Fantasy Pitching Strategy: How To Add An Ace in May


David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Is Dellin Betances owned in your league? There’s a good chance that he’s not. He’s only owned in 2% of ESPN leagues and 7% of Yahoo leagues. There’s a good chance those numbers will rise after last night’s performance that included six straight strikeouts and had the Mets looking foolish (make sure you stay to see how absolutely clueless they were).  Let’s take a look at how the fantasy pitching strategy of adding a middle reliever might be able to help your fantasy squad and how pairing him with just an above average pitcher gives you the effect of adding an ace.

His Stats

If you’re not familiar with what he’s been doing this season, Betances is sporting 1.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and he’s struck out 39 batters in 22.1 innings pitched. One really nice thing about him is that the Yankees have let him pitch more than just one inning at a time, like your typical late-inning reliever. He’s already had ten outings where he went more than one inning.

How To Think About This

It’s very difficult to quantify the effect that adding a middle reliever will have on your team. Especially when you’ll likely be dropping a struggling starting pitcher to make room for him. It’s hard to understand how much impact a pitcher with only 20 IP this season will have and compare this to someone who might still reach the 180-200 IP by the end of the season. How much can this small pool of reliever innings really help?

When you’re faced with difficult looking decisions, it can be helpful to involve additional players in your analysis. I wrote about this phenomenon using hitters as the example. The concept is called “widening your decision making frame“. In this case, let’s take a look at what happens if we combine Betances with an average or unspectacular pitcher.

Combine Him With Others

I’ll present you Betances combined with a couple of boring guys so it doesn’t seem like I’m stacking the deck or cherry-picking examples. I’ve chosen the unspectacular duo of Jose Quintana and Phil Hughes. Nothing too sexy there, right? Let’s take a look:

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That’s Great, But You Said This Would Add an “Ace” to My Team

Alright. Let’s get a little more aggressive. How about Betances and a pitcher who might be taking a big step forward this year, Rick Porcello.

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For comparison purposes, here’s what Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto, two of the hottest pitchers in baseball, have done thus far:

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Cueto and Wainwright are out of their mind right now. They might be able to pull off sub-3.00 ERAs for the season, but to stay below 2.00 is really unlikely. And outside of the ERA difference, the pair of Betances and Porcello compares well. The strikeouts fall between Cueto and Wainwright.  WHIP is reasonably close.

There Are Others

If Betances has already been snagged, take a look at Wade Davis, Cody Allen, or Andrew Miller. Hedge your bets with a guy that might assume a closer role, like Jake McGee. Or keep an eye on Jake Diekman of the Phillies who has put up similar stats to Betances but has been bitten by a few too many HRs to this point.


I make this sound like a no-brainer.  But in reality, this is not an easy move to make. In certain leagues, bench spots are at a premium. Or it’s a deep league in which you’re holding onto a player with great potential (Jonathan Singleton, Trevor Bauer, Kevin Gausman, etc.). In situations like these, your best move may be to gamble on that potential. Just make sure you’re fully considering the effect something like this could have on your team. After all, what’s better – two pitchers with a 4.00 ERA or two pitchers with a combined 3.20 ERA?

There are times when it makes sense to hang onto that lottery ticket pitcher, like a struggling Danny Salazar, and then there are times when you just need to give up on buying lottery tickets and make the smart play by saving your $5 every day. We’re now nearly seven weeks into the season. If you’re struggling in rate categories like ERA and WHIP, it’s time to make a move now before it becomes too difficult to move the needle in those stats.