This article is part of our Umpire Analysis series.
If you are like me, bargain hunting is one of your favorite aspects of competing in daily contests. Not (just) because you feel like a genius when your low-cost pick puts up a big night, but because that pick allowed you the cap space needed to turn your attention to the more expensive plays, resulting in a productive team from top to bottom. It seems likely that most users recognize the value in selecting a skilled bargain player, but do they know how to go about finding one? In this week's column, we'll go over some ways to determine which inexpensive players have the potential to bring home big point totals.
An easy way to spot bargain players on offense is to pay attention when looking at posted lineups for a given day. If you see someone you don't immediately recognize, take a few seconds to punch his name into a database. It may be that he is getting a spot start due to excelling in a platoon situation.
An example of the kind of hitter we are looking for is Steve Tolleson of the Blue Jays, whose .348/.411/.606 batting line against left-handed pitching this season has wedged him into a timeshare with Juan Francisco at third base. Tolleson currently costs just $2,400, which means that he can leave you free to splurge on big names with quality matchups that may otherwise be outside your price range.
Pitchers who fit this mold are a bit tougher to spot, because we need to be able to project what they will do, rather than focus on what they have done. This means we need to look for hurlers who have skill sets that are the most conducive to run prevention. Our ideal candidates will have something of an inflated ERA, and be able to combine strikeouts with a solid ground ball rate while also limiting free passes. One man who fits this description to a tee is Brandon McCarthy.
At this point, even the staunchest supporters of a McCarthy turnaround have likely left him for dead, as he seems primed to finish the first half of the season with an unsightly 4.80 ERA, but I am still optimistic.
Part of the early fervor for McCarthy was due to the increase in his strikeout rate. While the punchouts have dipped a bit (7.43 per nine innings), so have his home run numbers, as he has not allowed a long ball in any of his last four starts. The fact that he now resides in Yankee Stadium could make things a bit hairy in the homer department going forward, but with a ground ball rate of 55.6 percent, I'm willing to take my chances for his current price of $6,000, as a pitcher with his tools has the potential to spin a gem. I want to be able to reap the benefits when that happens.
The most appealing aspect of this strategy is by taking inexpensive players that have the potential to put up big totals, we allow ourselves to create a lineup with firepower throughout. The success that can be enjoyed when correctly executing this strategy is an example of why it's important not to simply create lineups that consist entirely of established talent. Instead, we sometimes have to dig into the lesser-known (or lesser-appreciated) parts of a team's roster to ensure that the lineup we submit on a daily basis is as strong as possible.