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“The Mad Professor” Tracking 2018 SP Performance

OK.  We’ve played 38 games in half a week.  Seriously.  What’s to discuss?  I turn to an important rant…

Well, it’s out.  I noted this a bit in my column on Chris Sale’s pitch count in 2017 and my suspicious ranting (ranting suspicion?) about the silly-arsed 10-Day DL bench extension for bad haircuts.  From a real, 162-game baseball perspective, this is just smart management. It’s not the 1960s.  We manage pitch counts and stack up bullpens with live arms to get us through the last three innings (or more) of a game so we can stretch those starters out into the playoffs and, we hope, avoid more trips to the TJ surgery ward.

So, Michael Salfino lamented the decreasing number of pitchers eligible for Cy Young consideration due to the overall decrease in IP by starters (See “The Dramatic Decline in Starting Pitching, 6 March 2018: ).  Ron Shandler rang in on the same subject with “The Challenge of Reaching Innings Minimums? On 30 March at

Between the two articles (and the thoughts on the same subject added by your gentle scribe on 26 February right here: ), there is at least some accord regarding the shifting strategies of MLB managers and pitching coaches. In the Fantasy world, the impact of that on how we draft SP, closers and middle relievers is considerable.  If an SP completes fewer than six IP, there is no QS.  He might get the W.  But, we also know that, once an SP retires, he has no control over the W and can only hope that the guys in the bullpen all ate their Wheaties.

So, what’s to take away from all this?  First, folks like Andrew Miller, Archie Bradley (until Boxberger implodes), David Robertson, Drew Steckenrider, etc. are now worth a lot more.  They will deliver Ks lost by short starts by SP.  In leagues that count holds, these guys are already worth real consideration.  Further, if your league still pretends that Wins are a meaningful counting stat, these are the guys who will now deliver Holds, extra K, an occasional vulture Save and now, an increasingly likely vulture Win.

From a fantasy perspective, this actually makes draft day more interesting because it spreads value beyond SP and closers in a much more meaningful way.

As of late AM Eastern Daylight Time on this fine Easter morning 2018, MLB has played 38 games.  The overall record is…38-38. (Hah! I kill me.  It’s a .500 league folks!  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  By the way—did you know that your pulse jumps after 107 jelly beans on Easter morning?)

I’m offering here what I expect will be the boilerplate for weekly pitching analysis that addresses the usual focus of my rants (pitching efficiency in terms of total number of pitches thrown, P/IP, etc.) and add some analysis of trends in IP per SP and RP. Right now, I’m drawing from Fangraphs data

League Stats So Far (Even though it’s too early to make any conclusions)

715 3024 679 11784 397.8 276.8 50 17 12 0.70 16.48 4.23

SP pitched 55.6 percent of the 715.2 IP thrown so far.  That amounts to an average of 5.2 IP per start.  RP covered the other 44.4%.  In coming weeks, I’ll track that over this and previous seasons.  That makes for an RP/SP ratio of 0.7.  According to the pundits, we are already off to a bad start if the average starter is not even qualifying for a QS.  If the pitch and IP counts really are becoming more stringent, that ratio will matter more and more over time and on future draft days.

Some Ponderables:

  • Thirty of the 78 SP (38.4%) pitched at least six IP. Twenty-five of them earned the QS badge by surrendering three or fewer runs. Seven of those QS turned into W.


  • Overall, 289 pitchers worked in week one: 76 SP and 213 RP. (I use the word “worked” loosely here.  I am including performances such as the BP thrown by Carson Smith and Joe Kelly in game one against the Tampa Bay Formerly Satanically Offensive Rays).  The table below summarizes some key data.

SP and RP Counts—Week 1

RP 14 301 1293
SP 24 378 1731
  • SP accounted for 63% of the wins while pitching 55% of IP. In their 44.6% of IP, RP picked up 44% of K and faced 43% of the batters

The remaining 14 wins went to RP who pitched three innings or fewer.  Two of those wins came with the bonus of a hold (Cishek on the Cubs and Watson on the Giants) and a blown save (Pedro Strop).

No doubt, these stats need further parsing and supplementing by more game data before they become useful.   But, what matters right now is that we have the basic rubric for a comparative analysis of SP and RP with regard to wins, quality starts, strikeouts, holds, saves, and efficiency that we can track throughout the season.  Once we get enough data, we can look at outliers and consistent performers.

Best of luck in Week 2!




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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday April 1st, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #111 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.

Our guest this week is Todd Nevin. Todd is a writer with, and his articles publish every Wednesday morning. Todd is also the Assistant GM of a professional soccer club in PA called the Harrisburg Heat.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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