6. Building Your Team – Pitching Staff. Again the objective here is to get maximum value. Let’s say we’re going to spend $40M on our pitching staff, for 11 roster spots. For this example, I’m going to draft 1350 innings. As you get better, you can probably get by with fewer innings, especially in pitcher-friendly ballparks. Most of the advice given above about building your offense applies equally here. I won’t repeat all of that.
a. Remember your ballpark. I did repeat this one, because it’s important to remember that there are three variables you control that impact how many runs your team allows: quality of your pitching, quality of your defense, and your home park. Hint: 2 of these cost money, 1 of them doesn’t. There is a reason why you will tend to see pitcher-friendly parks frequently in OLs. They are free to use, and they improve your pitching staff by reducing your opponent’s offense (and your own of course), meaning you can get by with fewer IP, meaning you can spend more on quality, which further improves your pitching staff, etc. Yes, a pitcher-friendly park will also dampen your offense, but good owners can put together an offense that is minimally-impacted by their park. As above, it is important to ask what pitching skills the park enhances or minimizes. Don’t put a modern pitcher with high HR/9 in Atlanta Fulton County or Yankee III. They’ll give up 60+ homers. In contrast, you can put a pitcher with a slightly higher OAV in a park like Safeco or Petco and he’ll do better than expected because the park represses so many hits.
b. Decide how you want to structure your pitching staff. There is no magic formula for how to do this. For our example (1350 innings), I’m probably going to buy two $200K pitchers to serve as my mop-up men. These guys will give me 50-75 innings across the season that I can use when a game is out of hand, or I can start them once in a while if I know I’m going to be resting a lot of players in my starting lineup. Finally, I also have the option of dropping them to the minors , and bringing up my two AAA pitchers, who will almost certainly be better quality. After that I am probably going to do the following:
i. Draft 900-1000 SP innings. You can do this with a 3- or 4-man rotation (which are most common). Experienced owners can do this with a 2-man rotation, or will often use the Tandem/Starter/A-B settings to put together unbalanced rotations. I recommend not doing this with your first few teams. For the most part, I want all 3-4 starters to be good, but I’m probably going to spend more on the first 2 than the last 1 or 2. Why? If we make it to the post-season, my top 2 starters are going to pitch a disproportionate number of innings, so I want them to be really good. The 3rd (or 4th) starter will move to long relief at that point.
ii. Draft a 40-50 IP closer. Needs to be excellent across the board. OAV# under .200, WHIP under 1.00, low HR/9#.
iii. Draft 75-125 innings of set-up men. Need to be very good across the board, maybe a little less effective than your closer. One thing to watch with both closers and set-up men is their actual IP/G. A lot of modern relievers have IP/G less than 1.0, because their real-life managers use them to face 1-2 batters with the platoon advantage. I dislike drafting these guys because they tend to fatigue very rapidly after throwing 10-15 pitches in a game.
iv. Draft 150-200 innings of long relief. Again, a little less effective than your set-up men.
c. Use advanced search criteria. I’m going to take you through a mock draft to illustrate how we might use these ideas, but I am NOT necessarily recommending that you draft any of these guys. Let’s set up a 3-man rotation, looking to get 900-1000 innings. Let’s do a quick search for all SPs with 300-350 IP, sorted by ERC#. Again, ERC is not used directly in the SIM algorithm, but it’s a good all-encompassing measure of how good a pitcher is. The #1 pitcher by this metric is…1908 Addie Joss. A closer look reveals what a great value he is. Of the top 8 pitchers in the search results, Joss is the cheapest in terms of $/IP. Yet he has the lowest WHIP# (0.90, tied with 1908 Mordecai Brown), and the second lowest HR/9# (behind Brown). He’ll give up a few more hits than some of the other guys on the list, like Koufax and Gibson, but he’ll make up for that by almost never walking anyone, almost never giving up a homer, and again, he’s the cheapest of the great starters. Basically what this search result is telling you is that you can afford to use one of the greatest SP seasons in baseball history on your OL team. There is a reason why Joss is seen so often in OLs. (And why many of us believe he is significantly underpriced, something we’d like to see corrected in the next update.)
d. For our next starter, I would choose someone a little further down the list (i.e. less expensive). Again, look for good values. Someone like 1917 Stan Coveleski or 1908 Cy Young or 1908 Frank Smith should stand out as you look over the numbers. The right choice will depend on park, how much you want to spend, etc.
e. For the 3rd starter, as referenced, I’m going to spend less money. Let’s re-run the search (300-350 IP) looking at pitchers who cost $9M or less, sorted by ERC# (you should also sort by WHIP#, by OAV#, and by HR/9# to get a complete picture). Lots of great choices come up, and you’ll see most of these guys commonly used on OL teams, but I want to call your attention to the 11th guy on the list: 1909 Ed Summers. He stands out because he is much cheaper than the others. Again, very low homers and walks, and while he’ll give up a few hits, he looks like a bargain. Summers is also very commonly used in OLs.
f. I’m going to do one more example, finding a closer. Be careful about overspending for this position. The elite closers in baseball history are probably too expensive (2013 Koji Uehara is someone I would never use in an OL as he is very costly). Also remember that real-life saves don’t matter at all, and that it is perfectly fine to use real-life starters in relief. All we care about are OAV, WHIP, and HR/9. I’m going to re-run the search this time looking for all pitchers with 40-60 IP, costing less than $2M (remember, we just spent ~$30M on our rotation, so funds are getting scarce), sorted by ERC#. Some excellent choices for closer here…two to note are 1967 Cisco Carlos at the top of the list (very commonly seen in OLs, has awesome stats across the board and will almost never allow a homer) and 1924 Babe Adams (extremely cost-effective among this group). Note that both of these guys were starting pitchers in real life. As stated above, this doesn’t matter at all. Try rerunning the search with slightly different IP and cost parameters, and sorted by different criteria. You’ll end up with a great list of potential closers whom you can use, and the right choice at any time will depend on your park, your budget, your overall staff composition etc. You now have ~$8M to fill out the rest of your staff. Happy hunting.