DIY fantasy draft: Tips for creating pitcher projections

Follow these 5 steps to build a do-it-yourself list and make better decisions when on the clock

DIY fantasy draft: Tips for creating pitcher projections

The majority of fantasy baseball owners are content to head into their drafts with projections and rankings from popular websites. Those who want to take that route can have a terrific draft experience, and they would be wise to access the MLB.com Player Preview prior to draft day. But for owners who want to truly understand their player pool, there is no substitute for creating personal stat projections for the upcoming season.

This is an incredibly valuable process, as it will give the owner a deeper understanding of why each player falls into a certain spot on the rankings sheet. Starting a projections file can be an intimidating process, but owners can create a sensible set of projections by following a few simple steps.

Last week, we covered the basics for projecting hitters, and this week we will delve into the factors to consider when setting stats for hurlers.

Step 1 -- Innings

Relievers who make plenty of appearances and starters who work deep into games are more likely to maximize their potential to accumulate counting stats. Here are some factors to consider when projecting innings for a pitcher.

  • How many innings has the pitcher recorded in recent seasons?
  • Is the pitcher's role expected to change this season?
  • Has the pitcher been especially injury prone or particularly durable?
  • Did the pitcher's team make any roster changes that could affect his usage?
  • For a starting pitcher, did he show any signs of working deeper into his starts during the second half of the previous season?

Step 2 -- Strikeouts

Pitchers have more control over their strikeout total than any other standard fantasy category. Because strikeouts are mostly pitcher-controlled, they should always be important for fantasy owners. Here are some factors to consider when projecting whiffs.

  • What was the pitcher's strikeout rate in recent seasons?
  • Based on the previously determined innings projection, is the pitcher expected to have more or fewer chances to rack up strikeouts in the coming season?
  • Did the pitcher show a notable change in his strikeout rate during the final months of the previous season?

Step 3 -- WHIP

Three main factors influence a pitcher's WHIP: his ability to record strikeouts, his ability to limit walks and his ability to work with his teammates to create contact that can be turned into outs. Here are the specific factors that should be considered when projecting a pitcher's WHIP.

  • What was the pitcher's WHIP in recent seasons?
  • Based on the previously determined strikeout projection, is the pitcher expected to record more outs without having the ball put into play?
  • Did the pitcher show notable changes in his walk rate during the final months of the previous season?
  • Have batters recorded an abnormal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) against the pitcher in recent seasons?
  • Did the pitcher switch to a club with a drastically different home park?
  • Did the pitcher switch to a different division or league with notably strongly or weaker opposing offenses?

Step 4 -- ERA

A hurler's ERA can be especially hard to predict, as many factors contribute to the final stat. Also, an ERA can be skewed by a few especially effective or ineffective outings. Here are the key factors to consider when making an ERA projection.

  • What was the pitcher's ERA in recent seasons?
  • Based on the previously determined WHIP projection, is the pitcher expected to increase or decrease the rate at which he allows runners to reach base?
  • Based on the previously determined strikeout projection, is the pitcher expected to record more outs without having the ball put into play?
  • Did opposing hitters post an abnormal home-run-to-fly-ball rate against the pitcher in recent seasons?
  • Did the pitcher switch to a club with a drastically different home park?
  • Did the pitcher switch to a different division or league with notably stronger or weaker opposing offenses?

Step 5 -- Saves

Saves may be the most unique fantasy-related statistic, as projections for this category are required for few players each season. However, saves projections are very important, as they will be the biggest determinants of the value of approximately 30 key players. Here are the important factors to consider when making a saves projection.

  • What was the pitcher's save total in recent seasons?
  • Is the pitcher's role expected to change in the coming season?
  • Based on the previously determined strikeout, WHIP and ERA projections, is the pitcher expected to be more or less effective at converting saves than in previous seasons?
  • Is the pitcher's team expected to be notably better or worse than in previous seasons?
  • Did the pitcher switch to a club that is expected to be notably better or worse than his previous team?
  • Based on the previously determined strikeout, WHIP and ERA projections, is the pitcher expected to pitch well enough to hold a ninth-inning gig for the entire season?
  • Does the pitcher's team have especially strong or weak closer alternatives on their roster?
  • Is the pitcher expected to have a long or short leash from his manager in the coming season?
  • Has the pitcher been especially injury prone or particularly durable?

By moving through the above criteria with each player, a fantasy owner will gain a deeper understanding of the value of each potential team member. Owners who have detailed knowledge of the player pool will be more relaxed on draft day, and they will be able to make better decisions when they are on the clock. Creating personalized player projections is a sizable task, but those who start the process early will find it to be an enjoyable venture that is well worth the extra time.

Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.