Competent Starting Pitching is Rare as a Unicorn


Noah Syndergaard is one of several key starting pitchers to go down with injury.

Starting pitching has been brutal the past two weeks. In Week 4, the league’s teams totaled 54 quality starts, the lowest league total this season. Yes, it’s early, but in Week 5, there were only 57 total quality starts. But this goes far beyond our league.

Steve Gardner, the excellent fantasy baseball writer at USA Today, described starting pitching as a minefield. Here’s how he summed up the season.

Yes, pitchers can be unpredictable, but this season seems to have taken disappointment, despair and disabled list stints to new levels. It’s enough to drive fantasy owners crazy.

Scott White at CBS penned an article titled, “Fantasy Baseball: All pitchers are terrible (including yours).” It’s difficult to argue. As White said, the worries about starting pitching began before the season’s first pitch.

In putting together my initial starting pitcher rankings, there were about 30 who I felt pretty confident were trustworthy and about 70 who could honestly go either way.

White describes a starting pitching landscape that has changed a great deal over the past five years. Quite simply, there are too many variables.

More than at any other point in its history, baseball is a three-true-outcomes game, meaning most every plate appearance (if you’ll excuse the exaggeration) ends in a home run, a walk or a strikeout. In that environment, the only sure way to sustained success is by missing bats, which puts an emphasis on velocity, which begets injuries, which begets early hooks and innings limits.

The problem isn’t at the top of fantasy pitching rotations. Most teams have one or two reliable starters. The problem is depth. It is difficult to find reliable No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 starters. Fantasy GMs that can build deep starting rotations will have a leg up on the competition.

Do you trust veterans like Andrew Cashner, Ricky Nolasco, or Jered Weaver? Do you wait for minor league pitchers to be promoted? Both decisions are fraught with peril.

At this point, your best strategy might be to cross your fingers and hope.


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