Collette Calls: Chasing Wins Down the Stretch

Collette Calls: Chasing Wins Down the Stretch

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

We are in the final stretch of the fantasy baseball season with just three more scoring periods after this week. Fantasy races are tight for many of us; I am in contention for two league titles, and either holding onto or chasing second place in several others. Heck, I have even made a comeback from the dead in AL LABR and Tout (thank you Starling Marte & Adalberto Mondesi Jr) to get into the top five in both of those leagues. 

One common theme in every league is just how tight the wins category is, irrespective of the league format. The category is just as bunched in my mixed-league formats as it is in my single-league formats. Big swings are possible when the category is as bunched as it is, so we have to look at how to do as much as we can in a category that is maddening to manage. Chasing wins is like drinking soup with a fork or getting your kids to agree on anything, but it could be even more frustrating these final three weeks if the opening week of the month tells us anything.

2020 saw pitching usage get crazy with teams trying to build back staffs after the long COVID-19 shutdown. Relievers soaked up a record-level of work early when rosters were up to 30 and that tapered off a bit once rosters went down to 28, which is where they stand this September 2021. Throughout the first half of this season, starting

We are in the final stretch of the fantasy baseball season with just three more scoring periods after this week. Fantasy races are tight for many of us; I am in contention for two league titles, and either holding onto or chasing second place in several others. Heck, I have even made a comeback from the dead in AL LABR and Tout (thank you Starling Marte & Adalberto Mondesi Jr) to get into the top five in both of those leagues. 

One common theme in every league is just how tight the wins category is, irrespective of the league format. The category is just as bunched in my mixed-league formats as it is in my single-league formats. Big swings are possible when the category is as bunched as it is, so we have to look at how to do as much as we can in a category that is maddening to manage. Chasing wins is like drinking soup with a fork or getting your kids to agree on anything, but it could be even more frustrating these final three weeks if the opening week of the month tells us anything.

2020 saw pitching usage get crazy with teams trying to build back staffs after the long COVID-19 shutdown. Relievers soaked up a record-level of work early when rosters were up to 30 and that tapered off a bit once rosters went down to 28, which is where they stand this September 2021. Throughout the first half of this season, starting pitchers held their ground garnering 60 percent of the wins. That percentage is in line with where baseball was in 2019, and an uptick from the madness of 2020:

Season

SP Wins

Total Wins

SP%

2016

1628

2427

67%

2017

1640

2430

67%

2018

1515

2431

62%

2019

1449

2429

60%

2020

469

898

52%

However, the second half of this season has seen starters lose their toehold on this territory as more and more relievers are stealing the wins. The seasonal percentage of wins by starters is at 56 percent, but the second half has seen starting pitchers get fewer wins with teams dealing with pitchers on the injured list, the COVID-19 list, tired pitchers or just punting the season and throwing arms out there to get through the second half of the season. The fact rosters are now back to 28 has exacerbated these issues and relievers spent the first week of the month winning nearly the same percentage of games that starters won during the first half of the season

Three relievers already have two wins this month, but only one was likely on a roster when those wins happened. Adam Ottavino has worked late innings all season, and has picked up more with Matt Barnes dragging his arm around Boston after being overworked early. Justus Sheffield has picked up two wins in just 4.1 innings while Scott Effross has done the same in 5.0 innings. Fifty-one relievers have earned a win in September. There have already been 51 relievers to earn a win in the first week of the month, on the heels of an August that saw 129 relievers win at least one game. Here are your leaders for wins out of the bullpen since Aug. 1:

There are some notable late-inning relievers on that list, and most do pitch for teams in contention for the playoffs. There are also relievers who pitch for the Twins, Cubs and Pirates and those teams have been out of contention since early May. The four wins are only bested by Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Logan Webb and Shane McClanahan on the starting pitching side of the ledger as each has won 5-6 games since the beginning of August.

It is rather impossible to suggest any type of strategy over the final three weeks other than to fling relievers against the roster wall and see what sticks. In one of my home leagues, I expanded my roster by two pitchers and paid a $10 penalty into the pot for it so I could go with three starters and nine relievers down the stretch as I try to jump into first place. Any pitcher not in a two-start week situation could be considered benchable for a reliever who could work two to three times in the scoring period and potentially earn two wins as Sheffield and Effross did this past week. Hendriks, Chargois, Garcia, Yusmeiro Petit, and Devin Williams are the only relievers to win as many as four games in a single month this season. 

Both Central divisions, as well as the AL East, are essentially over and little would change in the post-season seeding if Milwaukee, Chicago or Tampa Bay decided to push things through the end of the season. Chicago, in particular, has pushed its starters this year, so we could see more relief wins coming from their bullpen down the stretch as Tony LaRussa finally gives some guys a break on their pitch counts. If your league is still allowing you to FAAB, your focus should be on relievers because that is where the wins are this month and likely will stay as teams start prepping for October baseball. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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