At risk of sounding like a hypochondriac fantasy baseball expert, the GNUru will discuss another disorder that afflicts many fantasy baseball owners this time of year. The disorder is known as Pitcher Phobia. Two recent articles from Dalton over at Roto Scoop (Priorly An Ace and One Sheets to the Wind) detail the trials and tribulations associated with drafting pitching. Roto Scoop talks about the inherent risk of becoming enamored with young pitching talent using the example of Mark Prior. Although the GNUru likes to call this Sexy Pick Syndrome, getting burnt one too many times may transgress into another disorder Pitcher Phobia. In One Sheets to the Wind, Dalton discusses how a talented pitcher like Ben Sheets is being overlooked due to his failure to remain healthy. Ok, so how does one balance the need to avoid overpaying for pitching when there is so much uncertainty involved without relying too heavily on young or often injured pitching? The answer is easier than you think....take a multi-tiered approach.
All too often we see fantasy baseball publications touting the strategy of avoiding pitching until round X (unless of course you can land Johan Santana). Johan's value is not just because he is the best pitcher in baseball, it's because he is also a fairly safe bet to stay healthy and remain productive. For this reason, Santana is the ultimate pitcher to own as a #1 starter. After Santana, who is fantasy baseball's #2 man? If you believe the GNUru's unscientific poll, that would be Mr. Carlos Zambrano, followed closely by Jake Peavy, Cris Carpenter, Brandon Webb, and Roy Halladay. If you notice, these pitchers have one thing in common- they tend to remain healthy. The fact that they are pretty good helps their value as well. The most important thing a fantasy baseball owner can do is land a bonafide #1 starter- one that you can feel comfortable will remain healthy and productive. Throughout the season you are going to need a guy you can rely on and having that rock is essential. You can fill in the blanks as necessary.
Basically, you want to construct your staff much like you would if you were running a professional baseball team. You do not want to load up on young, unproven talent nor do you want to load up on injury prone players. The key is balance. After landing your #1, it's okay to gamble on a youngster or injury prone pitcher just don't put all you eggs in a basket made of the same cloth. Maybe at #2 you go after a young pitching phenom (Kazmir, Weaver, etc.) and at #3 you go for a proven but injury prone pitcher (Sheets, Harden, Prior). By the time you get to your 4th and 5th starter, there isn't likely to be much left. The GNUru would suggest going after the often overlooked solid starters like Freddy Garcia, Mark Buerhle, Jon Lieber, or some young 1st time cemented in the rotation guys like Boof Bonser, Adam Wainwright, Matt Garza (if available). Again the key is to not overpay for each tier of pitcher and diversify your portfolio. While this strategy may not produce the highest return on your investment, it's likely to be the safest investment.
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