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Was My Rotation Ever Good Enough?

I'm in dead last in the RotoAuthority League this year with just 30 points.  My team is all-around bad, but my pitching has been particularly atrocious.  I'm last in wins, ERA, and WHIP, and second to last in strikeouts.  What went wrong?

First off, let's take a look at what I drafted, with draft round in parentheses.

  • C.C. Sabathia (5) - The anchor of the group, a player I somehow had the confidence to trade away on April 14th with Carlos Lee for Shin-Soo Choo.
  • Ted Lilly (10) - Lilly remains on the team.  I projected him for a 3.59 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, but he does lack upside.
  • Ricky Nolasco (11) - I had him down for a 4.03 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, but expected more.  He's still on the team.
  • John Danks (15) - I projected a 3.84 ERA and 1.29 WHIP and felt there was room for a little more.  I dropped him after his May 29th clunker, after which he immediately reeled off two solid efforts.  I considered Danks quite a bargain in the 15th round.
  • John Lackey (18) - I called for a 4.05 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but felt there was a chance he'd return to his 2009 level.  I dropped him on May 5th, which showed uncharacteristic patience for me.  I gave him six starts.
  • Edwin Jackson (19) - I projected a 4.44 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, so this was a breakout play.  I cut him on April 23rd, after five starts.

If everyone simply played to my projections - no breakouts, no disappointments - how would I be doing?  The season is 40.86% over, so I'll apply that percentage to their counting stats.  The result: a 3.87 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 427 strikeouts, and 33 wins for the starters.  I've used 11 relievers so far this season, and adding in their actual numbers brings me to a 3.64 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 501 strikeouts, and 37 wins.

Such numbers would have me eighth in ERA, ninth in WHIP, tenth in strikeouts, and tied for sixth in wins.  That might not seem like much, but I'd be 15.5 points higher in the standings, in tenth place at 45.5.  I'd also have a good opportunity to climb quickly in WHIP and wins.

Still, this shows that the rotation I built on draft day was never expected to be even middle of the pack.  I hoped for some things to go right with a few pitchers, and they never did.  I picked up Ian Kennedy, Derek Holland, Brandon Beachy, Anibal Sanchez, Ervin Santana, Tim Stauffer, and James McDonald at various points in the season.  I ended up trading Beachy on April 23rd, which to date has cost me 21 strong innings.  I cut Holland, Stauffer, and especially Sanchez at inopportune times, showing poor judgment.

Possible lesson: don't trade away pitching if you're not sure you have a surplus.  Every year I see a few intriguing names on the waiver wire and assume I have pitching to spare, and I'm usually wrong.  On the other hand, Kennedy, Beachy, and Sanchez are very worthy adds, so it pays to be active.  The other lesson, I think, is that a 3.64 team ERA ain't what it used to be.  In the '08 RotoAuthority league, 3.64 would have ranked fifth.  In '09, fourth.  Last year, sixth, and this year so far, eighth.  Granted, my current team ERA is actually a much worse 4.15, but if everyone had met projections and I kept Sabathia my rotation would still not be anywhere near championship-caliber.

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