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Silver League Update: Too Far Ahead

I never really thought there was such a thing as too many strikeouts. This, I have come to realize, is more of a personality trait than a real strategy. See, I've never been too fond of leaving important things up to others. Maybe it comes from years of playing on second-string Little League teams (where my ninth-string bat put me), knowing that every time an opponent made contact someone would make an error. Maybe me. Strikeouts, though, strikeouts you can trust. Remember when Crash Davis tells Nuke LaLoosh that grounders are "more democratic?" Well, that's when I stopped trusting his life advice. 

I'm starting to think that old Crash knew what he was talking about all along. My last series has been a chronicle of my attempts to repair ugly ERA and WHIP numbers, but my one pitching stat that isn't ugly is strikeouts. I've sat atop the Silver League standings in that category for awhile now, but it wasn't until today that I realized that I can stop looking over my shoulder. With 1222 K's (more by the time you read this), my staff is rocking an 8.58 K/9 ratio and a ridiculous 92 whiff lead on second place McRuder. I say ridiculous, because those 92 give me exactly one point! Efficient business, this isn't.

To this day, I have a hard time trusting anything but strikeouts. Pitchers who succeed without many of them seem like they're going to blow up at any moment. Only a lifelong appreciation for Tom Glavine has allowed me to trust in the likes of Matt Cain. Meanwhile, I spent years drafting Daniel Cabrera and Oliver Perez all over the place--I knew they would come around eventually!

The trouble is that I've paid a price for those strikeouts. Sometimes they cost a high draft pick, like with David Price. Other times, the price has been putting up with otherwise subpar results. Sure, I'm glad to have Max Scherzer now, but he was killing my ERA for awhile. I put up with some terrible starts from Mike Minor and Ricky Nolasco just because they came with a few strikeouts. A part of me is still itching to draft Minor next year.

On top of all that is that the sheer quantity of pitchers I've used has left me pretty close to the innings cap with just a month to go. If you don't have a cap, then expect most everyone to stream, but when you only have 1500 innings, they're all valuable. I've only got 218 innings left--the fewest in the league--and I'm still not even in the middle of the pack when it comes to ERA and WHIP. My wins are good, but forget about saves (that's another story anyway). I'm not at the drop everyone for relief pitchers, but I'm getting close. 

Close enough that the next week or so will be sort of like a new Spring Training for my starters. I've averaged about 250 IP/month, which means I need to cut about 30 innings from my staff. I'd rather not go cold turkey for the last week, so someone's getting replaced with a reliever. Since there aren't many self-respecting leagues with available closers on the waiver wire, I can't go that route. Still, there are some decent relievers out there, just waiting to join Frank Francisco, David Hernandez (why isn't J.J. Putz hurt yet?), and Sergio Romo.

I'd love to grab a few more saves, so I could always try a number two on RotoAuthority's Depth Chart. Vinnie Pestano (26%) has been great, with a 2.08 ERA, but Chris Perez hasn't just failed to implode, he's pitched pretty well. Shawn Camp (1%) hasn't been awesome, but he might vulture a save chance from Carlos Marmol. If the Cubs ever get any.... Pedro Strop (21%) has been very good, to the tune of a sub-2.00 ERA. I could even hold out hope that demoted Bay Area closers Santiago Casilla (46%) and Ryan Cook (38%) could get their jobs back.

If I'm resigned enough in my chances to get another point in saves, then Tim Collins (3% owned) leaps immediately to mind, what with his 85 Ks in 62 innings. That's the kind of efficiency I should have been going for all along. Jason Grilli (15%) has 75 Ks in 49 innings, with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Is this the same Jason Grilli I took a rookie year flier on and busted big? Collins won't be stealing saves anytime soon, but maybe Grilli could. Alexi Ogando (32%) has been good since returning to the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth (21%) hasn't allowed a run in a month, and teammate Jake McGee (2%) has been even more dominant in that time. Jonny Venters (23%) is good for the ERA and the strikeouts, but iffier with the WHIP.

So, I've got a lot of options, and so does anyone in my position. Unless it's a really deep league, there will always be more good relievers than roster spots. If you find yourself forced to load up on them, take solace in the fact that they can still chip away at those ratios. The biggest lesson I've learned is for next year: don't try so hard to win a category that you blow it away.  Winning by a single strikeout is so much more efficient than 92.


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