Drew Smyly and the Annoyance of Off-Days

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The Tigers' pitcher was a sleeper fantasy play. Now he's not, and that seems to be solely because of the schedule. That's silly.

The Detroit Tigers' season is 30 days old, as of Wednesday morning. In that time, they have - due to schedule or rain or what-have-you - had eight off days. That's 27 percent of the days of the season with no games. That's weird, yeah? And they have another day off Thursday. Nine off days out of 32 total.

And then, after their off day May 1, the Tigers have exactly one more scheduled day off in May, two in June, and one more in July before the All-Star break. Sure, there might be a few more rainouts, but those tend to cluster in April - according to MLB Advanced Media, 37 percent of rainouts happen in the season's first month.

I'll put that another way. Through Thursday, the Tigers will have played games on 72 percent of the days of the season. From Friday until the All-Star break, that number goes up to about 95 percent.

And who stands to be the beneficiary of the "hey, let's play all the time now" schedule? Drew Smyly, of course.

Smyly entered the season as the Tigers' fifth starter. Being a team's fifth starter early in the season generally means being a team's long reliever/occasional starter/AAA shuttle driver/coffee gofer/pizza orderer/dishwasher. The schedule-makers stack so many off days early in the year (because of rain, phasing in workloads, all sorts of stuff) that fifth starters are largely unnecessary luxuries. For fantasy, that can be pretty meaningless with most teams, where the fifth starter is, I don't know, Nick Martinez or Dustin McGowan or Michael Bolsinger.

But, as has been drilled into our heads for some time now, the Tigers starting rotation is not the same as those other groups. The Tigers were willing to deal Doug Fister in the offseason, despite 12.6 bWAR the last three years, because Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez were just about the best 1-3 a team could have, and Rick Porcello and Smyly ought to be some level of fine in the 4-5.

Smyly was a reasonably popular quasi-sleeper in fantasy drafts this year, and I saw him going in expert leagues and mocks in the same region as guys like Brandon Phillips, Yovani Gallardo, and Jimmy Rollins. Only today, he sits at only 28 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues (for comparison's sake, those other guys are owned at 90, 83, and 76 percent, respectively). Smyly is high up on ESPN's most-dropped list among pitchers, with his ownership down almost 10 percent in the last week alone. As far as I can tell, the only thing that has changed about Smyly since then is his scant usage, and his usage is scant only because he's on a Verlander/Scherzer/Sanchez team.

The Tigers have played 22 games so far this season, and Smyly has pitched in four. That's not an awful rate of appearances, except that three of those four outings were limited to three innings apiece - two three-inning relief appearances and a three-inning start. He has a 3.60 ERA with a 3.62 FIP and a 3.19 xFIP despite a .324 BABIP so far. But of course, that's all in 15 innings, meaning we can't really draw any conclusions. His career numbers, though, feature a 3.31 ERA, 3.21 FIP, and 3.52 xFIP, with almost exactly a strikeout an inning.

No, any opinion you or I or anyone has on Drew Smyly today should be, with little exception, identical to the opinion you or I or anyone had on Drew Smyly a month ago. And that opinion was that Smyly was one heck of a bargain fantasy option.

Don't let a weird schedule and some rainclouds change your mind.

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