Years ago, baseball analyst Tom Verducci opined that starting pitchers who threw more than 60 innings above their total innings pitched the season prior were more susceptible to injury. Case studies were done and after witnessing the “Verducci Effect” in action, many teams and their training staffs adhered to similar guidelines to prevent ruining young arms too soon.
Though the disastrous 2020 MLB season may be in our rearview mirror, the ripple effects of losing more than 100 games are being felt in 2021 as Verducci’s theory stands front-and-center along with teams being overly cautious.
With the lack of a proper spring training last season, starting pitchers threw an average of 4.7 innings per start, and the average number of innings thrown by a starter in 2020 was near 60. That means starters, for teams looking to cap innings for their youngsters, may top out around 120-130 innings this season. That’s a far cry from the 200 innings a fantasy baseball manager is looking to get from their top-tier starters.
Not every team is going to adhere to the guidelines, but it does bring into question, the notion of building your fantasy rotation around more veteran arms.
You may be enticed by the talents of a Jesus Luzardo, Sixto Sanchez or Ian Anderson, but are they going to serve you well in the long-run? They may serve as strong, complementary arms, but you need more stability at the core which means it’s time to dust off some of those crafty veterans who are expected to have no limits this season.
Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks is the perfect building block in 2021. The name isn’t sexy and the strikeout rate pales in comparison to many, but here is a starter who made a minimum of 30 starts and threw no fewer than 177 innings in four of the five years leading up to 2020. Last season he ranked third in innings-pitched with 81 and is not expected to be limited in any way this year. That means a rare 180 innings with an ERA below 3.50? Yes, please!
Keep a watchful eye on the veterans who often get overlooked for the shiny, new toys each season. We all want to roster Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole, but after they’re gone, you need to look for guys like Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Having stabilizing innings-eaters could be your key to pitching success this fantasy season.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.