My nine choices are as follows:

James Paxton

He was an easy inclusion. I’m still questioning how I didn’t end up getting him in the AL league. As I’ve mentioned before, I love his extreme ground ball tendency paired with an above average strikeout rate.

Tommy Milone

Milone was one of the big beneficiaries when Jarrod Parker went under the knife. Though the Athletics obviously lose pitching depth, their rotation doesn’t actually suffer from a performance standpoint. Milone possesses pinpoint control and still maintains a solid strikeout rate. He’s also in an excellent park given his fly ball ways. At the very least, he’ll provide a good WHIP.

Ubaldo Jimenez

Depending on how competitive your league is, Jimenez could be overvalued or undervalued. It seems like in expert league competition, no one is willing to believe that Jimenez’s return to glory was for real, or anything close to it. So he may actually be a value now. He obviously isn’t going to help your WHIP, but at the very least, he’ll be a good source of strikeouts and could post an ERA just under 4.00.

Tanner Roark

This choice is obviously contingent upon him winning a rotation spot. He’s battling Taylor Jordan, another pitcher I like in deeper leagues. Roark was quite fortunate to post a sub-2.00 ERA last year of course, but he has fantastic control, a ground ball tilt, and respectable strikeout potential.

Wily Peralta

I am by no means a big fan. He certainly has his warts — mediocre control and a curiously low strikeout rate despite a fastball that averaged nearly 95 mph last year — but he does offer intrigue. He induces a ton of grounders and oh that fastball. Even though he throws it hard, it doesn’t miss bats. His slider has been just okay at missing bats as well, so we know why his strikeout rate hasn’t been better. The hope here is that just one of those missing two skills improves enough as a sub-4.00 ERA isn’t too far away.

Tanner Scheppers

Just named to the Rangers rotation, you have to imagine innings are going to be a problem. But, he’s similar to Peralta with the difference being that his control is better. Scheppers throws hard as well, and his curve ball was much improved last year in terms of inducing whiffs. While it would be unreasonable to expect a strikeout rate spike now that he’s in the rotation, he still possesses a solid overall skill set.

Garrett Richards

Richards is yet another starter who throws hard, induces grounders and relies on a solid, albeit unspectacular slider, as his primary secondary pitch. Richards has struggled with his control at times in the past, but it has generally been better than Peralta’s has been. With a good lineup supporting him and a good ballpark to call home, he has a reasonable shot at posting a sub-4.00 ERA.

Jon Niese

Injury concerns most certainly led to his cheap auction price, but he should seemingly be ready to go for his first start on April 6. Obviously, there’s risk here as a sore elbow is always scary. Assuming he’s healthy though, he possesses that familiar skills combination that has become a theme with these choices. Grounders, good control and a respectable strikeout rate make Niese a solid fantasy contributor.

Ricky Nolasco

It figures that when Nolasco finally enjoys neutral luck, nobody believes in him. Moving to the American League and being backed by a mediocre at best offense will do him no favors. But at least he’ll be pitching half his games in a pitcher’s park. His SwStk% rebounded and brought his strikeout rate along for the ride. As usual, Nolasco’s fate will be tied to the Twins defense and bullpen.

So let’s be honest here. This is not a good pitching staff, even in a 15 team league. It would look a whole lot better in a 12 team format and I bet I would be almost satisfied with the group I could cobble together. But this one? Not so much. I think the $9 pitching staff works better the shallower the league where there are plenty of options freely available if your guy doesn’t work out.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


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K
Guest
K

I use this strategy in a keeper leage with my friends…. who are all idiots. 12 team mixed h2h, 10 keepers, have won championship 2 out of 4 years.

Detroit Michael
Guest
Detroit Michael

Friends don’t call their friends “idiots.”

Garrett
Guest
Garrett

I call my friends idiots all the time. Lighten up.

larry bowa
Guest
larry bowa

Of course they fucking do.

Bill
Guest
Bill

Never fun being in a league with idiots. It’s like a BCS team playing a mid-major. If you win, nobody cares. If you lose you look pathetic.

Kentucky Wildcats
Guest
Kentucky Wildcats

Unless that mid-major is 35-0….

Eerock
Guest
Eerock

If they are all idiots, how come you win the league only half the time?

ch3cooh
Member
ch3cooh

Because there’s a significant amount of variance in a H2H league.

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