I like Daniel Hudson, but not his in-laws

This past weekend, I got married. Fantasy trades were made between guests at the wedding. I’ve now written about said trades at said wedding. So, here’s my question, can I write the whole shindig off as a business expense now?

One of the many marriages that must take place on the baseball diamond is that of a team’s starting rotation and its bullpen. Or, in another marital analogy, drafting a starter is like marrying him, and his bullpen makes up the in-laws. The dynamics of a team’s relative strengths in its pen and rotation, along with its offensive prowess don’t just go a long way to determine how many games that team wins, but it also help to determine to whom those wins are credited.

When considering starting pitchers, of course the ideal intersection of these dynamics is a strong starter who is bolstered by a solid pen and flanked by a powerful offense. Jon Lester is basically the poster child for this dream scenario. But, when everything isn’t lined up so neatly, there are other trends we may expect to see. So here are a couple of fantasy-oriented observations about the intersection of starters, relievers, and offenses in 2011.

A reliever on the Yankees will flirt with double-digit wins
This point was brought up on Josh Shepardson and Jeffrey Gross’ auction strategy podcast, which I highly recommend, by the way. The podcast briefly mentions the strategy of building an ace starter out of multiple elite (and cheap) middle relievers (a strategy I love and reference often). During this conversation, it was noted that it’s a good bet that either Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain will win a bunch of games in 2011. I wholeheartedly agree. Relief wins can be difficult to predict, but the anatomy of a double-digit win reliever situation is present in the Bronx. In place are is a weak back end of a rotation and a highly potent offense. This means there are likely to be a lot of Yankee games decided in innings six to eight.

Chamberlain may be the more likely of the two to pitch more than one inning in an outing and therefore may have a greater vulture win potential than Soriano, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Soriano racked up his share of wins too. We also began seeing the Yankees giving Mariano Rivera a handful of nights off last season, and I would expect Soriano to get those opportunities as well. I think Soriano is very worth owning, even as a middle reliever. It seems reasonable for him to notch a half dozen each of wins and saves while posting his usually sterling rates stats, including K/IP.

Good starting pitching efforts on the South side will be rewarded
I’m not totally enamored with any of the starters for the White Sox, but they do have a few things going for them, namely a solid offense and a quite strong bullpen core. Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain should equal 250-300 solid bullpen innings. Ozzie Guillen’s tendency to let his pitchers go deep is a fickle fantasy mistress; on the one hand he gives his starters every chance to get their decisions, but on the other it seems like no manager is more willing to let his starters really take a beating than Ozzie. Of course, Chicago’s starters also have to contend with a homer-friendly home park, but in terms of upside in the wins category, John Danks probably has a much of it as any pitcher in his tier.

Oakland is a nice place to pitch
I think the A’s are going to be one of those teams that performs pretty well in 2011 and surprises a few people. They quietly were a .500 team last year (underperforming their pyth by four games) and the young team should continue to improve in 2011. While the Rangers remain the front-runner in the AL West, Seattle projects to be fairly awful again this year, and I actually expect another sub .500 season from the Angels, especially if Kendry Morales starts the season on the DL and misses significant time again. This leaves Oakland with a fairly weak division, a favorable home park, a very good defense, and— especially with the news that Andrew Bailey should be okay—a very strong bullpen. Yes, they are offensively challenged, but all the other ingredients are there.

Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden don’t strike out enough batters to interest me as anything more than stronger shallower league streaming options, but Brett Anderson should be solid and Gio Gonzalez could be a stud in the making. If you’re looking for a young pitcher with the potential to make a huge leap into truly elite status, a la Ubaldo Jimenez, I’d consider Gio as one of the better bets. It helps to have advantages beyond the things you can control.

Arizona will be where quality starts go to die… again
Last year, Arizona’s bullpen was especially bad. At around the All Star break, I remember reading that they were on pace to break the record for worst bullpen ERA of all time, or something. To be blunt, they’re going to stink again. J.J. Putz provides them with a legitimate closer type, but ironically, on a bad team, that may be the worst way to use him; you’re basically giving your best reliever the fewest innings of any core member of your bullpen. Oh, and he’s an injury risk too. Combine this bullpen situation with a launching pad of a home park and a just generally bad team, and you just have multiple forces conspiring against Arizona’s pitchers. With Gio Gonzalez fetching similar prices to Daniel Hudson, I’d much rather bet on Gio, and when it comes to $3-$4 pitchers, I can think of a dozen I’d rather try my luck with than Ian Kennedy.


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Pops
Guest
Pops

Do you see a difference in Edinson Volquez and Gio Gonzalez?  I like both pitchers this year and will be targeting them in the middle rounds in all formats.

Derek Ambrosino
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Derek Ambrosino
I like Gio much better. Here are the red flags I see with Volquez – he has a substantial injury history, he plays in a very hitter friendly park, and his walk rate hasn’t really shown any signs of improvement over the years. Last year, Volquez looked like he may have been making progress toward becoming a very good groundball pitcher, but it’s hard to tell because of sample size. His walk total has also been out of control for virtually every season except the one full year he pitched – and perhaps there is something to that, settling into… Read more »
Pops
Guest
Pops

Great response.  With that being said, where do you look to grab Gonzalez?  He is ranked 299 (not a joke) over at ESPN, appearing after names like Baker, Braden and Lackey.

Samson
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Samson

To keep this discussion ongoing, please rank the following mid tier pitchers:

Gio Gonzalez
Brandon Morrow
Daniel Hudson
Jhoulys Chacin
Madison Bumgarner
Edison Volquez

Len Vincent
Guest
Len Vincent

Morrow
Gio
Bumgarner
Chacin
Hudson
Volquez

Derek Ambrosino
Guest
Derek Ambrosino

I think I’d go:

Gio
Morrow
Hudson
Chacin
Bumgarner
Volquez

Ben Pritchett
Guest
Ben Pritchett

Hudson
Chacin
Gio
Morrow
Bumgarner
Volquez

Derek Ambrosino
Guest
Derek Ambrosino
Hey guys – just thought I’d share part of an email convo I had with a reader, who asked me to rank a list of pitchers not too different, but longer than the list above: Here’s his list, and some of thoughts below. Note that there are some scoring considerations here that I considered when ranking (they help Danks, IMO) GIO MORROW NOLASCO D HUDSON LEWIS DANKS J SANCHEZ CHACIN BECKETT CJ WILSON GARCIA VOLQUEZ E SANTANA DE LA ROSA ———- Full disclosure, I’m not a meticulous rankings guy, I normally draft by feeling more than many experts, and especially… Read more »
Derek Ambrosino
Guest
Derek Ambrosino
Thanks! Well, it looks like there’s no shortage of opinions. I definitely have to look more deeply into Chacin. I’m feeling as if my relative trepidation may not be totally rational. To all – This whole exercise is really a good reminder that what should matter to you is getting guys you like at prices that you like. Speaking for myself, my listing of players is not any sort of guarantee that the players I have higher are measurably more likely to end up on my team. Very few players are sure things, so it becomes equally important to get… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

MAZEL TOV!

Jeffrey Gross
Guest
Jeffrey Gross

I’d go:
Madison Bumgarner
Jhoulys Chacin
Daniel Hudson
Gio Gonzalez
Brandon Morrow
Edison Volquez

Jeffrey Gross
Guest
Jeffrey Gross

Maybe I’d flip Gio and Morrow….

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