Resurrecting The Quadrinity–The Pitchers | RotoGraphs Fantasy Baseball

Buoyed by the welcomes we received upon our return to Fangraphs this season and the compliments extended to us last week, we now fearlessly resurrect what was, from 2015 to 2019, an annual Birchwood Brothers feature: a consultation of the Holy Quadrinity. For newcomers, and for that matter oldcomers: years ago, Bret Sayre, then of Baseball Prospectus, posited that “the three skills that are most important to the art of pitching [are] getting strikeouts, reducing walks, and keeping the ball on the ground,” and that pitchers who can do those three things, as betokened by their above-average numbers in those categories, are worth the attention of those who ponder such matters. He called this approach The Holy Trinity.

Then we came along and, like John Calvin standing on the shoulders of Martin Luther, suggested a variant of Sayre’s approach. We call it the Holy Quadrinity, which admits only pitchers who are in the upper half of two categories (strikeout percentage and soft-hit percentage) and the lower half—in other words, the better half—of two others (walk percentage and hard-hit percentage). We figured this approach wouldn’t turn up much interesting stuff—that the guys who qualified would be the guys who had good seasons by any metric you cared to use. And there were a lot of those guys. But we were surprised to find how many not-great-season (and, occasionally, not-good-season) pitchers this approach identified. Moreover, and more importantly, although the Quadrinity isn’t infallible, it points you more often than you’d expect in the direction of moderately-priced or even cheap pitchers who go on to have better seasons than the market expects.

This approach, we hasten to add, works not just for starting pitchers but for relievers as well, and frequently points out pitchers who, though they may not become their teams’ closers, have unexpectedly outstanding seasons, costing considerably less and earning considerably more than, say, the typical cheapish starting pitcher. You of course remember Anthony Swarzak 스와잭’s spectacular and wholly unexpected (except by us) 2017 season. What’s that? Well, you of course remember Anthony Swarzak. Right? Oh, come on, he…..

Never mind. Let’s move on. So we’re looking for guys who qualify for the Quadrinity, the Trinity, or, ideally both. Switching our metaphors from theology to horse racing, as one often does, we call these dual qualifiers Super High-Fives. But we don’t want them to be (to name a few Super High-Fives) Walker Buehler, Corbin Burnes, or Gerrit Cole. We want them instead to be guys from whom you can assemble a relatively inexpensive (we use $80 as our benchmark), stealthily first-rate pitching staff. We’ll concentrate on pitchers who might be bargains, which we’ll define as guys who’ll cost $15 or less.

First, the Super High-Fivers. The prices in parentheses are NFBC Average Auction Values. With everything on hold, the sample size is kind of small—12 auctions—but that’s all we’ve got. The auction values look to us quite comparable, mutatis mutandis, to NFBC Average Draft Position. Anyway, here are the relevant High-Fivers among starting pitchers: Eduardo Rodriguez ($11), Pablo López ($11), Alex Wood ($5), and Adbert Alzolay ($1, except no one wants him even at that price). Ugh. Not as many as usual—there are typically ten or so—but it’s a start. So let’s add the Quadrinitarians, who are Chris Bassitt ($11), Nathan Eovaldi ($12), Carlos Rodón ($9), John Means ($5), and Jameson Taillon ($2). Okay—now we’ve got something to work with. Taillon, of course, is coming off an injury, and (since he hasn’t had the benefit this winter of the Yankees’ training and medical staff) may or may not be ready, but anyone who escorts his mom around the Jasper Johns exhibit at the Whitney Museum while wearing a walking boot is worth two dollars in our book even if he’s comatose.

And we might as well toss in the Trinitarians at this point, too: Shane McClanahan ($16), Ranger Suarez ($9), Huascar Ynoa ($5), Marcus Stroman ($5), Tanner Houck ($5), Steven Matz ($4), Anthony DeSclafani ($3), Nestor Cortes ($1). Plus JT Brubaker and Zach Eflin, for whom there were no takers.

Okay. All in all, not a bad group, and a fairly abundant one. What you do with them is of course up to you. We ourselves don’t outright rely on this angle, but we do factor it in, and when it points us in the direction of guys we already like, we try to get them. So, for example, we took E Rod rather early in our TGFBI draft, got sniped out of Suarez, and are hoping, by the time you read this, to have grabbed Cortes in the reserve rounds. Conversely, after our travails with Zach  Eflin the past several years, you’d have to hold us at gunpoint for us to put him on our team.

Now for the relievers. The group includes rather few closers, though we’ll identify the ones who make the cut. Only four relief pitchers are Super High-Fives, and if you can name more than one of them before you read the rest of this sentence we hope we’re not playing in the same league as you: Taylor Rogers ($9), plus Brooks Raley 레일리, Tim Mayza, and Ryan Tepera, whom no one wants. Raisel Iglesias ($23) makes the Quadrinity but not the Super High Five. Trinitarian closers include Jordan Romano ($14), Garrett Whitlock ($3), Blake Treinen ($8), Andrew Kittredge ($3), Ryan Pressly ($21), and Emmanuel Clase ($24). And then there’s Matt Andriese, Collin McHugh, Michael King, Phil Bickford, Anthony Bender, Kendall Graveman, Sam Coonrod, and Joe Kelly. Graveman will cost you a buck; there are no takers for the others.

So mix and match. But we’ve mentioned a lot of pitchers, and we got to wondering: what would be the best possible cheap pitching staff to form from these all these guys? Maybe something like E-Rod, Lopez, Alzolay, Suarez, Ynoa, McClanahan, Rogers, Romano, and Whitlock or Kittredge. That’s $71. Happy shopping.

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