The Basics Of Streaming Pitchers
One of the most important aspects of fantasy baseball is scouring the waiver wire for useful pieces to help your team. There are two kinds of players that you should be looking for on your waiver wire. Players that can help your team throughout the remainder of the season, and players that can help your team in the short term, also known as streamers. There are a couple of steps to effectively streaming pitchers during the season.
Check Your Roster Before The Waiver Wire
This is the most important and most overlooked portion of making waiver claims. Too often fantasy players, including myself, head immediately to the waiver wire looking for an exciting player to add to their team. However what many people overlook are the players that are already on their rosters, many times fantasy players will drop the wrong players. When looking over your roster you need to figure out who is worth keeping, and who’s roster spot is more valuable than their production. Usually, when you are considering dropping a player, it is due to poor performance. The first thing I look for when determining if a player is bad or unlucky are skill indicators. I look for ERAs that are much higher than the ERA indicators (FIP, xFIP, and Siera), elevated BABIPs, elevated HR rates, or high left on base rates. You can supplement this data using baseball savant’s xstats, and hit data. If the underlying data and xstats suggest bad luck is the culprit, holding onto that player is likely the correct course of action, and you should find another player to drop. Alternatively, if a player's skill indicators are poor, then the performance is likely skill-based and you can feel more secure in dropping that player.
Check Last Week’s Drops
This one is pretty simple, sometimes fantasy players have to make tough decisions and drop players that are of a higher quality than the average waiver wire fodder, typically due to injury. This typically only takes a few seconds and can really help you identify players to add. (last year Mike Clevinger was dropped in one of my leagues due to a team being bitten by the injury bug)
Dig Into The Schedules
Most of the time if you’re searching the waiver wire for starters you want to look for two-start pitchers first. The reason to stream two start pitchers is that they get more strikeouts and have a better opportunity for wins than a one start pitcher. After you identify two-start pitchers, then start looking for a one start pitcher. When I am looking for streamers I look at the opponents' lineup very closely, I am looking for a couple of things specifically. First I want to look for splits that I can exploit, for example, the 2019 Diamondbacks were the 5th best team in baseball against left-handed pitching by wRC+ but 24th against righties. This is important because oftentimes managers will avoid streaming against teams in the top half of the league offensively. So you may be able to sneak a start out of someone that other managers may avoid. The next thing I look at is how much the opposing team strikes out. Strikeouts are a very important part of streaming, as it is inherently risky for your ratios, because streamers are usually average to below-average pitchers.
Look at the pitcher’s skills
After you have a list of pitchers with good schedules you must use skills to differentiate them. The first thing I look at is BB%, I am looking for a walk rate of 7.5% or less. The most important thing I am looking for in a streamer is someone that has limited paths to getting beat, I do not want a pitcher that puts extra guys on base via the walk. The second thing I look for is a pitcher with a low HR/9. There is not a specific HR/9 I look for but I do use it as a determining factor in claim order, and if there's a candidate with an extremely high HR/9 I will eliminate them from consideration. The other things I consider are the pitchers' strikeout rate and team context. As I mentioned before strikeouts and wins are what you’re looking for when streaming. Ideally, a pitcher would meet all four criteria, however the typical pitcher on the waiver wire is not going to limit walks, home runs, get strikeouts and play for a good team. If a pitcher has three of those skills I will put a bid in, assuming the three skills are better than the player I would be dropping. Ideally, I wouldn't need to pick up and start a player with just two of the factors, but if I was in dire need of a starter, that pitcher has to have a low BB% and HR/9 just in the hopes of limiting damage.
Tips and Tricks
1. Look 1-2 weeks ahead for streamers. This will allow you to make smaller FAAB bids, or put in waiver claims before your league mates
2. Look at innings per start, starters that go deeper are more likely to get wins
3. Consider bullpen strength, starters followed by good bullpens are more likely to get wins
4. Check to see if there are any bulk relievers on the schedule, as they can be overlooked