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.
|De La Rosa||Gausman|
|Eickhoff||De La Rosa|
|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.
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.
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?
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.