Over or under your innings pace?

The subject of innings limits in roto leagues doesn’t typically come up until late August or September. By then, many fantasy teams are approaching their cap on innings pitched and must adjust their use of pitchers accordingly.

But even before the season’s denouement, many fantasy managers tend to glance here and there at their pitching staff’s innings pace, and a projected innings shortfall or surplus tends to invoke some sort of psychological response. When Yahoo, CBS Sports, or any other fantasy service tells you in screaming red letters that you’re on pace for 200 innings short of the maximum, do you take it as some sort of dare by the powers-that-be to pick up Tim Wakefield to catch up?

Most fantasy managers will try to roughly stay on par with the projected limit. To some extent, this makes sense, preserving the option to use a team’s best starters all the way till the end of the season, while at the same time, making sure to leverage the benefits of all the wins and strikeouts garnered when one hits maximum innings pitched.

On the other hand, no rules exist that state how exactly fantasy managers must proportion their innings pitched throughout a season, and there may be advantages to asymmetrical apportionment.

Let’s say you scoffed at all the conventional wisdom that said draft batters before pitchers, instead doing the opposite, and thus ended up with a super-strong rotation of pitching aces. Using all of these pitchers, plus any free agent acquisitions, plus any spot starters, would surely trigger red caution flags of a projected innings surplus. If the pitching is strong, does it really matter if you reach climax sooner than your league-mates?

Let’s say your pitching is as weak as Jamie Moyer’s fastball. We’re talking a pitching staff that’s anchored by the likes of (no offense) Carlos Zambrano and may include injured Daisuke Matsuzaka and injured John Lackey. Does it really make sense to trot out your league’s draft rejects just to keep pace?

The advantages for being ahead of pace on innings:

1. The sooner a team reaches its maximum innings, the easier it may become to part with a fantasy ace like Johan Santana or Tim Lincecum in the interests of improving one’s offense.

2. The sooner a team reaches its maximum innings, the easier it becomes to drop moderate-value players like middle relievers to add to hitting bench depth.

3. The avoidance of September pitcher’s fatigue.

4. No need to worry about how your pitcher’s real-life club’s dashed playoff hopes will shake up your pitcher’s psyche. Or how your pitcher’s real-life manager will preserve your pitcher’s arm after clinching the pennant. (Follow?)

The disadvantages for being ahead of pace on innings:

1. Use of roster spots on starters might mean lack of roster spots on closers. Additionally, it’s hard to chase saves on an abbreviated schedule.

2. The more innings pitched, the harder it becomes to rescue ERA and WHIP should things go bad.

3. What if you can’t trade Tim Lincecum or get fair value for him?

The advantages for being behind pace on innings:

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1. Easier to spot the good match-ups with a few good weeks or months of data on the league’s poorer offenses.

2. As teams approach their maximums, they might get more conservative on their use of pitchers. Some teams may drop decent starting pitchers to address other holes. Other teams may stop paying attention as they fall out of competition. In other words, the waiver wire options may be better as the season enters its late stages.

3. Relatedly, it typically becomes easier to trade for good starting pitchers—and pay less—as the season enters its late stages.

4. The less innings pitched, the easier it becomes to move ERA and WHIP.

The disadvantages for being behind pace:

1. You really sure you’re going to hit your maximum?

All in all, we tend to see more of an advantage for being under count in the early going. Especially this year. Of course, hindsight is hindsight, but did you know that pitching has so far been terrible this year, compared to year’s past? Batters are on their best pace since 2004.

If you haven’t used a lot of pitching thus far, congratulations. You probably made the right move.

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My strategy on innings pace has varied from year to year, depending on the situation.

For instance, this year I’ve got Jake Peavy, Erik Bedard, and some other “high risk” pitchers. I’m trying to get ahead on my innings in case I lose one, two, or (yikes) more pitchers. It’s unlikely I’d be able to replace the production I’ll get from my current staff from free agent additions.

Chad Burke
Chad Burke
Right now my starters looking stellar with Haren, Billingsley, Greinke, Bedard, and the Big Unit (well at least one stellar start for Mr. Ugly) and plan to continue to start these guys no matter what my innings pace is.  Last year I struggled with my pitching thanks to having the first three pitchers I drafted get hurt and a couple of others have DL stints (Bedard, Putz, Saito, Wainright).  I struggled to play catchup all year and was able to find some WW gems in Nolasco and Myers (after his trip to the minors and the righting of the ship)… Read more »

Whether you go over or under should entirely depend on the quality of your starters.  If you have Haren going against the Pirate and you’re 100 ip over, it doesn’t matter, start the guy anyway.

However from a drafting standpoint, you should always not draft enough quality pitching to cover your ip limit.  It’s just too easy to find quality starters on the waiver wire to allocate the resources necessary to draft 5, 6, or 7 quality starters.

I prefer the strategy of going quicker at the start because it give you more room to manouver later on I like to set my squard up (1250 inn lim) with 5 SP and 4 Closers By the halfway stage I am normally 40 inn over the limit, at which time I can assess if a. I need wins, but is winning steals, trade 2 RP for a Hitter. b. If I need WHIP or ERA help, drop the worst or 2nd worst SP and just play the ACEs c. If I am going well in all pitching cats, trade… Read more »
I usually like to go with 5 SPs and 5 RPs (3 or 4 being closers) to hit 1250. However this season, I punted pitching, on top of my 7 hitting keepers, I drafted Tori Hunter and Nelson Cruz with my 8th n 9th selections, Willy Taveras in the 13th. So my staff looks like this: Harang, Myers, Wandy R., Kawakami, Zimmermann, Parra, Davies I’ve only played Parra and Davies once this year, I think I’ve already benched Myers once so you can see I’m trying to get the best out of a weak staff. My RP situation however is… Read more »