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Silver League Update: To Stream, Or Not To Stream

That is the question. Of this week, at least. Streaming starts has gone from something that one annoying owner in your league does to an acceptable, normal strategy. I mean, we publish a weekly column dedicated to smart streaming here at RotoAuthority. But common strategy isn't always good strategy. Should you stop streaming? Should I start?

The conventional wisdom holds that streaming is good on your wins and strikeouts, but no good for you ERA and WHIP. This certainly seems to make sense: as you add starts throughout the week you add strikeouts with them (even if it isn't many per start) and increase your chances of lucking into wins. Of course, since you're picking up the players that aren't considered worthy of a permanent roster spot, you're going to get some ugly starts that drag your rate numbers down. Right?

I decided to look into the Silver League's transaction report and see if the conventional wisdom is true. (Remember when everybody thought bunting was a good idea?) Perhaps more importantly, I thought I'd try to check on how true it is. What if streaming buys you tons of wins and K's, but only hurts your ERA and WHIP a little? Or, what if it kills your ERA and WHIP but adds next to nothing in wins?

There are plenty of ways, it turns out, to rack up a huge transaction number without streaming pitchers like crazy, and of McRuder's 70 moves, not that many have been to add starting pitchers. He's added nine starters since the beginning of May; at three per week, that makes him our top streamer. (We have an innings limit of 1500, so adding a starter every day just doesn't make sense.) Even with all those moves, though, He's not sitting well in the pitching categories: he's got four points in strikeouts, two in WHIP, and he's dead last in ERA ... and wins. Maybe three starts a week just isn't enough to drag those wins up.

JamesRiverTrophyCarp has made 52 moves, and he's made six starter adds in the last month. That's still about two new SPs a week, so we'll count him as a streamer. He's doing a bit better than McRuder in the pitching department, with 5 1/2 points in wins and eight in strikeouts. His ERA and WHIP are hurting, though, as he's got just two and three points in those categories. I can't say that his streaming is responsible for those numbers, but if it's helping, it's not helping enough.

Spirit of St. Louis might be living proof that streaming can be done properly. He's added a little over two SPs a week for May and he's got 11 points in ERA and 10 in WHIP. He's also got 11 points in strikeouts and is generally dominating the Silver League pitching landscape. It makes his 9 1/2 points in wins seem paltry. Maybe he should stream even more.

On the other side of the coin, I was surprised to see my own stuck-in the-mud Inch'on Wyverns team leading the pack in strikeouts and second in wins with just 16 moves on the year. I was more impressed with myself before I noticed that I'm not so much restrained as carrying eight starters and on track to crash into the innings cap before the year is up. Of all the "streamers" above, only Spirit is even close to my 439 IP total. All those pitchers have apparently been better than the average streamed pitcher, but not good enough to put my ERA (five points)and WHIP (seven points) into the top of the pack.

Joining me in the middle of the ERA (eight points) and WHIP pack (six points) are the Busey's Bandits. They haven't been streaming, but are tied with Spirit in wins (9 1/2 points). The E-Z sliders have made just 15 moves and their strikeouts might be suffering for it, as they've got just two points in that category.

Finally, and as counterintuitively as possible, The Great Badbonis have made just 14 moves and have between 10 and 12 points in all four starter categories, including the lead in wins. And before you fret about their unbalanced team, consider their perch on top of our overall standings.

So, do you need to stream to win? No, apparently not even in wins and strikeouts. (Though having too many innings pitched helps.) Will streaming kill your rate stats? No, apparently not. You should, though, pair your streamed starters with some good relievers, as Spirit has. It helps when they have closing jobs, but it isn't necessary.

To give some perspective on who the streaming-caliber pitchers are in our league, here are a few pitchers we've added or dropped (or both) in the last few days.

Ross Detwiler
Christian Friedrich
Felipe Paulino
Jarrod Parker
Andy Pettitte
Jake Westbrook
Ryan Vogelsong
Barry Zito
Ricky Nolasco
R.A. Dickey
Aaron Harang
Wei-Yin Chen 

Of course, your league will be set up in it's own way -- even within the standard 5x5 scoring, there seem to be millions of variations of league depths and rules -- so the truths of our league may not mean too much to yours. In a shallow enough league streaming might make no sense. In a deep enough league it might be impossible. In a league with no innings limit, you might have owners streaming a start or two every day. Maybe this is winning you tons of games ... or losing them.

It also occurred to me that the more people streaming in a league, the less effective streaming is for everyone. If the best one start is getting streamed off the waiver wire each day, that's probably a pretty good start. But by the time the best five or six starts are streamed each day, well, they get worse and worse each time. Making yourself the seventh might not be a wise move, even if you need the counting stats. 

One league worth of data isn't enough to prove the conventional wisdom about streaming true or false, but it's got me thinking that how the strategy is executed is a lot more important than whether or not you employ the strategy in the first place. What do you think? Are you a streamer and killing your league's pitching categories? Are you streaming and you're the one who's getting killed? Add a comment and tell us how it's been for your league. If you do, make sure to include your league format, so we know whether or not we can safely copy you. 

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