MASTER NOTES: 2019 stretch considerations

This is going to be an interesting weekend in a lot of fantasy leagues. Many leagues have their trading deadlines on August 31st, which is this Saturday. And the September callups themselves will start on Sunday, which in some leagues will make those called-up players available for claiming of FAAB bidding, depending on league rules and whether the callups actually get into games on Sunday.

In many leagues, even players who play on Sunday will not be in their leagues’ free-agent pools because the pools are set on Sunday morning, meaning players won’t be eligible until next Sunday.

(If your deadline has already passed, or your league won’t let you bid on guys based on callup alone, read this edition anyway. It has some ideas that might help you another data point as you think through your moves.)

Games Remaining

One of the underappreciated angles on making moves is counting games left to play, and then trying to gain an advantage from knowing who has how many, or how few. You wouldn’t think it’s that big a difference-maker, and it isn’t as important as the actual talent of the players in question. you wouldn’t wave away Mike Trout in favor of Trey Mancini because Mancini has three more games remaining than Trout has.

But usually, free-agent choices come down to choosing between relatively equal players. There’s a reason they’re in the free-agent pool, after all. And in that case, knowing that, say, PHI has three more games left than, say, TAM might lead you to add a smidge more value to, say, Mikael Franco than, say, Mike Brosseau.

Similarly, if you were weighing a trade offer, and deciding between, say, Corey Dickerson and, say, Avisail Garcia, you might lean toward Dickerson because of his three extra games.

So with that in mind, let’s start with a quick review of the games-remaining situation as it will stand on Monday morning.

The median for games remaining is 25. Six teams have that number of games left. Eleven teams have 26 games to go, and 10 have 24. Depending on your rapid arithmetic skills, you might already realize that this all means three teams are outliers.

The two outliers on the high side are WAS and PHI, each with 27 games left to play. A key advantage to WAS on this one, though, as they have 14 at home while PHI has only nine, the same as NYY, who have 24 in all. The Mets have the most home games left, 17 out of 26, while PHI's 18 road games are the most.

The outlier on the low end is LA, with just 23. Again depending on your rapid arithmetic skills, you’ll see that any substitution of a WAS or PHI player for an equally skilled LA player nets you four extra games with which to amass stats.

And four games ain’t nothin’.

* * *

It’s also possible to go a little deeper into the weeds on the teams’ remaining games. One such way is to look at which teams face anemic offenses, making their pitchers a bit more rosterable, and which teams face poor pitching, making their hitters more attractive.

I assembled every team’s remaining schedule of opponents and then figured out which of them had unusually high or low percentages of games against poor opposition. To set a standard of “poor” quality opponents, I used ERA+ and OPS+, which are park- and league-adjusted, and calculated such that 100 is right at league average. I set the bar at under 95 ERA+ for poor pitching, and under 95 OPS+ for poor hitting.

Hitting

The team with the easiest pickin’s for their hitters is HOU. The Astros have fully two-thirds of their remaining games against pitching staffs with sub-95 ERA+: three games at KC (93 ERA+, sixth-worst in baseball), and homestands that include three against LAA (90) and four hosting SEA (88, second-worst). The drawback to HOU hitters is that they also have only 24 games remaining, one or two fewer than most other teams and three fewer than the aforementioned PHI and WAS.

A team more in the sweet spot of extra games remaining and poor pitching is CHW. Sixteen of the team’s 26 remaining games are against sub-standard pitching: three in SEA, a total of seven home-and-home versus DET (94), and three each at home against the Angels and the Royals. C’mon, Luis Robert!

OAK also has 60% of its 25 remaining games against lower-caliber pitching.

The teams on the wrong end of this scale are SD, COL, and LAA, who don’t face any weak pitching in their remaining games.

Pitching

On the pitching side, look at ARI hurlers. Of the D’backs 25 remaining games, fully 21 (84%!) are against teams with sub-95 OPS+: three each home-and-home with CIN (91 OPS+), three against MIA (MLB-worst 76), nine versus SD (92), and three with STL (92).

Another team with lower-quality hitters to face down the stretch is LA, with 78% against weak sisters like BAL (90), SD, and SF (88), all on the road; and three more at home against SF as well as six at home against anemic COL (86). Of course, adding up those games will remind you that LA is also the team with the fewest games left, just 23.

Two other teams with 77% of their remaining 26 games apiece against weak hitting are CHC and MIL.

The teams with the toughest pitching rows to hoe are LAA, TEX, and HOU, each of which has 24 games to play with only 12 games in total among them against bad hitting.

I could also have used the data to suss out which teams play the most games against superior opposition, but I only have so much space here. Anyway, it’s safe to assume that teams with the lowest levels of poor opposition are likely to have the higher levels of quality opposition.

Most of the rest, hitting and pitching, are around 50-50 as far as quality of oppo.

To recap:

  • Teams with the most and least games to play: WAS, PHI (27), LA (23)
  • Teams with the easiest opposition pitching (advantage to hitters): HOU, CHW, OAK
  • Teams with the easiest opposition hitting (advantage to pitchers): ARI, LA, CHC, MIL.

Good luck the rest of the way as down the stretch they come!

* * *

This is the last Master Notes column for the 2019 fantasy season. It was a blast for me as always, and thanks to all of you who commented or e-mailed. If you are taking advantage of the opportunity to attend First Putch Arizona, make sure you find me and come say hi. I was going to suggest a secret password, "Guglielmo Marconi," but I'm not sure how pronounce "Guglielmo." Just say hi and mention the pod.

 


Click here to subscribe

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