Last year we saw the reemergence of pitchers in fantasy baseball.
Don’t get me wrong—they were always there, but the number of players posting giant offensive stat lines year-in and year-out has been steadily dwindling since Congress started hauling ballplayers to Washington to testify about performance-enhancing drugs.
With that, the number of pitchers turning in solid to above-average numbers is on the rise.
Perhaps it just took a little time for previously buff sluggers to see past production fall off significantly. Or perhaps, like most things, baseball is cyclical and we’re just entering an era where pitching is beginning to dominate hitting again.
Regardless of the reasons behind the shift, a wealth of starting pitching and questionable hitting depth at most positions will allow fantasy baseball owners to bring back an old but proven drafting strategy from seasons gone by. In fact, the pitching depth available almost begs for it.
LIMA, or Low Investment Mound Aces, was a strategy invented by Ron Shandler of baseballhq.com as a draft strategy for the old traditional four-by-four Rotisserie leagues. The strategy itself is named after the late Jose Lima, a pitcher whose 1998 season epitomized the brilliance of the strategy.
To successfully execute the LIMA strategy at your auction draft, look to do the following:
First, in a standard 10-team league, set aside $60 as the maximum out of 260 allocated dollars to spend on a pitching staff. No more than half of that $60 should be spent chasing closers or saves.
Next, determine who to spend money on. According to the LIMA strategy, you should only draft pitchers that meet the following criteria: strikeouts/walks ratio of 2.0 or better, strikeouts per nine innings ratio of 6.0 or better and home runs per nine innings ratio of 1.0 or less.
At the auction, you will want to try to draft as few innings as your league rules will allow. This generally means drafting only three or four starters, assuming a starter will pitch about 170 to 195 innings a year and a reliever will pitch 60 to 70.
This strategy will free you up to spend $200 on offense, and for that kind of money you should be able to draft players that will place you close to, or at the top of, nearly every offensive category. Most importantly, don’t leave a dollar on the table. Be sure to spend all of your money.
While the original LIMA strategy urges the owner to not spend more than $29 on any one hitter, I believe there are cases this year (Albert Pujols, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez) where you can offer up a few extra dollars to get your man. Just remember that if you overspend in one area, you will need to compensate for that in another.
Post-draft, you’re looking for your squad to win or be near the top in all hitting categories and in the upper third of ERA, WHIP and saves. If you can stay above the bottom third in wins, you’re in good shape.
In five-by-five leagues, the goal is to be in the upper half of the strikeout category. Be aware that a 6.0 ratio of strikeouts per nine innings may not get the job done. You may need to push to 7.0 or even 8.0.
According to my calculations, there are right around 50 pitchers who fit the LIMA profile for starters who threw 100 or more innings last season. While many of the obvious names on the list are a "who’s who" of the top 20 or so starters on most cheat sheets, there are also some really intriguing names that could help you pull off the LIMA strategy and take home the title.
Even better, if pitching continues to get stronger across the board this year and you’re able to find a few diamonds in the rough by executing LIMA to perfection, you might be dominating your league from day one.
Stay tuned for Part II and some ideas about pitchers to target.