To stream or not to stream, it’s a valid question for fantasy owners which could be dependent upon format. Not quite akin to a Shakespeare tragedy, it’s a conundrum nonetheless. Trying to maintain ratio statistics such as ERA and WHIP make it much more difficult to do in rotisserie leagues, it can be worthwhile in deeper formats. Streaming occurs with much more regularity in head-to-head leagues due to the numbers resetting each week. This proves to be important but note how many transactions will be allowed over the season or in each week.

Streaming, for those not familiar with it, means adding starting pitchers, often those with two-starts slated for a weekly scoring period in order to maximize innings, strikeouts and volume. Identifying targets can prove profitable but comes with inherent risks. Since rotisserie leagues compile statistics, the aggregate totals of starting pitchers not drafted can wreak more damage than good in ERA and WHIP. However, if trying to make up points in strikeouts or wins, then streaming can be beneficial if the ratio statistics can absorb the streaming options.

Due to the format, streaming in head-to-head leagues will be much more prevalent. Once the season starts, weaker teams and lineups will be easier to identify in order to maximize starters against them. As stated above, in leagues such as this, knowing a new week means a clean slate for fantasy owners, the stream strategy becomes much easier to deploy. But, streaming can giveth and it can taketh away. If looking for the easy way out in a baseball league, 26 weeks of managing match-ups and maximizing rosters may not be for everyone. It’s a grind.

When trying to identify a stream option, having him be on a team favored to win in a pitcher’s ballpark proves ideal. Like any sport, there will be slumps, but as some teams below will illustrate, streaming pitchers against teams with a low on-base percentage and high strikeout rate proves to be ideal in theory. Pinpointing who to target will be easier than actually getting the necessary statistics to win a match-up or gain points in the standings.

Plus, with teams utilizing an opener, it can throw a monkey wrench in the process. For instance, Ryan Yarbrough won 16 games with Tampa Bay and benefited from appearing after the opener playing the role of the bridge to high leverage. If he entered the game with no score or if the Rays took the lead during his four-to-five innings, Yarbrough would leave in line to vulture the win. Savvy owners caught on to this in head-to-head and rotisserie leagues. Especially if Yarbrough carried a relief pitcher designation in formats like Yahoo. There’s always someone looking to exploit a fissure in the system.

Not only did Tampa Bay provide some intriguing targets when streaming, so did the Dodgers who use now defunct disabled list to provide their starters rest while managing innings. Hyun-Jin Ryu won seven of his 15 starts with a 1.97 ERA and 3.11 xFIP last year. Ross Stripling won eight games over 33 appearances with 21 of them being starts. He also racked up 136 strikeouts in only 122 innings of work. Rich Hill could be the poster boy of a stream starter winning 11 games in 2018 in only 24 starts with a 3.66 ERA and accrued 150 strikeouts in just under 133 innings.

In the second half, Mike Minor gained velocity with his fastball resulting in a 53:24 K:BB rate in 57.2 innings with a 2.97 ERA. Zach Eflin won 11 games in only 24 starts with the Phillies and could be in the rotation full time this year. Seattle’s Marco Gonzales gets overlooked but won 13 games in 2018 with a 4.00 ERA 3.58 xFIP and only yielding 32 walks in 166.2 innings. Last, Anthony DeSclafani finished with seven wins of his 21 starts but look at his 3.86 xFIP not the 4.90 ERA when deciding to use him in the year ahead. Teammate Sonny Gray struggled in Yankee Stadium (6.98 ERA) but owned a 3.17 ERA on the road with 78 strikeouts in 71 innings.

Not only can the teams a pitcher faces be a determining point in using them as a stream option, but where or how a team fares against the type of pitcher also matters. Some teams match-up better against southpaws or right-handed pitchers. Other teams can hit at home and struggle on the road. Some of these options along with identifying teams to maximize starts against in 2019 based on last season’s metrics will be explored.

With starting pitching forging forward in average draft position and auction prices, teams in head-to-head formats or deep leagues can zig by targeting hitters as long as roster size and transactions allow for streaming. This process can be frustrating, especially in regards to ratios in rotisserie formats, but can be viable if deployed correctly. However, it’s not for the faint of heart. Whether an owner needs to make up statistics like strikeouts near the end of a scoring period or trying to get wins or quality starts, targeting teams helps ease the process.

Although the statistics from last year do not necessarily carry over, it does provide earmarks for fantasy owners to target if streaming. For starters, here’s a list of teams who appeared in the bottom 10 in each of the following areas: weighted on-base average, isolated power and runs scored.

So, the Tigers will get Miguel Cabrera back and signed Josh Harrison , but there will holes in the lineup. Trying to get a stream option pitching in Miami seems ideal. The Marlins added Neil Walker , could get a boost from an improved Lewis Brinson and Curtis Granderson can still hit right-handed pitching, but, the lineup will struggle to score runs. Plus, their ballpark leans heavily towards pitchers. Talk about a dynamic duo when streaming, Miami’s a hot spot.

San Diego will be intriguing to track in 2019. Last year, the team struggled to manufacture runs but once again splurged in free agency, adding Manny Machado . They also will get a full season of Hunter Renfroe , a healthy Franchy Cordero and hopefully a rebound by Eric Hosmer . Both Kansas City nor Baltimore will put much of a scare into a pitching staff. Although the Royals will run with reckless abandon, they need to get on base to do so. Not to mention Kauffman Stadium proves to be a pitchers park as well. Camden Yards leans towards the hitters, but with the Orioles in a deep rebuild, they will be prone to slumps along with a boom or bust approach.

Speaking of approach, this chart highlights the teams with a lack of one. Once again, each of these teams owns a bottom 10 result in strikeout percentage, swinging strike percentage and chase rate (swings and misses outside the strike zone):

Once again, the Padres and Orioles appear making them teams to stream versus to open the season. Add in the White Sox and Blue Jays when mining for strikeouts. Chicago’s south side denizens owned the highest strikeout percentage last year and did not make many changes to the lineup. Sprinkle in a high swinging strike percentage and chase rate in order to remember to target them, especially on the road.

Toronto could emerge as an enviable stream target due to their volatile pitching staff along with an offense which struggled to make consistent contact. Yes, the Blue Jays have a pipeline primed to emerge in the years ahead, but no one’s really afraid to pitch to Brandon Drury or Freddy Galvis .

Two teams to focus on while they’re on the road, the Rockies and the Rangers. Colorado struggled with a .289 weighted on-base average, .144 isolated power and only 4.03 runs per game away from the friendly confines of Coors Field. Texas also proved futile beyond the border with a .147 isolated power, .293 weighted on-base average and only 3.72 runs per game. It’s an inexact science, but still good to note when searching for the right streaming situation.

In an effort to identify who the market sees as viable targets in 2019, perusing the win totals yields some enviable targets. Here’s a list of teams forecast to win less than 47 percent of their contests along with each win total bet in descending order:

  • Toronto 76.5
  • Arizona 75.5
  • Chicago White Sox 74.5
  • San Francisco 73.5
  • Seattle 73.5
  • Texas 70.5
  • Kansas City 69.5
  • Detroit 67.5
  • Miami 65.5
  • Baltimore 60.5

There are no surprises above using the data from Caesar’s online, and in fact, some confirmation in terms of teams like the Marlins. Trying to identify when these teams appear on the horizon for surging starting pitchers on the periphery of fantasy leagues can prove profitable. Again, a team in a rotisserie format can risk ratio statistics (ERA and WHIP) but can rack up strikeouts. Be sure to know the league settings before deciding to stream. If there’s transaction limits or limited FAAB, it makes it much more difficult to employ as a strategy. But, for those in leagues without limits or in daily fantasy, take note of the teams covered within the column. It could result in profits all season long.

For some potentially positive pitching situations to hone in on, here’s a list of some teams or arms to focus on in the season ahead:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers - As highlighted above, the Dodgers will be flush with upside arms and manage innings. This means drafting two of Rich Hill , Ross Stripling , Kenta Maeda or Hyun-Jin Ryu can pay off. Heck, one can bracket these arms later in drafts in order to use them when in the rotation. Add in Julio Urías who hit 97 MPH to the list as well. Innings could be limited, but upside resides in this unit.
  • San Diego Padres - Petco can play as a pitcher friendly park, so when Colorado or San Francisco come to visit, having Padres arms ready to go can be advantageous. Matt Strahm provides upside if he wins a spot in the rotation as does Robbie Erlin . Plus, San Diego owns some young guns primed to debut this year. Do not forget about Logan Allen or Chris Paddack this year.
  • Tampa Bay Rays - This franchise’s innovation should be admired. They find a way to make best out of lemons each year. Yarbrough could succumb to regression but his replacement could be Jalen Beeks . Plus, Brent Honeywell and Jose De León on the way from rehab assignments later this year.
  • Houston Astros - Not sure what the magic of Houston investing in a pitcher is, but they get the most out of their staff. Wade Miley ’s numbers do not jump off the page, but if the Astros like, maybe the fantasy community should take more notice. He did finish with a 2.57 ERA over 16 starts last year with five wins. Collin McHugh also rejoins the rotation with upside in his new arsenal. Also, Josh James will be working his way back from injury but could be a steal late in drafts or as a stream option. One prospect to watch, Rogglio Armenteros continues to draw rave reviews in camp.
  • Boston Red Sox - See a theme here? Like the teams to target with streamers, owning pitchers on good teams makes sense. With both Toronto and Baltimore in the division, if a prospect like Darwinzon Hernandez needs to fill-in innings for Boston, he’s a perfect stream addition.
  • New York Yankees - It could take time, but if Domingo Germán replaces C.C. Sabathia in the rotation, pounce. German struck out 102 batters last year in only 85.2 innings, recorded an 18.4 strikeouts-minus-walks percentage and a 14.9 swinging strike rate. He’s a late round target in many drafts, but could be a perfect stream pitcher depending on format.

There will be more pitchers to emerge as streaming candidates as the year progresses. Martín Pérez could join the Twins rotation and hit 97 MPH in his last spring start. Streaming as a strategy will not be for the faint of heart. However, if trailing in the standings in wins or strikeouts in rotisserie leagues, it can close the gap in the standings. For head-to-head league owners, streaming can be a viable option as long as league rules allow the multitude of transactions. Like any strategy, use it and the league’s rules to your advantage to fly the pennant at the end of the year. It’s a marathon, so strap on the band-aids and get to work.


Statistical Credits:

Caesars Sportsbook