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Fantasy411 Podcast: Strategies for innings cap

July 28, 2017

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and Yahoo fantasy writer Dalton Del Don. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.Fred Zinkie: We're here to talk to Dalton

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and Yahoo fantasy writer Dalton Del Don. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.
Fred Zinkie: We're here to talk to Dalton about his awesome Yahoo Friends and Family League team, which is crushing the competition in our league this season. And I wanted to talk to Dalton about some of the key players on that team. First of all, Dalton, congratulations on your great start to the league so far, two-thirds of the way through the season. How are you doing it?
Dalton Del Don: Thank you. There's still a long way to go. One of the things I must point out is I'm well over the pace to finish [over the innings cap] -- there's an innings cap, and I'm plus-74 over, so that should be noted. I'm going to probably lose some of the wins and strikeouts down the stretch. But one thing I will say about that is that my K rate is really strong: 981 strikeouts in 946 innings. So I love that stat.
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Part of my strategy is I am going to suffer some injuries, because I know I have a lot of injury-prone pitchers. And sure enough, I have. Rich Hill has dealt with some stuff, Jake Odorizzi just went on the DL, and I've dropped a couple of other fringe guys. So we'll see how that plays out. It's not exactly like a weekly format; people will be able to catch up on the innings. But at the same time, Chris Liss, our colleague at RotoWire, I made a big bet with him before the season, and he kept saying, "Oh, don't look at the standings now, because I'm way under the cap and you're way over." But on the flip side to that, he might hurt his ERA and WHIP trying to play the streaming game -- even though in September, often you're facing Triple-A lineups. I might have to block him there.
That's one thing to note -- the difference in the innings cap. But so far, yeah, even with my first-round pick, Manny Machado, not coming close to his ADP, so far, so good.
Zinkie: I like some of the things you touched on there. For people who are listening, who are in those innings-pitched cap leagues, is it typically your strategy to get out ahead of the pace -- figuring you'd rather maybe just not use your starting pitchers the last couple of weeks of September, rather than having to scramble to grab whoever you can get in September? Did you find that's a common strategy for you?
Del Don: Honestly, I didn't really have a strategy either way. I definitely wanted to get enough pitchers to where I'm on pace, and don't want to scramble, that's for sure. But it wasn't a set-out strategy before the season, at the draft, to get way ahead. Although there is some merit to that -- because if I'm nearly 100 innings over, you can just trade a guy. You can trade a starter. And you lose less, in that way, if you bank those innings.
That is kind of a side advantage, but that was not an actual strategy I had. But I wanted to make sure I got enough to keep the pace; it just so happens that they stayed a little healthier than I thought, and I'm ahead of the pace. But I'd rather be over than under, just because you might end up hurting your ratios having to stream guys.
Zinkie: I totally understand that. I was briefly over, and then fell under, and I was like, "Oh, OK, no big deal. I'll catch up later." But now as my pitching staff has had some injuries, and I've closed the book on Aaron Sanchez, and I've closed the book on Marco Estrada -- not because of injury, but because of effectiveness -- and then my staff starts to look a little thin. And now I'm thinking, how am I gonna catch back up to the pace I need to be at? Because I'm not going to get there with a bunch of relief pitchers that I've grabbed just to fill slots.
Even though people are wary of going over, and like, "Oh, what if I have to sit one of my pitchers and just not use them late in the season when they have a nice matchup?" I can see -- I haven't played in a league like this one before, with an innings-pitched cap and daily roster transactions, so I'm kind of just getting my feet wet with it this year -- for people who are listening, I would not be afraid to get over that innings-pitched pace and figure it out in September, because you might not have what you thought. Dallas Keuchel was another one for me. I've had to leave him on the DL this entire month, so there's more innings I've fallen off the pace. And replacing him with pitchers on waivers in a 14-team league isn't easy.
Del Don: Yes, and a couple of things about having quote-unquote "too many" starting pitchers. Injuries inevitably happen. You may look at it and be like, "Boy, if everyone throws 180 innings, I'm gonna be over." But injuries do happen. And as you said, a 14-team league. There are daily transactions, but with owners into this league -- if a guy's named a closer, they're picked up within three minutes -- so people are actually into it, so don't just assume there's going to viable starters the next day.
And also, if you have a surplus of starting pitchers, you can really get picky with matchups. You can bench guys in not-great matchups because you're fine with the innings. And the fringe guys, you can just wait until they're at home against a weaker offense. You can really benefit your ratios in that manner, as well.
Zinkie: Yeah, I totally agree. Sticking with your pitching staff for a minute, Chris Sale is by far the most valuable player on your team this year and the anchor of your staff. Do you think that him and Max Scherzer, with the way that hitters have been going this year and the way that pitchers haven't been going this year, is it possible that Sale and Max Scherzer are maybe the two most valuable players at any position down the stretch in 2017?
Del Don: It's entirely possible -- especially in an innings-cap league, where the K rate matters more than the volume. [Clayton] Kershaw's obviously hurt. I've always been a starting-pitcher guy. I've been willing to be aggressive drafting them in the early rounds, typically more so than the industry.
I mean, Sale, though -- I didn't expect this. He goes from one hitter's park to another, and he leads the American League right now in innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, wins and strikeouts. His WAR, at FanGraphs, is 6.6. Scherzer's is actually 4.4 -- I know that doesn't matter in fantasy terms. But the next-highest position player is Altuve at 5.6. So Sale is a full win above any other player in baseball, which is just remarkable. A career-high 15.8 swinging-strike percentage. He's been a monster.
If I had a vote -- I know people tend to not like pitchers because they have their own category -- but he certainly has a very strong argument to not only win the Cy Young, but also the American League MVP.