Best Ball Strategy - The Case For Even Rosters
In my initial Best Ball Strategy article, I laid out the case for 6-6-6 to be the best roster build for individual leagues, while possibly opting for more pitching spots, 5-5-8 in the Best Ball Championship tournies. I wanted to dig in a little deeper into why I am sticking with that as my default plan in individual leagues.
In season long baseball, the reliability and predictability of players is flipped from what it is in DFS. On any one given day, pitchers are easier to project than hitters. The reason is simple – sample size. A batter gets 4-5 AB in one game, a pitcher will face 20-30 batters. More time for the skills to play out. But over the course of a season, a pitcher will only see the mound around 30 times, while a hitter will have 150 games to allow their skills to play out. One or two bad starts can entirely skew a pitchers numbers for the full season.
Draft Best Ball is based on full season numbers (well, 5 months, ending in August), but scores are tabulated weekly, so it’s really a cross between the two. In most weeks, a pitcher will make one appearance, while a hitter will make 5-6. Outside of the top dozen or so pitchers, there is going to be a lot of variance in start-to-start scores. Here are a few examples of what Draft
Scores will look like for certain type of pitcher performances:
7 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, W, QS = 43
6 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, W, QS = 37
6 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, QS = 32
6 IP, 5 ER, 5 K, W = 23
6 IP, 4 ER, 5 K = 21
5 IP, 4 ER, 5 K = 18
4 IP, 4 ER, 3 K = 9
This gives a general idea of what kind of numbers we’re going to be looking for from starting pitchers. Great games will be 40+ points, the average start from a mid-level starter will probably land around 20-25. Below average games may land below 10 points, but you’d have to be really bad to post a negative. (3 IP, 2 K, 5 ER = 0).
Now, what kind of points are we looking at for hitters? Of course, there will be streaks and slumps, good weeks and bad, but from an overall perspective, this is the range that we’re looking at from these type of full season stat lines. I have used Derek Carty’s THE BAT projections to gather these full season numbers. The season is 26 weeks long, so this rough calculation of weekly points is the season total divided by 26.
Nolan Arenado – 1549 (60/week)
Anthony Rizzo – 1472 (57/week)
Xander Bogaerts – 1355 (52/week)
Eric Hosmer – 1261 (49/week)
Josh Bell – 1208 (46/week)
Yulieski Gurriel – 1053 (41/week)
Christian Yelich – 1495 (58/week)
Nelson Cruz – 1390 (53/week)
Marcell Ozuna – 1290 (49/week)
Stephen Piscotty – 1236 (48/week)
Trey Mancini – 1117 (43/week)
Brian Anderson – 1086 (42/week)
So, from this list, while there will be ups and downs and differences in projections, you can see that we’re looking at something like a baseline of 40 points per week from each hitting spot, with first rounders getting up towards 60.
If you’re wondering what the full season numbers for a pitcher might look like, here’s the BAT projected Draft Point totals for a few different tiers of arms (with my own estimation of quality starts):
Justin Verlander – 1383 (53/week, 43/start)
Trevor Bauer – 1208 (46/week, 38/start)
Rick Porcello – 1016 (39/week, 32/start)
Jose Quintana – 976 (37/week, 30/start)
Zack Godley – 913 (35/week, 29/start)
The lower we get in the pitcher rankings, the lower the floor gets with pitchers who have some kind of injury or innings risk. The more risk we take on with a pitcher, the wider the range of outcomes in any given week. For example:
Yu Darvish – 826 (32/week, 34/start)
Kenta Maeda – 749 (29/week, 33/start)
Hyun-Jin Ryu – 694 (27/week, 30/start)
Freddy Peralta – 445 (17/week, 34/start)
These innings risk pitchers that I have ranked down between #59 (Darvish) and #83 (Peralta) come in somewhere around the Top 30 on a per start basis. At some points in the season, you will probably come into some very profitable weeks from these type of pitchers, however, when I look at the minimal difference in points per start, I just can’t really make any case at all not to just draft the guys that we can project for more innings and more starts.
You can see from this why I would say that the path to the highest possible score would be to load up on extra pitching spots. If you could bank on your hitters all hitting something close to their average points per week then the way you win is to collect as many 2-start weeks as possible.
But, here’s where I don’t think that works out in individual leagues. If we say we can expect an average of 30-35 points per start from most pitchers on most rosters and know that the vast majority of weeks will come with just one start per pitcher, this is very roughly what an average week of scoring would look like:
IF – 155 (Rizzo, Bogaerts, Bell)
OF – 150 (Yelich, Ozuna, Mancini)
P – 100 (Bauer, Porcello, Quintana)
P w/2-start week – 132 (Bauer, Porcello x2, Quintana)
When the worst case scenario hits, which is when you don’t have enough healthy players to fill all 9 roster spots, this is what ‘could’ happen to your weekly score:
Only 2 healthy IF – 103 (Rizzo, Bell)
Only 2 healthy OF – 101 (Yelich, Mancini)
Only 2 healthy P – 68 (Bauer, Quintana)
Only 2 healthy P w/2-start week – 98 (Bauer, Quintana x2)
Here’s a cumulative score from these 3 scenarios:
Everyone healthy – 405
Everyone healthy w/2-start week – 437
Injured IF (2 IF, 3 OF, 3 P) – 353
Injured IF w/2-start week – 385
Injured OF - 356
Injured OF w/2-start week – 388
Injured P – 373
Injured P w/2-start week – 403
This is a very simplistic and approximate way of looking at things, but it does illustrate my point. Your worst case scenario is having a dead spot with a hitter. These example weeks with a dead pitcher spot outscore the example weeks with a dead hitter spot.
So if you have several extra pitchers, yes it raises your ceiling from getting extra 2-start weeks, but it also puts you at risk of the true worst-case scenario, which would be to have a dead week with one of your hitting spots.
I am very much on board with extra pitcher spots when playing for pure upside in the Best Ball Championship. But in an individual league, my goal is to have 9 healthy players every week all season.