FLB '05: Pitcher Bargains

Originally Published: January 24, 2005
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN Games Fantasy Edge
We've already talked a bit about the benefits of spending most of your draft resources on elite hitters, waiting to find pitching bargains in the later rounds or for low auction bids. But how does one unearth an undervalued arm?

I've heard the theory that you should just post a set of names on a dart board and take aim to find the best gambles, but I think we can get a little more scientific than that. I know most sources don't talk up the command ratios -- walks and strikeouts per nine innings, home runs per nine and strikeouts per walk -- but they're pretty useful tools. They can help identify bargains where a pitcher's record or ERA might mislead you.

Your safest pitching bets meet the following criteria: They must have pitched 50-plus major-league innings in 2004; allowed fewer than 3.00 walks per nine innings and 1.50 home runs per nine; and struck out at least 6.00 batters per nine and 2.50 batters per walk allowed. Just 51 pitchers met all five criteria in 2004, a group that included 20-game winners Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana and Curt Schilling, top closers Armando Benitez and Eric Gagne, and breakout arms like Joe Nathan, Jake Peavy and Ben Sheets.