HEAD-TO-HEAD: Streaming hitters on your way to weekly victories

Streaming is a familiar concept around the fantasy baseball industry and among fantasy managers. When most players think of streaming, however, their mind jumps to two-start pitchers or which pitchers face the Giants, Tigers, and other anemic offenses in a given week. Streaming hitters is a lesser discussed topic, but that means executing hitter pickups effectively can be one way to create a competitive advantage over the rest of your league. 

Hitter streaming is preferable in head-to-head leagues rather than rotisserie leagues because it utilizes a different set of factors to evaluate players. In a traditional roto league, the focus is evaluating a player’s underlying skill to determine if they can effectively accrue stats throughout the season. If Aristides Aquino (OF, CIN) launches seven home runs in one week and zero the next, he remains a valuable asset in roto because he is still positively affecting your team’s total stats, regardless of whether they are evenly distributed or not.

However, in head-to-head leagues, timing is more important. Winning each weekly contest matters. That focus downgrades the importance of speculating on a potential waiver pickup’s long-term skills, because by the time they hit, your season could be over. That isn’t to say sitting Mookie Betts (OF, LA) in favor of a scorching hot waiver-wire bat is an effective strategy. However, it does mean that the same criteria we use to stream pitchers — volume, matchups, and park factors — should be utilized to effectively stream hitters in head-to-head leagues. 

Utilizing Hitter Matchup Tool + Market Pulse Column 
As always, BaseballHQ.com has devoted tools and weekly articles to help effectively and efficiently identify which available players have winning upside in any given week. Specific tools I utilized for this article include The Week Ahead: Hitter Matchups column by Ryan Bloomfield, the Hitter Matchup tool, and the Market Pulse columns by Matthew Cederholm and Brad Kullman. 

Combining this set of materials, I set out to see just how effective streaming hitters could be.* 

Volume 
On the surface, volume would appear to be the least important consideration when streaming hitters. Most clubs play six or seven games in a given week and the difference in those marks is minimal. However, it’s still to important to note when teams have volume on the margins, and to target hitters who are on the positive side of that margin.

To make clear the advantage volume can give even a relatively unskilled player, it’s worth exploring eight-game weeks from last season. Take for example the San Francisco Giants, who were slated to play eight games beginning the week of July 15. Alex Dickerson (OF, SF) was specifically noted as a potentially strong performer in the Week Ahead column, and he delivered one home run, eight runs scored, and six RBI all while hitting .545. Mike Yastrzemski (OF, SF) was also just picking up steam around this time and delivered a similar one home run, five RBI, six-run week. These numbers are skewed positively by four games at Coors Field, but other examples remain.  

The Pittsburgh Pirates — another impotent offense — had an eight-game week from May 27 to June 2. Three of their better hitters were widely available on the waiver wire during that time period, namely: Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT), Kevin Newman (2B/SS, PIT), and Adam Frazier (2B, PIT). Reynolds produced five RBI and 10 runs scored while hitting .444, Newman chipped in seven RBI and three runs scored while hitting .281, and Frazier contributed four runs and two RBI, though still hit .348 for the week. Similar results can be found for Yankees’ and Reds’ hitters from the weeks of August 12 and August 26. 

Matchups
When prioritizing short-term additions, it also makes sense to target hitters who are facing poor pitchers in a given week. Utilizing the columns and tools previously mentioned, I identified 48 potential streamers throughout the 20 periods of regular-season matchups last season. Of that sample, nine of the 48 players hit multiple home runs and 23 of the 48 players hit at least one home run in the given week I would have streamed them. Thirteen drove in four or more runs and 18 scored four or more runs in a week. Finally, 17 players managed to hit above .280. 

While there were misses along the way, streaming based on matchup could have netted the following lines during various weeks last season: Cameron Maybin (OF, DET) posted two home runs, five RBI, seven runs scored, a stolen base and a .385 batting average during the week beginning August 5. He was highlighted on the Week Ahead planner published August 4. Backtracking to an earlier point in the season, the Week Ahead planner noted that the Red Sox played seven games and faced four right-handed pitchers with a negative matchup score during the week of May 6. Meanwhile, the Market Pulse column noted that Michael Chavis (1B/2B, BOS) (19% owned at the time) was a player who owned promising power upside. That week, Chavis delivered four home runs, nine RBI, and eight runs scored. 

Park Factors  
Another way to identify potential streamers is through beneficial park situations. While obvious plus settings such as Coors Field and Yankee Stadium may draw the attention of most fantasy managers, the hitter matchup tool is a quick way to efficiently identify road players who also possess a weekly advantage. 

Utilizing positive park factors highlighted in the Week Ahead column, I selected 23 viable streamers throughout last season. Of that sample, five players hit multiple home runs in a week, but 19 contributed at least one long ball. Meanwhile, eight posted four RBI or more, and six posted four runs scored or more. Finally, 11 posted a .280 batting average or better. 

The debut hitter matchup column suggested that left-handed Rangers’ hitters could be in for a power boost the week of April 1 due to their road schedule. That week, the otherwise uninspiring Ronald Guzman (1B, TEX) delivered two home runs, four RBI, and three runs scored. The Rangers played five home games during the week of April 29, providing them with another positive hitting environment. Danny Santana (1B/OF, TEX) (one percent rostered at the time) took advantage by racking up one home run, three RBI, four runs scored, a stolen base, and a .417 batting average. 

Conclusion 
While the number of “hits” in the data presented may seem uninspiring, it’s worth noting that hitters being drafted in the first round this season hit the two home run, four RBI and run, plus .280 batting average thresholds in roughly half the weeks of the 2019 season. That said, adding a player from the waiver wire who contributes those types of numbers is a huge boost to your team in any given week. There will be weeks in which streamed hitters fall flat, and it’s important to remember that skills will always be the most important factor when evaluating a player’s value. However, the purpose of this article is to highlight the ways to utilize BaseballHQ tools while also suggesting specific criteria to evaluate potential hitters to stream on the back end of your rosters to provide a boost in head-to-head league formats. 

*In order to qualify for consideration, players had to be owned in under 50% of leagues as laid out in the Market Pulse column.

 

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.