Tout Table: Don’t Oberreact

Welcome to the first installment of the Tout Table. Every week… OK, nearly every week, a question will be posed to the Touts, with their responses gathered and posted for your reading pleasure. Let’s get things started with:

How do you handle pitchers that are slow out of the gate?

Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): You drafted these guys because you (presumably) like them, so my prevailing advice is to hold (or at the very worst, bench) until we have a few starts under our belts. The one exception would be a drop in velocity to a mid/back-end rotation guy that might be an indicator for future injury. But even then, remember to apply the appropriate context (are they still ramping up from spring, were they pitching in a cold early-season game, etc., etc.). It’s a long season.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): I focus on K% and K%-BB% for the most part, but I’ll bench pitchers against good lineups and I’ll cut/replace pitchers far more ruthlessly than hitters. But it is very league/rules dependent.

Rudy Gamble (Razzball, @RudyGamble): For anything beyond typically my top 5 SPs, I do not need much excuse to drop them IF there are velo/stuff/injury concerns. I typically play matchups/projections in the first couple of weeks unless there is a noted issue. For my SP core (typically top 15 round picks), I am probably holding through April unless something big happens but will bench if the matchups are mediocre and they are struggling. For RPs, I will hold a guy as long as he is in the SV role. No reason to hold onto an RP who isn’t at least a 1B closer if there is even a spec of bad news.

Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): It’s less about a pitcher having started slow out of the gate than why he has started slow. If it’s a significant decline in velocity or pitch effectiveness or his allowing much harder contact overall, for example, I’d bench him, pick up some additional depth to fill starts in the short term, and perhaps begin formulating an exit plan if the situation is dire (Sell-low deal? Eventual cut?). On the whole, the average fantasy player sweats these things too much. Patience remains the wisest April strategy.

Matt Cederholm (Baseball HQ, @TheBigHurtHQ): If your SP has two bad starts in August, you probably wouldn’t blink. A couple of bad starts in April doesn’t mean much. Certainly, you need to look for potential red flags that might indicate an injury. And if it’s someone you held your nose to draft, you can perhaps find a replacement who you can tolerate more. But overreacting to the results the first week of the season will bite you on the behind more often than not. So generally, I wait.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): One start is hardly something actionable – unless there is the suspicion of injury. Some pitchers need more time in April to adjust, or perhaps the weather was cold, etc. There has to be a larger string of poor play to change any prior assumptions. That said, sitting struggling pitchers against elite teams might be something that you do if there is a short string of poor play to start the season. Certainly though, don’t drop or trade them quite yet – especially if their poor performance is luck driven.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): From my perspective, any SPs you paid < $20 for in an auction are basically interchangeable. If you buy that premise, the suggested optimal strategy would be to stockpile as many SPs as possible (i.e.- use most of your Reserve spots on them), then play matchups from week to week. Given that, I have little to no concern re pitchers that are slow out of the gate, even if they are among my cornerstone SPs.

JB Branson (Rotoballer, @RowdyRotoJB): The month of April is about health for me. Kind of like I don’t play DFS until I have at least two weeks of data, I don’t react to anything in my season long leagues until I have at least a month of data. I continue on the same way I viewed each of them prior to the start of the season. Law of Averages is on your side especially after a slow start – they can only go up from there to hit their career averages/your projections. They don’t give out trophies until the end of the season.

Corbin Young (Baseball HQ, Rotowire, @corbin_young21): If we believed in their skills and/or saw changes in Spring Training (pitch mix, velocity, movement, etc.), then hold and be patient depending on the track record and underlying metrics in the first few weeks, especially the results tend to be luck based. However, if we need several factors or skills to shift in their favor, then maybe it’s worth finding another streamer or pitcher on waivers.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): Gotta look past the box scores and league category standings. I have some SPs with unsightly decimals but in several instances, half the ERs were inherited runners allowed to score by poor relief pitching. So with SPs, I exercise patience in inverse proportion to their draft cost. Closers, just look out for usage change, and monitor the news for manager comments. Also check the news or PxP for details of a blown save. Kimberly on Wed allowed a tying run on an oppo dunker, 2 SBs and a sac fly. Also, “Oppo Dunker” sounds like the name of a character in a Roald Dahl story.

Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, @BretSayreBP): Unless there’s a drastic change in their stuff, I’m rolling the same pitchers out throughout the month of April, and I’m very closely watching the arms that other teams are dropping. You’re much more likely to regret overreacting to one or two April starts than put yourself in a situation you can’t overcome over the remainder of a long season. In the case of a sharp velocity drop, it may be worth benching a pitcher for a week or two to see if it persists but I’m unlikely to drop anyone unless it’s one of the final pitchers added from the preseason in order to get someone who has shown notable improvement in early action.

Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): Knowing how fragile pitchers are and how frequently they get injured, my first thought would be to wonder whether they are hurt. Assuming health is not an issue, then what I do with them would depend upon where I drafted them, what their pedigree is, and who their upcoming opponent(s) will be. If my top starters struggle right out of the gate, then I would only bench them if I had a better alternative. The beginning of the season is usually when pitchers are ahead of hitters, so there could be a myriad of reasons why a pitcher gets off to a slow start. I would generally not overreact unless there was an unfavorable matchup on the schedule that would likely augment the problem. It’s a long season and the better pitchers will generally correct themselves in time. Don’t overreact and drop someone you might regret later on but try and maintain some flexibility so you can stream others in an out until you develop some stability.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): It entirely depends on how one defines “slow out of the gate”. I ignore all results, particularly ERA and WHIP, for a while, preferring instead to focus exclusively on velocity, pitch mix, strike%, and any other underlying skill-based metrics. Even these metrics need more than just one start to trigger an evaluation change. I’m not making any moves, except perhaps a pickup if a pitcher’s fastball velocity is up and it translated into a spike in swinging strikes in his first start.

Matt Truss (Razzball, @MattTruss): Totally depends on the pitcher, my top three guys get a long leash (think, Yamamoto after the Korea series). My 4 & 5, they get benched next outing if they looked like garbage (think Kenta Maeda). If they struggle in the next two starts, it’s time to cut bait. My late flyers probably get dropped out of the gate in shallow leagues (Ryan Weathers, goodbye)

Ray Flowers (Fantasy Guru, @TheRayFlowers): Patience is paramount. Have conviction in your selections this spring. I say it all the time, if you’re going to drop a guy after a couple of rough starts, you should have never rostered him in the first place. Pitching simply isn’t something you can get a handle on over 8.2 innings. It just doesn’t work like that.

Sky Dombroske (Fantistics Insider Baseball, @SkyDombroske): What Ray said….it’s crazy to let an hour or two’s worth of performance upend weeks or months of research, unless there’s some sort of health issue. I’m much more inclined to scan the wire and see if anyone else panicked. Like almost everybody has said, watching the underlying indicators to see whether the velo or pitch mix has changed is more important to me for the first month or so than the raw results.

Dave Adler (Baseball HQ, @daveadler01): One of the advantages of Tout Mixed is that players can be stashed on reserve. So when your stud pitcher comes out throwing blanks, have him cool his heels on reserve until he gets straightened out. But not all leagues allow that kind of flexibility. If that’s the case – exhibit excruciating patience for the studs. You took them for a reason, so barring obvious injury evidence, you need to ride it out. Any of your end-game guys who were not high on your list are fungible (one of my favorite words), so if one of them gets hammered in the early going – drop and turn the corner.

Shelly Verougstraete (Fantasy Feud Podcast, @ShellyV_643): If any of these bad starts happened in July, would you freak out as much? The answer is probably know so trust your offseason prep and keep the faith! As someone who rosters Bailey Ober and Bryce Miller in WAY too many leagues, I had to remind myself of this advice daily.

Alex Chamberlain (FanGraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): If the skills (pitch shapes, etc.) seem stable from last year, I will keep them in the rotation; if the skills look unstable, I’ll bench. But I’m not cutting anyone who’s not injured.

Sara Sanchez (, @BCB_Sara): It really depends on what I expected from the pitcher going into the season. If they were one of my first 5 SP, I’m holding them in all likelihood. But I might look for streaming options to get some flexibility with matchups while I wait to see what’s going on. As Shelly said above, if a bad outing happened mid-season we worry about it nearly as much. But I will start looking for possible explanations for a rough start. Bad BABIP luck is less worrisome than something like velocity dropping.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): A starting pitcher who has made 2 starts and pitched roughly 12 innings has pitched roughly 5%-8% of their inning total for the season (barring injury). This drop of rain in the ocean portion of their season becomes inconsequential over the scope of the season, just ask Blake Snell from last year. Warm weather and regular routine will often correct imperfect starts so be patient.

Glenn Colton (SiriusXM Fantasy, @GlennColton1): If you did your homework all off-season and spring, do not erase or abandon your view of a pitcher unless there is a significant warning sign in the first outing or two. For example, if the velo is way down in two straight outings, reassess. One more point – be cautious about sitting a star pitcher facing a good team early. You are likely to outsmart yourself.

Lauren Auerbach (Fantrax, @lkauerbach): It’s all about patience, especially with my core pitchers. I generally hang onto my top four or five starters through April. However, with late-round fliers, I’m more inclined to churn and burn if necessary. It’s early days, so trust your draft process and don’t overreact to bad outings.

Frank Ammirante (The GameDayHQ, @FAmmiranteTFJ): You need to balance patience along with the willingness to move on if there’s a superior option available. For example, it may be time to drop A.J. Puk if you’re able to secure someone like Luis Gil or Jared Jones.

Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotoBuzzGuy): You panic, right? Dump off those guys who can’t seem to get anyone out? OK, just playing. The group is right on here with exercising patience. Daytime games, bad weather, just starting out — there are dozens of reasons. Some guys just need to find their groove. Unless there is something major staring you in the face like lost velocity, give them another start or two. Things should level off. No reason to blow up a draft plan this early in the year.

Fred Zinkie (Yahoo/Rotowire, @FredZinkieMLB): Given all the injuries this year, I’m holding onto any starter who is not on the IL and was (in my opinion) worthy of being drafted. Not matter how poorly they have fared so far.

Phil Hertz (Baseball HQ, @prhz50): Depends on who the pitcher is to some extent. If it was a flyer to begin with, he’s not going to get a plethora of chances. OTOH, if he was expected to be a main part of your staff, the leash is longer. And, as Fred notes, the injury issue does make it harder to part ways too quickly.

Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): There are only two (and a half) reasons to worry about a pitcher who starts slow. 1) We see reports that he’s dealing with an injury, or that a previous injury is still affecting him. 2) His velocity is down, which could hint at an injury. 2.5) His K:BB is awful. I’m only including that as “2.5” and not “3”, though, because one or two starts with a bad K:BB could easily be a blip. If one of those situations is happening, it’s time to worry, and maybe drop if they were a late pick. If they check out okay on all three fronts, their poor start is barely even worth noticing.