Daily Archives: January 31, 2012

Assessing the Value of Baseball’s 5th Starter

Tuesday January 31st, 2012

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): People often downplay the value of a fifth starter. For one, they are frequently skipped over, and they are also often prospects or just a temporary solution. However, security at the fifth spot in the rotation can have a huge impact on a team’s success. What I look for from a fifth starter is a guy who can give me 6 innings a game and yield an ERA near 4.50. After all, a start consisting of 6 innings and 3 runs qualifies as a quality start. An ideal fifth starter will eat innings and keep the team in the game.

One of the reasons I am optimistic of the New York Yankees chances in 2012 is due their recently added starting pitching depth. Clearly their weakness in 2011, the Yanks now has a rotation that is seven-deep, with Burnet and Garcia looking to be the odd men out. However, with Burnett’s struggles and Garcia’s durability issues, this is the right place for them to start the 2012 season. Burnett in particular will benefit form less pressure and chances are injuries will present an opportunity for both of these veterans to step up. The best-case scenario for the Yankees is that they don’t need these two and that the top five (Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda, Nova, and Hughes) thrive. What makes the Yankees so dangerous is that it’s even hard to identify their fifth starter, as Kuroda, Nova, and Hughes are more of the number three type. Given Kuroda’s advanced age, I expect him to hold down the fifth spot with great consistency.

For rebuilding teams, it is understandable if the number 4 and 5 pitching slots rotate like revolving door. This allows prospects to get a chance to shine and the organization has the opportunity to see who is for real. But for a team that wants to be a true competitor, like the Yankees, it is essential that the fifth spot is locked down and that there is insurance within the organization.

People will often overlook the value of a fifth starter because they argue that they will not be needed come playoffs. However, a team better have an adequate fifth starter to position themselves to not only be in the postseason but also be in the strongest and healthiest form during October. Looking deeper into the subject, what really makes a quality fifth starter and pitching depth important for a team? First and foremost, it allows for a bullpen that can be fresher and also more strategically used. Nothing masks weaknesses in the bullpen like strong starting pitching. Furthermore, in the instances where a fifth starter is skipped, a quality arm can be added to the bullpen.

In fantasy baseball, the same concept about the fifth starter (or depth in general) is just as relevant. Even with three aces on your staff, you will need to find innings elsewhere. That’s why it is important to have several options and strong depth, allowing you to pick and choose wise starts based on matchups, ballparks, etc. True for major league and fantasy teams, the back-end starters won’t win you a championship alone. However, they are essential for the team to thrive and realize the value provided by the top of the rotation studs.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

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