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Deep League Diving - Starting Pitchers

There are different approaches to looking for available starters. My approach is skills-based. I won't look at a pitcher’s win total from the previous year because as we know that doesn't correlate year to year. What I will look for is...

Why not Corby?
Why not Corby?

Personally, I am in all deep leagues including one with a 40 man roster (made up of any MLB-MiLB mix) and an Innings Pitched minimum so it's important to stay very active in the waiver wire. The other day, I looked to replace Ryan Ludwick. Today I will look for starters that you can fill your rosters with.

The other strategy is filling your roster with good peripheral relievers depending on the categories that you use. In Rotobanter's unique dynasty league I supplemented quality innings with David Robertson, Addison Reed, Bobby Parnell, Sean Doolittle and Koji Uehara in addition to Madison Bumgarner, Ian Kennedy, Matt Harvey, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Dillon Gee and Hisashi Iwakuma, who I posted on yesterday.

There are different approaches to looking for available starters. My approach is skills-based. I won't look at a pitcher’s win total from the previous year because as we know that doesn't correlate year to year. What I will look for is their SIERA, an ERA estimator with the highest correlation (.72) in relation to FIP (.59) xFIP (.68) and ofcourse ERA(.38). In addition, I will look at their K/BB (.63) ratio with their contact percentage (Ct%at .88) for context as well as their GB/FB (.87) ratio.

Using Fangraphs customized tables with these peripherals (and focusing only on starters owned in less than 50% of yahoo leagues), I have come up with the following list in order by these combined skills. Keep in mind, I used 90 IP as my cut-off so potential assets like Andrew Cashner (when he earns the rotation spot) won't show up.

Colby Lewis (owned in 5%) - Colby Lewis won't be back until at least late May or early June, but he's the type of pitcher with skills where you should pick him up and put him on your DL if you have that capability - same goes for Cory Luebke (after the all-star break) and Brandon Beachy (mid-season return).

Joe Blanton (owned in 6%) - Joe Blanton has a perpetually inflated ERA when compared to his SIERA. For example, look at the last 3 years (4.82 > 5.01 >4.71 versus 3.96 > 3.2 > 3.45). His K/BB has surpassed 3.00 in each of these three years and actually shows a positive trend with both an increasing K% and decreasing BB%. He's 32 now, consistently has a worse than average HR/FB ratio, lets those who get on base score more than league average and doesn't do well in high leverage situations (.417 weighted on base average against him). He's the type of pitcher you spot start. Angel Stadium of Anaheim and the defense behind him should suppress some of the perpetual inflation.

Dillon Gee (owned in only 11% of leagues - even after yesterday's start) - Bret Sayre put up this article on Dillon Gee, which parallels what I am saying here. Dillon Gee actually shows some elite stuff in addition to some swing and miss inducing skills. If you are in a deep enough league and Gee’s available, don’t hesitate.

Jeff Karstens (owned in 1%) - age and injury concerns prevent me from delving more into him. I did pick him up for IP in our deep dynasty league (no max injury reserve) for a solid enough K/BB ratio.

Patrick Corbin (2%) - Corbin earned the #5 rotation spot on the Diamondbacks. Keep an eye on him. In 100+ last year, he had a stellar K/BB ratio that approached 3.5 and a GB/FB ratio that approached 1.5 - both in line with a realistic MiLB to MLB translation for him. At 23 in Arizona, we can see an ERA closer to 4.25 but the potential to approach is 2012 3.71 SIERA is certainly there as soon as this year based on his peripherals. Along with Gee, I would suggesting keeping a close eye on him. I'm not yet "bullish" on him... that seems to be the newest over-used word in baseball, no?

Mike Fiers (26%) - Keep Fiers on your watch list as well. He won the 5th spot in the Brewers' rotation and at times dominated with his changeup last year. With a concerning Ct% and GB/FB ratio + a bad spring, we can see some quick regression. I wouldn't start him initially.

Batolo Colon (1%) - I should have just left him off of this list.

Rick Porcello (14%) - Rick Porcello won't dominate. He does have a an elite GB/FB ratio - 7th best in baseball last year for SP over 90 IP, but his Ct% and K/BB ratio are both worse than MLB average. While he is in a positive, realistic trend for both of these factors (2.21 > 2.26 > 2.43 for K/BB and 86.3% > 85.7% > 83.7% for Ct%), these shouldn't jump and drop respectively enough for him to be a solid play.

Mike Leake (1%) - Another good enough combination between K/BB and GB/FB should keep him as a spot-starter, but his Ct% (ugly 84.2%) and luck factors like HR/FB (16.7%) will keep him from being anything more.

Paul Maholm (39%) - Elite and trendy GB/FB combined with a K/BB jump in 2012. You have to expect regression as it relates to his Ct%. As a lefty, I wanted to say "If you see him facing a lefty-heavy lineup, he's a solid play" but to my surprise he is as equally effective with almost an identical weighted on base average against last year. If you have an innings minimum like we do, go for it, otherwise, I would prefer a good peripheral reliever as I mentioned above.

Tommy Milone (44%) - Solid K/BB comes from elite control (4.6% BB). GB/FB and Ct% is nothing special. Cliché spot-starter (.271 weighted on base average against at home and .367 on the road).

Bronson Arroyo (5%) - By now we know what most of the below list can provide so I won't delve into these guys.

Lucas Harrell (5%) - While everyone got sick with 2 outs in the 9h inning because Darvish lost his perfect game, I realized this game was a solid depiction of who Lucas Harrell is: a 2.0 K/BB guy with an elite GB/FB ratio. In his first start, he struck out 4 and walked 2 (2.0 K/BB) while inducing 10 ground balls and 3 pop-ups (3.33 GB/FB)...perfect depiction. Last year only two 2013 draftable starters had a better GB/FB ratio than Lucas Harrell (Alex Cobb and Trevor Cahill). His Ct% really leaves me unsatisfied - not 1 draftable 2013 starter had a worse Ct%. Albeit an utterly small sample size, we even saw this in his first start (82.4%) so there's much to be desired here. Expect something very similar to last year - 3.75 to 4.00 ERA, 1.33 to 1.35 WHIP with 130-140K - playable in some very deep leagues including our dynasty league which incorporates HR/9 where Harrell is elite (.60 last year).

Chad Billingsley (16%)

Justin Masterson (15%)

Chris Capuano (15%)

David Phelps (.01)%

I will end the list here because the rest of the skill scores came back negative. The skill score I associated to each starter came from the following formula: Normalized K/BB+ ((Normalized GB/FB)/Ct%) + Normalized SIERA. Normalized in this case means I took each starter's skill and compared it to MLB average - basically the difference between the skill and the league's average in that skill, which are 2.48 (K/BB), 1.33 (GB/FB), .797 (Ct%) and 3.88 (SIERA).

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Daniel Schwartz is the owner and contributor for Rotobanter - a site dedicated to hosting visitor requests and live discussion ( You can follow him on Twitter @rotobanter.