Nick Kappel's Fantasy Focus: The Art of Spot Starting

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Nick Kappel's Fantasy Focus: The Art of Spot Starting
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Original Article: Baseball Reflections

If there’s one thing that separates good fantasy baseball managers from the great ones, it’s the ability to spot start.

Having at least one or two open roster spots, (especially in leagues with 12 teams or less) gives you an incredible advantage over the competition. This allows you to strategically spot start players who have favorable match ups.

Just knowing this handy little secret, however, isn’t enough to give you an edge; you must know how to detect a good spot start candidate.

So what should you look for in a potential spot start? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Home/road splits are very useful in picking out a good spot start, as are career numbers against the player’s upcoming opponent. Let me give you an example.

Clayton Richard owns a 4.49 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 100 1/3 innings with the White Sox and Padres this season. Based on these totals, you wouldn’t consider starting him at Milwaukee on Tuesday, but you would be wrong not to.

In 52 innings on the road this season, Richard boasts a 3.98 ERA, opposed to his 5.03 mark at home in 48 1/3 innings.

In two previous starts against the Brewers this season, Richard has allowed just one earned run on six hits in 10 2/3 innings.

Further, Milwaukee has batted a measly .246 against lefties this season, and Richard just so happens to be a southpaw.

The most encouraging sign is Richard’s recent success. In his last 27 2/3 innings pitched, (four starts, two with the White Sox and two with the Padres) the 25-year-old has posted a 1.95 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 20 strikeouts.

Everything points to Richard being a great spot start Tuesday against the Brew Crew. If you have the extra roster spot and could use a solid outing, make the move.

Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start on Friday at Seattle; a match up that greatly favors the 37-year-old lefty.

Pettitte has been much better away from the new Yankee Stadium this season, posting a 3.19 ERA on the road, opposed to a 5.28 total at home.

His only previous start against Seattle this season was a good one; seven strong innings in which he allowed just two earned runs on six hits and one walk, while striking out five.

Like Richard, Pettitte has been very good recently. A season 4.35 ERA and 1.43 WHIP isn’t usually something you’d want on your team for the stretch run, but some light research tells a much different story.

Since the All-Star Break, Pettitte has been fantastic, pitching 33 2/3 innings over five starts, posting a 33/9 K/BB ratio, with a stellar 1.87 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

Bottom line: you want Pettitte on your roster for his start Thursday at Seattle.

The great thing about spot starting pitchers is that you can do it everyday of the week. Spot starting hitters, on the other hand, isn’t quite as easy.

If you haven’t noticed, MLB doesn’t typically field a full schedule on Mondays and Thursdays. This generally leaves several starting spots open on your fantasy team, which creates a great opportunity to spot start a hitter (or two).

So how do you know if hitter A is a good spot start or not?

Home/road splits are useful, as well as career totals at the ballpark that’s hosting the game in question. The most important stat, however, is the hitter’s career totals against the scheduled starting pitcher.

Here are a few good examples for Monday:

In 22 career at-bats against Brad Penny, Placido Polanco has eight hits, (.364 AVG) a HR, and four RBI to go along with two walks and zero strikeouts.

J.D. Drew is an even better spot start, as he owns Edwin Jackson to the tune of a .429 average, (6-for-14) with four doubles, three RBI and four walks.

If you have an open spot in your lineup for Monday, either of these two would be real good spot starts.

Keep this nifty little trick in mind as the final weeks of the fantasy regular season wind down. Taking advantage of favorable spot starts could make a huge difference in your playoff positioning. Good luck!

Nick Kappel is a fantasy baseball writer for BaseballReflections.com and BleacherReport.com. Starting in the fall, his work will also be found on FanHuddle.com.

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