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The Perfect Pitching Staff

Let’s get this out of the way – every league is different so this article is going to focus on as standard of a version of a league as possible – rotisserie format, 12 teams, standard 5-by-5 – max innings pitched limit between 1,300 and 1,600, daily roster changes, bench of more than four players. Please adjust as necessary.

Now that’s out of the way, you want to bank on 1,000 innings pitched from your starters. There is going to be at least one bust or injury in the group, but I like to plan on two. That said, I’m also aggressive on waivers, especially early in the season so if I can add a seventh starter I do it. If I fail then I try to carefully stream my way through the season.

Relief pitching is the key to success – you want saves and to help with ratios and your strikeouts per nine innings, but you don’t want to pay for it. Load up on starting bats so you don’t have to use your bench for extra bats. Use that bench space for middle relievers and speculative closers. Ideally, you want three closers going into the season but you can make due with two. The goal is to end up with four closers by May so you can shift your attention to hot middle relievers. It’s OK if you can’t due to injuries or losing waiver claims; you just can’t use as much bench space on middle relief as long as you don’t have 3-4 closers.

How to build this staff? See below. I have broken up each tier with a description on how I’d treat that tier during my draft to build the perfect staff mentioned in the introduction.

Group 1 – I’m not drafting any of these guys because the early rounds are for building your offense. It’s so much harder to chase offense (without stolen bases) than pitching. These guys are phenomenal, but they will be phenomenal on someone else’s team.

Roy Halladay

Cliff Lee

Tim Lincecum

Felix Hernandez

Jon Lester

CC Sabathia

Clayton Kershaw

Group 2 – I’m getting one of these guys, but probably not one of the first few except for (hopefully) Zach Greinke. I’m looking at the guys listed after Francisco Liriano.

Zach Greinke

Jered Weaver

Justin Verlander

Ubaldo Jimenez

Josh Johnson

Francisco Liriano

Yovani Gallardo

Cole Hamels

Roy Oswalt

Dan Haren

Tommy Hanson

Group 3 – It’s highly unlikely I’m taking any of these guys, as their price is too close to their upside and doesn’t account for their risk.

David Price

Clay Buchholz

Mat Latos


Group 4 – Assuming I have a Group 2 player already on the roster, I need a guy from this group. On the off-chance that I got Kershaw or Lester, a player from this group is not a necessity. It’d be a luxury.

Max Scherzer

Brett Anderson

Chad Billingsley

Chris Carpenter

Matt Cain

Josh Beckett

Group 5 – If I screwed up somewhere, these are my fallback options, but I’d like to ignore everyone in this group though.

Tim Hudson

Ted Lilly

Wandy Rodriguez

Hiroki Kuroda

Ryan Dempster

Ricky Nolasco – the numbers suggest there might be some upside with him, but that’s the case every year.

Group 6 – Don’t let this group end with you having less than four starters on your staff.

Shaun Marcum – his rising price may command Group 4 status, and he’ll justify it.

Phil Hughes

Brandon Morrow

Jonathan Sanchez

Trevor Cahill – don’t let the lack of strikeouts scare you.

Gio Gonzalez

Daniel Hudson – becoming overpriced though.

Edinson Volquez

Jhoulys Chacin

Ian Kennedy

Madison Bumgarner

Johnny Cueto

Jorge De La Rosa

Group 7 – Hopefully I have four arms at this point and I can skip this group.

Edwin Jackson

Colby Lewis

Brett Myers

Ervin Santana

CJ Wilson

Carl Pavano

Jaime Garcia

John Danks

John Lackey

Matt Garza

Bronson Arroyo

Carlos Zambrano

Group 8 – Fliers! Unlike the last group there’s some upside in this group. You’ll want to load up on them, but it depends how deep your bench is and what waivers will look like in-season. You want guys that could blow up, but also can be easily dropped in April if they’re terrible to start. These guys are listed in no particular order because if history is any indication their positioning on my board will change frequently over the next few weeks.

James Shields – numbers suggest upside, but his actual pitching says otherwise. He’s “Nolasco-lite.”

Ricky Romero

Javier Vazquez

Jordan Zimmermann

Jeremy Hellickson – price might be too steep here.

James McDonald

Jair Jurrjens – I love post-injury reclamation projects.

AJ Burnett

Scott Baker

Kevin Slowey

Wade Davis

Bud Norris

Tim Stauffer

Mike Minor

Rick Porcello

Aaron Harang

Justin Masterson

Rich Harden

Derek Holland

Justin Duchsherer

Phil Coke

Group 9 is long, boring and won’t be on your team anyway so if they aren’t listed to this point they aren’t worth looking at until after the season begins. On to closers!

Relief pitching Group 1 – guys that probably won’t be on my team.

Neftali Feliz – he’s a potential exception, as a possible move to the rotation is intriguing.

Carlos Marmol

Joakim Soria

Heath Bell

Brian Wilson

Relief pitching Group 2 – guys who might be cheap enough that I’ll consider and then likely pass on for more hitting.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Papelbon

Jose Valverde

Francisco Rodriguez

Mariano Rivera

Relief pitching Group 3 – these guys scare the hell out of me.

Andrew Bailey

Huston Street

Brad Lidge

Leo Nunez

Frank Francisco

Relief pitching Group 4 – closers that will be on my teams; likely three in a row since I probably won’t have any yet.

JJ Putz

John Axford

Chris Perez

Craig Kimbrel

Drew Storen

Francisco Cordero

Joel Hanrahan

Brandon Lyon

Brandon League


Relief pitching Group 5 – if I don’t have three yet I’ll take a shot on one of these guys and cross my fingers.

Ryan Franklin

Fernando Rodney

Matt Thornton

Kevin Gregg

Kyle Farnsworth – just run.

Middle relief – get as many of these guys as you can until you’ve reached your innings pitched/roster limit, but first you want to put a priority on handcuffs to your risky closers and then stealing handcuffs to risky closers while making sure those handcuffs are worth a damn. The handcuff strategy in this game is a sound one. Just don’t get married to them if/when better options become available. These guys are listed in no particular order.

Aroldis Chapman

Chris Sale

Joe Nathan

Octavio Dotel

David Aardsma

Clay Hensley

Ryan Madson

Jason Motte

Rafael Soriano

Brian Fuentes

Takashi Saito

Hong Chih-Kuo

Daniel Bard

Koji Uehera

Mike Gonzalez

Jonny Venters

Luke Gregerson

Hisanori Takahashi

Joaquin Benoit

Evan Meek

Matt Capps

JP Howell

Juan Cruz

Kenley Jansen

Pat Neshek

Joey Devine

Zach Braddock

Joel Zumaya

Mike Adams

Wilton Lopez

David Hernandez

Jon Rauch

Jason Frasor

Matt Lindstrom

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