As the calendar nears September and fantasy teams are rolling toward head-to-head playoffs and roto finishes, pitcher streaming becomes more and more popular. For one thing, everyone's favorite rookie pitchers or guys returning from injuries start to hit their innings limits, forcing you to replace them. Also, teams in roto leagues that are well below their innings cap can start to play catch up. Finally, many teams are no longer in the race and aren't picking up pitchers off the waiver wire as often, leaving more guys for the competitive teams to use as streamers.
Because of all these factors, in lieu of my usual 2 to Watch post, I thought I would dedicate a post to which teams are the best and worst to stream against. I did this before the season, but lots has changed since then. I'm going to break this down in a number of ways so that it can be most useful. I will provide multiple offensive stats for each team and show the top 10 best and the top 10 worst. You will also see the best teams against lefties and the best against northpaws. As a bonus, I will round up the best and worst in the past 30 days for those who like to play the streaks.
1. Streaming pitchers is a risky strategy that often results in an inflated ERA and WHIP because you are dealing with more volatile pitchers (that's why they are available to stream)
2. I believe the pitcher himself and his stats are much more important than the team he is playing against.
3. Park factors are important too, but teams' offensive output will show those park effects to some degree. I will present both park adjusted (wRC+) and unadjusted (wOBA) offensive values.
Before we dive into the numbers, I just want to say that wRC+ is weighted runs created and is a park- and league-adjusted value scaled to 100 (league average) that measures total offensive output (it combines all hitting outcomes into one nice number). wOBA is a similar number (it combines hitting production into one value), except it is not adjusted for ballpark or league. Ok, sorry for that detour, let's get into the tables!
The 10 Worst Offenses for All of 2015 (Best to Stream Against)
The Top 10 Best Offenses in All of 2015 (Avoid Streaming Against These Guys)
Now that you've had a chance to look at those tables, what do you think? You will notice that two red hot offenses in the Mets and Phillies (ok, maybe not red hot but they did destroy Mets pitching this week) are on that first list. That shows the need for the "last 30 days" versions of these tables you will see later. In general, there aren't many surprises on these lists. The Braves, Marlins, Brewers, and White Sox have been bad all year. You might be surprised to see the Rockies on here, but remember, these are park-adjusted stats, so they actually have been bad. All that money the Padres spent to improve their hitting hasn't really worked out I guess. Most of these teams are still very exploitable for streaming.
On the second list, I think the Indians and Giants are the most surprising. The rest are the teams you would expect to be there. The giants don't have much power but they get a lot of hits. The Indians have Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and...? I'm not sure how they are 10th.
Now, the same lists using wOBA (not park adjusted)
The Worst Offenses for All of 2015
The Best Offenses for All of 2015
You will notice that park adjustments are kind of a big deal. The Rockies move from one of the worst offenses to one of the best. The DBacks and Rangers also move up in this list of best offenses. The more I think about it, these are the best two lists to start with when looking at teams to stream against or avoid, since park factors don't do anything for your fantasy team.
The A's and Angels join the worst offenses list this time, but the others are basically the same lousy teams, with the Braves finishing last in both lists. The Mets are there again, but I'm not streaming against them right now...
The Top 10 Best Offenses in the Last 30 Days
The 10 Worst Offenses in the Last 30 Days
Now we can see just how much can change late in the year and in small samples. The Mets were a terrible offense for most of the year, but with the additions of Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, a guy with a bionic arm (Yoenis Cespedes), a healthy captain (David Wright), and Michael Conforto, this offense is completely different than it used to be. Similarly, the Cubs and Red Sox have been red hot lately thanks to lineup changes (dumping Starlin Castro and adding Kyle Schwarber for the Cubs, adding Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr, subtracting Mike Napoli from the Sox).
I'm not buying the sudden offensive surges of the Mariners, White Sox, and Rays and would still stream against them without much hesitation.
On the other side of the ledger, we see the usual suspects again in the Brewers, Braves, Marlins, etc. but we also see two top offenses buried down here: the Cards and Giants. The Giants have been without Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and Nori Aoki for weeks (that's their entire outfield!), so maybe that is to blame. The Cardinals are missing Randal Grichuk and Jhonny Peralta has been slumping, but that's about it. I would stream against those two with caution, but I still prefer them to teams higher on the list.
Finally, it can be useful to look at how offenses perform against different pitcher handedness, since this can have a surprisingly huge impact on offense. Take a look...
"It's in a book, a Reading Rainbow!" (sorry, I couldn't resist)
The 10 Worst Offenses Against LHP
The Top 10 Best Offenses Against LHP
These numbers are for the entire season. Some of the worst offenses overall show up as worst against lefties, too (Braves, Padres, Brewers, White Sox, Athletics). However, there are a few notable exceptions. The Nationals, Cardinals, and Rockies are the three that jump out at me as good offenses that really struggle against southpaws.
On the other list, we see that the Blue Jays are even better against lefties than righties. Do not throw lefties against them. Ever. Seriously. Don't. Do. It. The Rays, Reds, and Marlins are surprise entries. They are pretty bad overall offenses, but against lefties, they have been pretty good, so watch out.
I should point out here that because these lefty/righty team splits show a much greater variation between the best and worst teams, this is a very important consideration in picking streaming pitchers. Just look at the worst offense overall (wOBA of 0.296) and the worst offense against LHP (wOBA of 0.279). That is a very big difference, trust me. Because these splits are more extreme, I recommend weighting these heavily in your streaming decisions.
Finally, the righties.
The Top 10 Best Offenses Against RHP
The 10 Worst Offenses Against RHP
The biggest things that jump out to me here are that the Rays and Rockies are completely different teams when facing RHP versus LHP. The Rays go from 4th against lefties to 28th against righties, while the Rockies go from 28th against lefties to #1 against righties. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde! They both go from terrible to top of the league by switching the handedness of the pitchers. Keep that in mind when dealing with these two teams.
There isn't much else to say about these two, since they otherwise match the very first two tables I showed you.
So there you have it. A complete list of the best and worst teams to stream against. Whether you prefer to just look at the hottest teams in recent weeks, pitcher handedness splits, or the entire year's production, you're covered here. I hope you all find this useful when planning your streamers in the coming weeks and best luck to all of you in your stretch runs! As always, I will see you next week. Tschus!