Jonathan Gangi

Outside the Boxscore

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Why Draft Hitting Early?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This week I'll introduce some quantitative evidence as to why you should not draft pitching early next year. Then I'll respond to emails from David Milch backers and 24 apologists.

Topic of the Week: Why You Should Draft Hitting Next Year

Last week in my column on regrets, I mentioned that I made the age-old mistake of using some high draft picks on pitching. In my case, it was fairly obvious that the starters I took—like Felix Hernandez, whom I snagged in the eighth, and Rich Harden, whom I took in the 11th—screwed me over like Mangini. But that's just one man's sob story. What about others who drafted pitching early? Did they suffer the same fate? In order to answer this question, I took a closer look at my league to see how top-ranked pitchers fared as compared to top-ranked hitters. Here is what I found:

  • Only two of the top 25 starters going into the season (Santana and Peavy) finished among the top 25 overall players. Just two! In fact, 14 didn't even crack the top 100. By contrast, 13 of the top 25 ranked hitters finished in the top 25. Four more (Utley, Sizemore, Carlos Lee, and Ryan Howard) finished in the top 34. Furthermore, all but two hitters (Manny Ramirez and Travis Hafner) finished in the top 100. (In fact, Manny just missed at 102.) The morale? Starting pitchers are far more likely to be fantasy busts. Using your high picks on hitters is a much safer bet.
  • Looking at it from the opposite angle, 14 starters who finished the season among the top 25 pitchers were not ranked among the top 100 overall players at the start of the season. In contrast, all but five hitters who finished the season among the top 25 hitters were ranked in the top 100 at the outset. In other words, you can pretty readily find good pitching later in the draft and even off the wire, but the same does not hold true for hitting. Yet another argument for securing bats with those high draft picks.
  • In my league, only two of the top 50 hitters going into the season (Glaus and Orlando Hudson) are not currently on any roster in my league, whereas eleven of the top 50 starters are teamless. Again, hitters hold their value better than pitchers.

The Trash Dump

To submit a question or comment to the Trash Dump, email

Hi Jon, I agree with your No. 1 draft regret: drafting pitchers early. Same in auction format; no sense spending too much on pitchers that can't go past six innings. The days of Gibson, Drysdale and Jenkins are long gone! In our AL only league, I got Carmona, Bannister, Gaudin and Soria out of free agency once the season started, spent my $$$ on Crawford, A-Rod, and did step up for Santana. But those four previously mentioned pitchers have helped me dominate the 14 year old RICARDO CABEZA LEAGUE, and I'm cruisin' to the finish line 17 points ahead!! Keep up the good work...and there's always next year!!
- Carl, Prescott, AZ

For what it's worth, I received several emails like this one testifying to the successfulness of drafting hitting early and/or the ill fate that results from drafting pitching early. I didn't receive a single email that argued the opposite point.

Our league is in the midst of its playoffs, and I'm in a matchup with an owner who, in order to block me from picking up any of today or tomorrow's probable pitchers, added and dropped EVERY SINGLE ONE. Also, since our matchup isn't the only one going on, he screwed the other six owners who are still playing. Our league doesn't have a rule against doing that, and we don't have a limit on transactions, so he technically didn't break any rules. However, I can't help but think this is at least poor sportsmanship. What do you think of this? Any creative ideas as to how to stop it?
- Kevin

To me, if it isn't against the rules, then it's a smart play more than anything else. I have employed a similar strategy before where I've added and dropped a guy or two to block an opponent from filling a need. On the other hand, it's probably not something you want going on in your league. One simple way to address it would be with a simple limit on the number of transactions per team. That way, someone would be screwing themselves if they wasted too many transactions on this type of tactic.

{In response to your statement,} "Lesson: Never, ever trust a show that involves David Milch but not Steven Bochco." Hold on there. I agree with you on John from Cincinnati (a huge disappointment), but Milch did Deadwood without, I believe, any input from Bochco, and I would argue that Deadwood is one of the five best series ever aired on television--maybe even the best ever. Better than Sopranos, better than NYPD Blue (both of which are great, no doubt). Deadwood had tremendous writing, great acting, terrific plotlines, and what I would argue is the single best character every created in a television series: Al Swearingen. If you haven't seen Deadwood (and I find that hard to believe, given that you watched Sopranos and John from Cincinnati), then you should get the box sets (only two seasons, unfortunately). If you have watched it, and would lump it in with John from Cincinnati, then I just don't know what to say to you. That would be like you arguing that day is night, up is down, round is square. As Wittgenstein once said, all I can do at that point is shake my head and walk away. (OK, Wittgenstein never said that, but he could've. The important thing is to end with a reference to a semi-obscure philosopher in order to overwhelm you with my fake erudition.)
- John M. Bellwoar

Well articulated, John, but I have to be honest: I hated Deadwood. First of all, they killed off the best character, Wild Bill Hickock, early in the show. Then, the storyline was constantly being sidetracked with boring subplots that never amounted to anything. The dialogue was absurd. (Am I supposed to believe that everyone in the Wild West spoke like William Butler Yeats?) And I just cannot take Powers Booth and his one-dimensional, "I've always got this conniving smile, because I'm so pleased with my own pure evilness" shtick.

{As far as regrets go}, I think it's fair to mention Daniel Cabrera and his "this year will be his breakout year!" Damn if he doesn't screw me every year soaking up that awful ERA waiting for him to shine.
- Rich Berstler

Yeah, I've held out hope for him as well, but after seeing his disgraceful display of immaturity against the Red Sox—when he threw at Dustin Pedroia's head, because he was mad that Coco Crisp drew a balk from him—I question whether he'll ever have the mental/emotional capacity it takes to be consistent.

There is one reason you didn't do as well this year: You didn't have one reference to the best show on TV – 24. Yes, I agree with the multitudes that this season was derivative and wasn't the greatest, but that's like saying that Chipper Jones was a disappointment this year because he hit only 23 home runs in 450 at bats. As you know, it's all relative, and never forget the possibility that 24 was your lucky charm in the past. P.S. I also hate Will Ferrell, but what does your opinion of Will Ferrell have to do with whether or not someone is going to read this column? It's still one of the most entertaining fantasy baseball columns around, even if you do sometimes (like in the case of Ferrell or Rich Harden) have questionable taste. Thanks for another great year.
- Ed Klein

I like your theory, mostly because it absolves me of the blame I deserve for drafting Michael Young, Roy Halladay, and Felix Hernandez. I have to say, though, that I disagree about 24. As much as I loved past seasons, this one was more like Jeremy Bonderman than Chipper Jones. They lost me when Jack, literally seconds after apprehending the terrorist behind the nuclear attacks on the U.S., got a call from a completely unrelated enemy telling him that his long-lost, supposed-to-be-dead love interest Audrey was actually still alive, and that he had to act fast to keep it that way. Asking me to suspend disbelief is one thing; asking me to ward it off when it's coming at me like Rampage Jackson is another.

On a serious note, though, I appreciate the kind words. Thanks back at you and all readers of OTBS.

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