Dynasty Strategy: Five Reasons Why You Should Prioritize Hitting Instead of Pitching

The ultimate goal in a dynasty league is to have a roster jam-packed with stars at every position and a pitching staff full of aces and elite closers. But in reality most teams have not reached that level of perfection, especially if the league is fairly young or if your team is in rebuilding mode.

One important way to set up your team for long-term success is to make stockpiling star hitters a higher priority than acquiring ace pitchers. There are five good reasons why hitters make safer, wiser investments than pitchers in your dynasty league.

1. Pitchers miss more time due to injury

Disabled List visits are split equally among pitchers and hitters, which makes it seem like both positions are equally risky. But all is not as it seems. On average, once they hit the DL pitchers spend 3x longer on the shelf than hitters do. What this means is even though both types of players have the same risk of getting injured, pitcher injuries are more severe and force pitchers to miss a LOT more time away from your starting lineup. When a pitcher gets hurt he can easily miss months or even years and may never be the same even when he does return. Injuries to hitters are much less likely to be season-ending or career-altering. Hitters can get hurt badly too, but there are 10 Tommy John surgeries for every blown knee.

We all know that injuries can ruin your fantasy team’s chances of winning the championship. If your star players get hurt you are at a severe disadvantage. Is there anything we can do to improve our odds of making it through the season without our best players missing a ton of time due to injury? Yes. You can mitigate your roster’s injury risk by making sure that your most valuable players are hitters instead of pitchers. The goal is to build a rock-solid foundation of premium hitters that you can depend on to produce at a high level throughout the season without needing to use precious roster slots on backups or platoon players. When drafting use your best picks on hitters. When trading focus on swapping good pitchers for good hitters. Do this until your entire starting lineup is full of good, reliable hitters.

Once you have a good hitter at every position you should be able to dominate all of the hitting categories, but then you are faced with the challenge of cobbling together a competitive pitching staff without any aces. Since you won’t have many top-quality starting pitchers (you traded them for hitters) you will have to make up for it by stockpiling lots of mid-range pitchers using those roster slots you saved by not needing many backup hitters. Then you will have plenty of options to consider when mixing and matching which pitchers to use based on their match-ups, which brings us to…

2. Starting Pitchers shouldn’t be used against every opponent.

A good hitter is going to be in your starting lineup every day (or every week in Head-to-Head leagues). But a starting pitcher should not be used against the toughest opponents.  If your starting pitcher is facing a high-scoring offense, don’t use him if you can use another similar pitcher who is facing the Astros, Marlins, White Sox or another weak opponent. If your pitcher is matched up against an ace pitcher he is much less likely to get a win than another one of your pitchers who is facing a team’s #5 starter. If you have a large selection of starting pitchers to choose from you will get more of the tasty match-ups to use instead of being forced to use pitchers with tough match-ups. Since you will only be using your starting pitchers for a portion of their starts it means you get more bang for your buck with hitters as opposed to pitchers. Don’t invest heavily in a player who won’t be producing for you every time he plays.

3. Hitters contribute to all 5 scoring categories. Pitchers contribute to only 4 categories.

Most leagues use the standard 5×5 stat categories. Hitters can contribute to all 5 hitting categories (Runs, Home Runs, RBIs, Steals and Batting Average). But starting pitchers can only contribute to 4 categories (Wins, Strikeouts, ERA and WHIP – but not Saves). Relief pitchers contribute strongly in Saves, but have a much smaller influence on the other 4 pitching categories.

If your league is a 6×6 or 7×7 that adds extra categories such as OBP and SLG for hitters, and Holds and Quality Starts for pitchers it would favor hitters even more heavily. Hitters can contribute to all categories while pitchers cannot. So you can see how a good hitter is more valuable than a good pitcher based purely on his ability to help you win points in a greater number of categories.

4. Hitters are more consistent and more predictable.

Since we are concerned with dynasty leagues here, we need to think far into the future when building our rosters. When it comes to predicting which players are going to be good next season and several seasons after that things start getting murky. History has shown that quality, proven hitters tend to produce on a fairly consistent basis into their early 30’s. History has also shown that pitchers are much more erratic and tend to vary widely in their performance from year to year. Part of this is due to injury, but a lot of it is because a pitcher’s value depends on his teammates’ abilities just as much as his own pitching ability. Wins are highly dependent on his teammates’ ability to score runs, and his ERA and WHIP are highly dependent on the quality of his team’s fielding. What if he switches teams due to trade or free agency? What if his team’s roster has a lot of turnover? Even if a pitcher pitches exactly the same from one year to the next his statistics and hence fantasy value can change dramatically due to factors outside his control (and yours). This is true for hitters too, but to a much lesser extent. If you are going to invest heavily in a star player wouldn’t you want a high level of confidence that he is going to still be a star player three, four, five years down the road? Of course you would, which is another reason to make hitters the foundation of your team.

Once hitters have established themselves as stars they usually continue to play at a star level for at least several years. Pitchers rise and fall over a shorter time period on average. For that reason it is wise to trade good pitchers for good hitters while their trade value is high. This is especially true if you are in rebuilding mode.

5. It is easier to find good pitchers on the Free Agent list during the season.

Even in deep leagues you can almost always find good pitchers with good match-ups to pluck from the free agent list. Pitchers coming back from injury, recently called up from the minors, or recently put into their team’s starting rotation are commonplace. Recent examples are Dillon Gee, Marco Estrada, Erasmo Ramirez, Dan Haren, and Hector Santiago just to name a few. I have picked all of those guys up in deep dynasty leagues in the last couple of weeks. They are not stars but they are perfectly usable when they have a great match-up against a bad team. Your team is better off using one of these guys when they play the Marlins than using a better pitcher against the Tigers or Red Sox. You can even stream them — pick them up for a great match-up and then cut them loose to pick up somebody else. It is another way to get good results in the pitching stat categories without investing heavily in ace pitchers.

To summarize everything in one paragraph: When you have a good pitcher you should always be shopping him on the trade market until you can swap him for an upgrade to your offense. If you upgrade at an offensive position, feel free to trade the hitter you replaced for the best pitcher you can get. Keep making this sort of deal and eventually you will build a team with a stud hitter at every position. Only then should you pay high prices to acquire the much riskier stud pitchers. Build a solid foundation of hitters, then build an elite pitching staff. By this time your team will be a perennial championship contender with a solid foundation of star players that will lead you to many seasons of glory!

What do you guys think? Who is more likely to be a 1st round fantasy pick 5 years from now, Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw?

Nick Doran also writes for Blazing Fastball and discusses baseball on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

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9 comments on “Dynasty Strategy: Five Reasons Why You Should Prioritize Hitting Instead of Pitching

  1. Darren24 says:

    “Dillon Gee, Marco Estrada, Erasmo Ramirez, Dan Haren, and Hector Santiago just to name a few. I have picked all of those guys up in deep dynasty leagues in the last couple of weeks.”

    These leagues either aren’t very deep, or aren’t very competitive.

    • Nick Doran says:

      I think you would be surprised to find out that Dillon Gee is unowned in 74% of Yahoo leagues and 41% of CBS leagues. Marco Estrada is unowned in 68% Yahoo and 54% CBS. Erasmo Ramirez is unowned in 95% Yahoo and 81% CBS. Dan Haren is available in 32% Yahoo and 17% CBS. Hector Santiago remains unowned in 83% Yahoo and 52% on CBS.

      So despite their recent success these pitchers are still available in the vast majority of fantasy leagues, even deep and competitive leagues like the ones I play in. Gee and Haren have been two of the better pitchers in baseball the last couple months, yet you can still pick them up for free in a ton of leagues.

      • Darren24 says:

        Most leagues aren’t dynasty (or keeper of any kind), most leagues aren’t deep, and to be honest most public leagues aren’t all that competitive. Those numbers are irrelevant.

  2. Oddity says:

    You didn’t pick those guys up in a truly competitive deep dynasty league. They should have been long gone. Good article however.

  3. Andrew says:

    Nice work Nick. Your article has me rethinking my keepers in a 12 team 5 x 5 league with 14 keepers where I was going to keep 4 SP. Maybe I should add a hitter and minus a pitcher because the 1 position I was not going to hold was SS. I own Aybar and Brad Miller where I thought I could redraft one of them and keep Hamels, Gio, Anibal Sanchez and Jarrod Parker over the two of them. Going by this article I suppose you would recommend keeping a SS and putting a pitcher back in the FA pool next year. What do you reckon Nick. Keep Miller over Parker or Anibal? Who would you keep and who would you throw back in the pool? Thanks for the top rankin’ article. Very sound advice.

    • Nick Doran says:

      Thanks Andrew. I am not sure that Miller is worth keeping in a league with 14 keepers. Is it possible you could trade one or two of those starting pitchers for a better shortstop? Maybe include Miller in the trade. Hopefully your trade deadline has not passed. I hate trade deadlines. You might be better off keeping the extra pitcher, then trading him for a shortstop in the Spring. Can you trade draft picks in your league? Try to trade your non-keepers to upgrade your draft picks if possible.

      • Andrew says:

        Thanks for your reply Nick. Trade deadline has passed and no draft pick trades either. Will keep the 4 SP and as you recommend will try and trade for a good SS next year.

  4. […] The structure of the league reinforced my standard strategy of investing heavily on hitting instead of pitching for the very strong reasons I outlined in this previous post: 5 Good Reasons Why You Should Prioritize Hitting Over Pitching […]

  5. […] Note: One hugely important reason to take pitchers here in the later draft rounds is to minimize the chances of your team being wrecked by injury. We have already seen several good draft picks wasted on starting pitchers whose entire seasons and maybe careers are already ruined before the first real game is even played. Kris Medlen (9th round), Patrick Corbin (10th round), Brandon Beachy (13th round) and Jarrod Parker (13th round) have already gone down. Others will go down on a regular basis all season long. Hitters can get hurt too, but their injuries don’t usually last as long or derail their careers. Why invest so heavily in such fragile assets as pitchers when you can invest in the just as important yet safer hitters first? Check this out: 5 Reasons to Prioritize Hitting over Pitching in Dynasty Leagues. […]

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