Buy-Low Special? Assessing Young Pitchers and Increased Workloads

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2010

SEATTLE - MAY 23:  Starting pitcher Mat Latos #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on May 23, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Padres defeated the Mariners 8-1. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Some call it fantasy baseball karma. Others call it choking. It’s more a matter of good old-fashioned stamina, or lack thereof.

Every fantasy baseball season, around this time, you’ll notice certain teams that have coasted near the top of the standings all season suddenly take a nosedive.

Like a lottery winner cashing in his ticket for more chances at the jackpot, luck usually runs out for managers who ignore one important concept during the 162-game marathon known as the MLB regular season.

The formula is simple: As a young pitcher’s innings pitched go up and ultimately exceed previous seasons’ workloads, there is an equal and opposite reduction in fantasy stud-dom. The following pitchers should be watched closely down the stretch:

It has been documented pretty heavily here at that those counting on Phil Hughes in their fantasy rotations should beware. The Yankees have acknowledged that the young pitcher needs a reduction in innings if they want him to contribute in the post season.

An injury to Andy Pettitte may alter their plans a little, but Hughes is likely to see a reduction in stats regardless. His highest innings pitched in a season was 146. At the moment, he’s on pace for 196. No wonder he’s started to look mortal during his last several outings.

Matt Latos has injected huge amounts of fantasy awesomeness into the teams willing to give him a shot off their respective waiver wires. But workload concerns have already led to the Padres majorly limiting Latos. A good MLB move, considering his previous high was 122 innings pitched and he was on pace for 207…an obscene increase of 85 IP.

Fantasy-wise, it doesn’t matter if Latos becomes ineffective while on the mound or is given a lengthy break by his team…the results are the same: less fantasy stats.

Few pitchers have blown onto the scene like David Price has this season. He’s been one of many important reasons that the Tampa Bay Rays are legitimate title contenders in 2010. However, he’s on pace for more than 60 innings pitched above and beyond anything he’s seen in the past.

While some pitchers rise to the challenge regardless, and Price may or may not be one of those pitchers, one would be smart to test the waters for potential trade before the wheels possibly fall off the cart.

And the list goes on.

Cincinnati’s Mike Leake previously pitched a high of 161 innings between college and fall ball. He’s on pace for 213 this season.

The Cardinals’ Jamie Garcia is facing a possible increase of 28 innings pitched. Recent call-up Madison Bumgarner is on pace for 207 innings pitched in 2010—his previous high was 151.

What’s one to do?

Are you doomed if you rose to the upper echelon of your league’s standings on the backs of young pitchers who are facing major workload increases?

Not necessarily. Just like a junkie who’s attempting to go straight, the first step is to admit you have a problem.

Then, act. Check out our second-half buy-low candidates. Start canvassing your league for potential trade partners. Look for teams with reliable veteran pitchers who have a track record of handling a full-season workload. Find pitchers, such as Jorge De La Rosa or soon to be Brett Anderson, who are recently back from injury and looking a little rusty.

The worst mistake a fantasy owner whose team is at the top of the standings can make is to assume his team is bulletproof and not in need of tweaking. Get past the ego, admit there’s always room for improvement, and make some proactive moves.

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