At this point in the 2013 season, the Detroit Tigers are 68-45. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 64-50. Max Scherzer has a 2.84 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Clayton Kershaw has a 1.91 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. So these two pitchers are having phenomenal years and play on teams with similar won-loss records. We could expect similar won-loss records for the pitchers, right? You’re smart enough to know that’s not the case.
Scherzer is 16-1 and Kershaw is only 10-7. In fact, 19 pitchers have more wins than Kershaw. Heck, Joe Saunders has 10 wins, a 4.58 ERA, and a 1.50 WHIP. All the while playing for the 53-61 Seattle Mariners.
Need another one? In 2012, Cliff Lee started 30 games and went 6-9 for the 81-81 Phillies. At this point in the 2013 season the Phillies are 52-62 and Lee already is 10-5. In 2012 he had a 3.16 ERA. To this point in 2013 his ERA is 3.11.
You Can’t Predict Wins
Of course, I cherry-picked these examples. But they illustrate a very important point. You can’t predict pitcher wins. Wins are by far, the most unpredictable of any common fantasy baseball category.
Exploit This Knowledge
Most semi-experienced fantasy baseball players know wins are unpredictable. But what other choice does a manager chasing a title with a weak score in the wins category have? They’re faced with the choice of chasing wins or having blind faith that their fortunes will reverse. This is an opportunity for you.
Look at your roster and see if you have any marketable players in the wins category. Maybe you can offer a Tillman, Masterson, Lynn, or Latos and upgrade in more steady and predictable categories of weakness. Or maybe you have an elite Scherzer, Wainwright, Zimmermann, or Verlander and can land an elite player in return.
What To Ask In Return
I love this article by Michael Salfino of Yahoo! where he outlines the pitchers who have been “unluckiest” in the wins category this year.
One strategy you could employ would be to trade a pitcher that has been “lucky” in wins (like a Scherzer) for an “unlucky” player (like a Strasburg) and ask for something additional in return. Something like an upgraded hitter, a stolen base specialist, or a closer.
Look at your team needs and try to convert the unpredictable wins into a steady and reliable producer in your own category of need.
Follow the principles outlined by Fred Zinkie in “Smart Elsewhere #6“. Review the league standings and see which teams can benefit the most from a few more wins. Reach out to them and let them know that your “lucky” wins pitcher is available and may be able to help them climb in the standings.
You can trade away wins even if you don’t have a strong hold on the category. This is all about converting a very fickle and volatile statistic into one that you can more reasonably predict. Don’t chase wins. Let others do it.