HEAD-TO-HEAD: Supercharging LIMA rebooted

Introduction

Much has been made about the death of one of BaseballHQ.com’s trademark strategies, the LIMA Plan. The plan and its original metric filters are no longer useable. That said, in August of 2012, Ray Murphy “rebooted” the LIMA Plan in this fine article. The article concluded that LIMA’s metric filters should be adjusted as follows:

Ctl < = 2.8
Dom > = 7.0
Cmd > = 2.5
FB% < approx 40% (optional)

The question now is, can a modern-day LIMA strategy work in head-to-head leagues? Absolutely. When the principles of the original LIMA plan are combined with the upgraded metrics of LIMA “rebooted,” and pitchers’ quality-consistency scores are accounted for, the spirit of LIMA still has much to offer. In a sense, LIMA has not only been “rebooted,” but also supercharged for head-to-head play.

The applicability of the original LIMA tenets in Head-to-Head leagues

The original LIMA plan contains some core tenets that head-to-head players are wise to heed. First, the vast majority of your high draft picks or draft dollars should be allocated towards hitting. Hitters are more reliable and consistent than pitchers. Reliability and consistency are crucial for head-to-head success.  You do not need to necessarily allocate a specific dollar amount or number of picks to hitters, but be mindful of generating a homogenous lineup with your early picks.

Second, do not over-invest in closers. Closer volatility was as high as ever in 2012, with 21 of the majors’ 30 teams undergoing a closer change at some point during the season. It should be noted that a 66% closer change rate is abnormally high, as from 2002 to 2011, the annual average was 36.3%. That said, focus on underlying skills, not saves. Highly-skilled set-up men, particularly behind closers with weak peripherals or a history of injuries, are desirable and cost less to acquire.

Third, you should not ignore the importance of quality starting pitching. This is actually one of the myths of the LIMA Plan. While your early draft focus should be on hitting, you need to monitor the availability of the LIMA-quality starting pitchers.  In this sense, the draft almost becomes similar to a game of chicken. You need to acquire as many hitters as you can early in the draft. However, as the LIMA-quality starters roll off the draft board, at some point, when you are comfortable with the core of your lineup, it is time to make the leap and draft your staff anchor. In head-to-head leagues, it is crucial that your staff anchor(s) provide consistent results each time they take the mound.

LIMA rebooted and supercharged—Starting pitching with a quality-consistency twist

LIMA “rebooted” provides the baseline metrics required for success in 2013. However, in head-to-head leagues, it is essential to make sure that your LIMA starting pitchers provide the most consistent returns possible.

Using BHQ’s 2013 projections, the table below not only applies LIMA “rebooted” to the starting pitcher pool, but also accounts for the consistency of those pitchers' performances ("LIMA-QC"). Players whose peripherals were equal to the baseline LIMA filters were also included. The starting pitchers that met these filters are listed below in order of their 2012 quality-consistency scores [“QC” = PQS-DOM%-(2 x PQS-DIS%) x 2]:

Lastname   Firstname   Dom   Ctl   Cmd   QC
========   =========   ===   ===   ===   ===
Medlen     Kris        7.6   2.0   3.9   184
Peavy      Jake        7.9   2.2   3.6   150
Lee        Cliff       8.6   1.2   6.9   148
Verlander  Justin      9.0   2.4   3.7   146
Hamels     Cole        8.7   2.2   4.0   144
Kershaw    Clayton     9.2   2.8   3.4   140
Sabathia   CC          8.6   2.2   3.9   134
Cain       Matt        7.4   2.4   3.0   126
Sale       Chris       9.4   2.8   3.3   116
Shields    James       8.2   2.2   3.7   116
Lewis      Colby       8.0   2.4   3.3   114
Niese      Jon         7.4   2.5   2.9   112
Beachy     Brandon     9.0   2.8   3.2   106
Hernandez  Felix       8.5   2.4   3.5   104
Lilly      Ted         7.1   2.6   2.7   98
Price      David       8.6   2.7   3.2   96
Zimmermann Jordan      7.1   2.1   3.4   88
Blanton    Joe         7.2   2.1   3.5   86
Strasburg  Stephen    10.8   2.5   4.4   86
Wainwright Adam        8.1   2.3   3.5   86
Sanchez    Anibal      8.0   2.7   3.0   84
Greinke    Zack        9.1   2.4   3.8   82
Bumgarner  Madison     7.8   2.2   3.6   80
Kennedy    Ian         7.9   2.6   3.0   80
Johnson    Josh        7.2   2.6   2.8   78
Halladay   Roy         7.8   1.6   4.8   72
Marcum     Shaun       7.4   2.7   2.8   58
Baker      Scott       8.1   2.2   3.7   56
Latos      Mat         8.2   2.8   3.0   56
Weaver     Jered       7.4   2.2   3.4   52
Scherzer   Max        10.0   2.8   3.6   50
Milone     Tommy       7.0   1.3   5.2   40
Wieland    Joe         7.2   2.7   2.7   40
Capuano    Chris       7.4   2.5   3.0   38
Haren      Dan         7.2   1.8   4.1   38
Santana    Johan       7.8   2.7   2.9   38
Minor      Mike        7.8   2.8   2.8   32
Garcia     Jaime       7.3   2.5   2.9   30
Beckett    Josh        7.7   2.7   2.8   28
Vazquez    Javier      7.8   2.5   3.1   24
Hughes     Phil        7.2   2.6   2.8   18
Bailey     Homer       7.2   2.5   2.9   8
Luebke     Cory        7.3   2.7   2.7   0
Cobb       Alex        7.4   2.8   2.6   -8
Estrada    Marco       8.4   2.4   3.5   -8
Nicasio    Juan        8.0   2.8   2.8   -18
Corbin     Patrick     7.2   2.1   3.4   -46
Oswalt     Roy         7.5   2.0   3.7   -66
Hudson     Daniel      7.8   2.6   3.0   -132
Kelly      Casey       7.0   2.8   2.5   -134
Skaggs     Tyler       8.3   2.6   3.2   -134
Ogando     Alexi       8.1   2.5   3.2   -200
Erlin      Robert      9.5   2.5   3.8   In Minor Leagues

The beauty of this list is that it allows us to determine which LIMA-caliber starting pitchers were most consistent in 2012. For a full list of 2013 LIMA-qualifying starting pitchers, please check here. While certain of these pitchers will be unavailable as your team drafts hitters early, there are several mid-round options that might be available.  

When you review the tiers below, keep in mind that each draft is different. Sometimes, there may be a paucity of quality hitters available in the middle rounds, and it may make sense to draft a pitcher slightly earlier than you normally would. Below are three tiers of the LIMA-QC pitchers organized by average draft position (“ADP”) from according to current data available at mockdraftcentral.com:

The Early Round LIMA options (rounds 7-10): The number one ranked LIMA-QC pitcher, Kris Medlen (RHP, ATL) can be had in round 7. If that’s too early for your liking, Chris Sale (LHP, CHW) and Roy Halladay (RHP, PHI) are both being taken in round 8. There are also three excellent options with current ADPs in round 10—Matt Latos (RHP, CIN), Jordan Zimmermann (RHP, WAS) and Ian Kennedy (RHP, ARI). In this tier, these last three pitchers may be your best bets for their value.

The Mid Round LIMA options (rounds 13-17): The surprising number two ranked LIMA-QC pitcher, Jake Peavy (RHP, CHW), is currently going in the 16th round.  If you are looking to move on a starter before then, consider John Niese (LHP, NYM) in round 13 or Josh Johnson (RHP, TOR) in round 14. There is nice value in Anibal Sanchez's (RHP, DET) current 17th round ADP. Then, there is perhaps the most intriguing option on this list, Mike Minor (LHP, ATL), who is currently being drafted in the 15th round. Despite having a 32 QC score on the season, Minor’s 2012 second-half QC score was 118. His second half peripherals (4.1 Cmd, 3.63 xERA, 93 BPV) suggest that he may be an ideal LIMA head-to-head target.

The End Round LIMA options (Rounds 18+): The LIMA-QC list provides some interesting late round flyers or stash and hope types such as: Alexi Ogando (RHP, TEX) (18th round), Brandon Beachy (RHP, ATL) (26th round), Robert Erlin (RHP, SD) (not currently among the top 423 players being drafted) and Colby Lewis (RHP, TEX) (not currently among the top 423 players being drafted). Beachy and Lewis are both currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, and are not expect back until mid-season.

Additionally, there may be profit potential lurking in pitchers with undefined roles or injury risk. Joe Blanton (RHP, LAA) (ADP round 34) and Ted Lilly (LHP, LAD) (ADP—undrafted) have LIMA-QC skills, but are not currently guaranteed rotation spots. Shaun Marcum (RHP, NYM) (ADP round 22) is currently strengthening his shoulder and is also a question mark given his injury history. Pay attention to the spring training updates concerning each of these pitchers.

Roller coaster warning: while Marco Estrada (RHP, MIL), Patrick Corbin (LHP, ARI) and Tyler Skaggs (LHP, ARI) meet LIMA rebooted’s standards, their QC scores of -8, -46 and -134, respectively, suggest that they might not be the most consistent week-to-week options.

Conclusion

Even though the metrics have changed, the concepts of the LIMA Plan are still extremely useful in developing a consistent head-to-head team. Moreover, by applying the quality-consistency metric to the list of LIMA-qualifying starting pitchers, it is possible to gain an edge on the competition by further improving the consistency of your pitching staff.  If you apply this strategy, approach your draft as follows:

  • Early rounds: Draft a homogenous core of hitters. These hitters not only meet LIMA's hitter standards (ct%>80%; PX > 100), but are also statistically harmonious and therefore more consistent.
  • Middle rounds: Focus on acquiring LIMA starting pitching that has been "quality-controlled" for consistency, as set forth above.
  • Late rounds: Target highly skilled set-up men, particularly those who set-up for closers with weak peripherals or a history of injuries.

Let others tell you the LIMA Plan is dead. You know better.

[It should be noted that Scott Baker (RHP, CHC) and Javier Vazquez (FA, RHP) did not pitch in 2012, and their 2011 PQS-DOM/DIS figures were used to generate their QC scores. Additionally, the sample size for Ogando is too small to read much into his QC score, as he only started in one game in 2012.]

For definitions and benchmarks of BaseballHQ.com's most-used terms, see our Glossary Primer.


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