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Should You Have A Bigger Bench For Hitters Or Pitchers In Fantasy Baseball?

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher PJ Walters sits on the bench after coming out of the game in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on June 1, 2010. Walters gave up seven runs as Cincinnati won the game 9-8. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

It’s a fair question for any fantasy baseball manager to ponder. So let us ponder it and try to put together a universal answer that makes sense for each of the 11 million fantasy baseball owners that  have a different team on a different game system with different league scoring settings.

As the season goes on in fantasy baseball, carrying a bigger bench for hitters or pitchers is a pretty tough thing to strategize – especially for first time owners. No doubt, players will need to respond to injuries on both sides of the team as the year goes on. Filling in around weak spells for both ends of your lineup is also necessary to win your league.

This is a pretty loaded question – so we realize there’s a couple different things to consider.

Should you have a bigger bench for hitters or pitchers?

Since we totally understand that we’re going pretty generic here with the advice, we will provide two different answers – one for roto scoring fantasy baseball leagues, and one for head to head fantasy baseball leagues.

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy talks to the bullpen during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field in Denver on May 10, 2010 in Denver. UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Roto Leagues: Pitchers

Because of the way roto leagues are scored, fantasy baseball players in roto ball should carry a bigger bench for pitchers. These leagues have a limit on position plays (normally 162) at all the hitter positions and an innings limit on pitchers (normally 1458 – or 162 games multiplied by 9 innings). Taking injuries out of consideration because they are unpredictable, most times a roto baseballer is going to play the starters they selected on draft day at each position for 162 games. Are you really going to play another first baseman over Pujols for any of his 162 available plays in roto? The Machine is an extreme case, of course, but you get the point.

In contrast to the hitting side of roto, the statistics on the pitching side of roto leagues are tracked by a total number of innings. There’s no question that Roy Halladay is must start whenever he takes the mound in fantasy baseball. However, some starts he may get rocked and only go three innings. Now, your innings total is still docked those three innings when Halladay gets hammered, but it is much easier to pick up the other 3-6 innings you need to recover with closers, relievers, or another starter than it is to get the counting stats you need back from benching Pujols.

Because of the way stats are tracked in fantasy baseball, it’s best to carry a bigger bench of pitchers in roto ball.

June 3, 2010: Indians bench during the MLB baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.

Head To Head Leagues: Hitters

If you play fantasy baseball in a head to head league, the answer to this question is completely different. A lot of head to head leagues allow daily lineup changes, and this is where the value in having a bigger bench of hitters is beneficial.

Monday and Thursday are common travel days in Major League Baseball, meaning as much as half the league can be traveling on those days to the destination of their next series. Because of these days and the allowance of daily lineup changes in most H2H’s, head to head leaguers can benefit from having a bigger bench of hitters because they will be able to insert fill-in infielders and outfielders. This ability to place fill-in where everyday starters would normally play will likely increase the totals of “counting” stats (runs, home runs, RBI, and steals in standard 5×5 leagues).

By comparison, the only pitcher counting stats in 5×5 leagues are strikeouts and saves.

The Short Answer

In roto leagues – stock up on closers (3 minimum starting) and quality starting pitchers on your bench. Reduce the effect of a bad outing by a starting pitcher. You have almost 1500 mound innings to log in roto, make sure you use them for maximum point potential. In the second half of the season, leverage as many two-start pitchers as possible if you are behind in innings.

As an added roto tip – play as many starting pitchers as possible the day your team hits the innings limit. Generally, all stats accumulated on that day (no matter when your team officially went “over” the limit) are counted towards your season long total.

In head to head leagues – stock your bench with hitters. Playing as full a lineup as possible on Mondays and Thursdays – when around 50% of the league travels – will allow you to stock up on counting stats like home runs and steals, where the totals are often close and an extra steal or homer can really make a difference.

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