Every season I hear – I want to draft that guy because he’s the 4th starter on his team so he will be facing lots of inferior options. The connection being drawn by folks is that a #4 starter always faces the #4 starter from the other team. Therefore, if you roster a “really good” 4th starter he should be able to have tons o’ success against inferior 4th starters from other squads.

Every season I hear – I’m really excited by that #2 starter who joined that #1 guy because the #2 guy won’t be facing aces making him an arguably better addition to my fantasy squad than starter #1 who will have more difficult matchups.

Every season my response is the same – I don’t draft, or pass on pitchers, because of their spot in a rotation. Furthermore, I don’t think team’s starters line up nearly as often as folks seem to think they do. It’s not like 4’s face 4’s and 1’s face 1’s all the time.

There are rainouts.

There are days off.

There are injuries.

Rotations are continually juggled.

Those four facts, and there are also others, play a huge role in whether or not Team A’s #1 will face Team B’s #1 or whether Team C’s #5 will face Team D’s #5.

Seems totally logical to me, yet folks argue with me all the time. So I’m doing something about it.

In what follows I will take a look at five starting pitchers. Since no one really cares about 5th starters, I’m going to focus on the top-5 pitchers being taken in a majority of drafts this season. Did those top-5 arms face other teams aces frequently, or not so much in 2016? In essence, how many times did the aces of aces face other aces in 2016?

*Ace being defined as the clubs Opening Day starter.
*Ace-like: facing an elite level arm, even if not the O.D starter type.

Clayton Kershaw starts in 2016. Max Scherzer starts in 2016. Madison Bumgarner starts in 2016. Y/N refers to Yes or No if the opponent was an ace.

Kershaw Y/N Scherzer Y/N Bumgarner Y/N
T.Ross Y Teheran Y Peralta Y
Bumgarner Y Norris   Kershaw Y
Bumgarner Y Nola    Kershaw Y
Wisler   Koehler   Greinke Y
Koehler   Velasquez   Pomeranz  
Pomeranz   Martinez   Syndergaard Y
Dickey   Lackey   Bettis  
Colon   Zimmermann   Stroman Y
Weaver   Syndergaard Y Rea  
Finnegan   Conley   Hendricks  
Colon   Garcia   Butler  
Norris   Morgan   Blair  
Cueto   Shields   Price Y
Corbin   Hendricks   Garza  
Petit   Rea   Locke  
Kuhl   Davies   Hellickson Y
Fernandez Y Verrett   Overton  
Pineda   Guerra   Chatwood  
Bumgarner Y Verrett   Bradley  
Bettis   Kuhl   Cashner  
Blach   Jackson   Tanaka Y
21 starts Four Samardzija   Straily  
    Godley   Eflin  
    Bauer   Roark  
    De La Rosa   Gausman  
    Jenkins   deGrom  
    Jimenez   Maeda  
    Eickhoff   Blair  
    Weber   Arrieta Y
    Eickhoff   De La Rosa  
    Gant   Perdomo  
    Koehler   Kershaw Y
    Koch   Cosart  
    Koehler   Hill  
    34 starts Two 34 starts 11

OK, I gotta be honest. Looking up this stuff is an awful lot of work. After looking at Kershaw, Scherzer and MadBum, here is what we find.

Kershaw made 21 starts and faced a #1 four times.

Scherzer made 34 starts and faced a #1 two times.

Bumgarner made 34 starts and faced a #1 eleven times.

Do I really need to take a look at Syndergaard and Kluber at this point? OK, fine, let’s keep going.

Noah Syndergaard starts in 2016. Corey Kluber starts in 2016.

Syndergaard Y/N Kluber Y/N
Young   Price Y
Fernandez Y Moore  
Eickhoff   Matz  
Iglesias   Sanchez  
Bumgarner Y Morgan  
Pomeranz   Sanchez  
Maeda   Fiers  
Scherzer Y Santana Y
Anderson   Buchholz  
Maeda   Quintana  
Latos   Lewis  
Koehler   Young  
Taillon   Santiago  
Duffy   Kennedy  
Ross   Snell  
Lester   Wisler  
Strasburg Y Happ  
Arrieta Y Green  
Martinez   Volquez Y
Bettis   Worley  
Verlander Y Gray Y
Shipley   Sabathia  
Shipley   Chacin  
Samardzija   Quintana  
Hellickson Y Stroman Y
A.J. Cole   Perez  
DeSclafani   Dean  
A.J. Cole   Peacock  
Blair   Berrios  
Koehler   Fulmer  
30 starts Seven  Kennedy  
    Farmer  
    32 starts Five

In the end, the top-5 starters in baseball for the 2017 draft season produced the following numbers in 2016 in terms of starts and matchups with other teams #1’s.

 

Starts

#1 Opposition

Percentage

Kershaw

21

4

19.0

Scherzer

34

2

6.3

Bumgarner

34

11

32.4

Syndergaard

30

7

23.3

Kluber

32

5

15.6

TOTAL

151

29

19.2

Look at the opponents in some of those starts as well. There are some flat out horrible options on the bump that these aces faced. There were some ace-level arms in there for sure, but many weren’t set up to be the #1 with their teams. Even if we add back in those “aces” that weren’t starting Opening Day, what percentages do we get to?

 

Starts

#1 Opposition

Ace-like

Percentage

Kershaw

21

4

1

23.8

Scherzer

34

2

2

11.8

Bumgarner

34

11

4

44.1

Syndergaard

30

7

5

40.0

Kluber

32

5

2

21.9

TOTAL

151

29

14

28.7

Folks, if teams aren’t gearing up their arms to face the other team’s top arm you can be sure the #4 and #5 arms aren’t strictly facing each other either.

This is by no means a comprehensive study, but I think a review of these five arms should clearly point you to the position that the idea that aces always face aces is a fallacy.

 


Did you get your copy of the 2017 Fantasy Alarm MLB Draft Guide yet? No worries if you didn’t yet. There are multiple ways to pick up the “Living Guide” that will grow day-by-day. Find out how by clicking on the above link as we transition from fantasy football into fantasy baseball season.