Just as I did for much of last season, each Sunday I will provide a look ahead at favorable pitching matchups for fantasy owners who utilize the "streaming" method (pulling mediocre starters off the waiver wire in an effort to win counting categories in H2H leagues). If the preceding parenthetical makes no sense to you, you should probably move on another post. I use the player pool from a 12-team 5X5 mixed league at ESPN. Since all the players in the league have previously won ESPN leagues (a qualification for entry), the competition is at least fairly stiff and the owners fairly active. However, just because a player is available in that league, doesn't necessarily mean he'll be available in your league. Remember, the idea of "streaming" is to win strikeouts and wins, while remaining as competitive as possible in ERA and WHIP.
This week I'd like to make a couple additional points about streaming and particularly about teams which you draft with the intention of streaming from the start of the season.
The idea of streaming is to guarantee yourself two categories every week. You still need to find a way to wrap up four more. Obviously, the customary approach is to load up on hitting early and try to accumulate a strong corp of relievers later. You can see the results of my "Stream Team" draft below. I didn't take a pitcher until round nine. I didn't take a starting pitcher until round twelve.
You should not, however, completely ignore starting pitching. I like to have three or four starters on my roster. When I draft them in the later rounds I'm looking for high-upside guys, usually relatively young, with good strikeout rates and, preferably, who play on competitive teams. Brett Anderson and Carlos Zambrano definitely fit that profile.
Also, roster flexibility is key when you are planning on funneling guys in an out of the lineup frequently. I wouldn't recommend streaming in keeper leagues because it prevents you from stashing young players like Stephen Strasburg or Pedro Alvarez on your bench and limits your ability to hold onto disabled veterans as well. Keep in mind, if you are streaming a couple pitching spots, you'll probably end up rotating a couple hitting spots as well.
Streaming isn't all about starts. Each week you will be keeping an eye out for solid relievers. For starters, winning saves puts you one step closer to the magic 6, but you aren't only interested in guys who could earn save chances. If you jump out to a big lead in wins and strikeouts by the middle of the week, you want to stop streaming risky starters and instead load up on good middle-inning relievers who can help keep your ERA and WHIP in check.
HIPPEAUX'S STREAM TEAM 2010:
1(#4). Hanley Ramirez, SS
2(#21). Ian Kinsler, 2B
3(#28). Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B
4(#45). Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B
5(#52). Justin Morneau, 1B
6(#69). Jose Reyes, SS
7(#76). Josh Hamilton, OF
8(#93). Matt Wieters, C
9(#100). Francisco Cordero, RP
10(#117). Carlos Gonzalez, OF
11(#124). Julio Borbon, OF
12(#141). Brett Anderson, SP
13(#148). Nyjer Morgan, OF
14(#165). Carlos Marmol, RP
15(#172). Carlos Zambrano, SP
16(#189). Bobby Jenks, RP
17(#196). Chris Young, OF
18(#213). Kyle Blanks, OF
19(#220). Jason Frasor, RP
20(#237). Colby Rasmus, OF
20(#244). Franklin Morales, RP
21(#261). Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP
22(#268). Neftali Feliz, RP
23(#285). Daniel Bard, RP
24(#292). Derek Lowe, SP
Remember, the final two picks are pretty much meaningless (except for the face that Derek Lowe will be my first Stream Team recommendation) because they won't be on my team for more than a few days.
I put together a pretty dominant infield, I believe, combined with a speedy outfield. I should win AVG and SB fairly easily in most weeks. I'm a little concerned about power, which was why my final outfield selections - Chris Young, Kyle Blanks, and Colby Rasmus - were all young power-hitters who are sleeper candidates for 30 HR. None of them will hit for a good average, but with Sandoval, Youkilis, and Ramirez all potential batting champs, I think I'll be alright in most matchups. I will sit Rasmus against lefties (474 OPS in '09) and probably sit Chris Young against the tougher righties (639 OPS in '09).
If Jose Reyes proves himself healthy, I may end up with more than enough steals, as both Nyjer Morgan and Julio Borbon are also big-time speedsters. One of them could become tradebait fairly early in the season.
Anyway, on to the picks...
Monday, 4/5: Derek Lowe (Braves) v. Chicago Cubs (Carlos Zambrano)
Streaming on Opening Day is pretty tough, considering most "Aces" are already rostered, but Derek Lowe is uncharacteristically unpopular this spring because he had a rough second half in '09. However, he's had a strong spring, was much better in Atlanta (4.28 ERA) than on the road (5.05 ERA) in '09, and has a 3.17 ERA against the Cubs on his career.
Back-Up Plan: Jake Westbrook (Indians) @ Chicago White Sox (Mark Buehrle)
Tuesday, 4/6: Dallas Braden (Athletics) v. Seattle Mariners (Ian Snell)
With a limited slate of games on Tuesday and most team still using their #1 and #2 starters, picking are again slim, but I'll probably go with either Braden or his opponent, Snell. Both the Athletics and Mariners had putrid offenses in 2009 and the Coliseum is a pitcher's haven. Neither Braden nor Snell had particularly good springs statistically, but their teams must've seen something they like, because they choose to move them ahead of seemingly better rotation options like Ryan Rowland-Smith, Justin Duchscherer, and Brett Anderson. Both pitchers had some success in the past, Braden offers more upside in terms of WHIP, while Snell is more likely to pile up some strikeouts. Handle either with care.
Back-Up Plans: Joe Saunders (Angels) v. Minnesota Twins (Nick Blackburn)
Wednesday, 4/7: Ian Kennedy (D-Backs) v. San Diego Padres (Kevin Correia)
I haven't been shy about praising Kennedy this spring, so this should come as no surprise. I especially like the fact that this first start comes against one of the weaker lineups in the National League.
Back-Up Plan: Fausto Carmona (Indians) @ Chicago White Sox (Jake Peavy)
Thursday, 4/8: Anibal Sanchez (Marlins) @ New York Mets (Jonathan Niese)
There's a couple of young breakout candidates throwing on Thursday, but I'll give the slight edge to Sanchez who will face a Mets lineup which could still be absent Jose Reyes, as well as Carlos Beltran
and Daniel Murphy. Plus, Sanchez's problems historically, a propensity for giving up walks and homers, are lessened a bit by the spacious confines of Citi Field and the fact that the Mets boast one of the more free-swinging lineups in all of baseball.
Back-Up Plan: Justin Masterson (Indians) v. Chicago White Sox (Gavin Floyd)
Friday, 4/9: Colby Lewis (Rangers) v. Seattle Mariners (Jason Vargas)
The Rangers are very excited about Lewis, who is returning from a dominating performance in Japan and looked quite good this spring. If he's got the stuff to stick in the Rangers rotation, the Mariners are a kind of lineup he needs to produce against, as they have very limited power and should have more trouble producing runs against a consistent strike-thrower.
Back-Up Plan: Homer Bailey (Reds) v. Chicago Cubs (Carlos Silva)
Saturday, 4/10: David Hernandez (Orioles) v. Toronto Blues Jays (Dana Eveland)
Many rotations haven't been set for next weekend yet, which makes these final picks a little tough, but Hernandez had a spectacular spring (20 K in 15 IP) to beat out Chris Tillman for the O's final rotation spot. The Jays lineup isn't too bad, but they've never faced Hernandez before, which might give him little edge. I'm tempted to go back to the well for Derek Lowe against a mediocre Giants lineup, but the fact that he's pitching on the road and will likely face off against Lincecum make his chances for a win a bit slimmer.
Back-Up Plan: Derek Lowe (Braves) @ San Francisco Giants (Tim Lincecum)
Sunday, 4/11: Joe Saunders (Angels) v. Oakland Athletics (Dallas Braden)
It's hard to believe that Saunders remains unowned in so many leagues following two seasons of 16+ wins, but his lack of strikeouts and a rough stretch in June and July of '09 scared away many potential owners. He's got good career numbers against the A's (9-3, 3.99 ERA) and was even better against them in '09 (4-1, 3.26).
Back-Up Plan: John Lannan (Nationals) @ New York Mets (Johan Santana)