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The True Value of Two-Start Pitchers: A Deep Dive

Last season for Fantrax HQ, I wrote a series of articles that previewed the Two-Start pitchers for the week ahead. I often used my recommendations to make free agent pickups and tended to find myself constantly picking up the top available streamer in my various leagues. However, I very rarely looked back and reviewed the results of two-start pitchers. The unfortunate delay to the baseball season has allowed me to look back at the 2019 season.


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The True Value of Two-Start Pitchers

Introduction

I wanted to see how the weekly fantasy value compared between two-start pitchers and those who only made one start per week. To do this I pulled the game logs from every single start in 2019 and determined the week they fell into. I merged the first week of the season (Japan games) with the actual first week but everything else ran on its own.

The goal was to see if two-start pitchers will always carry more value than a single-start pitcher regardless of the skillset of the pitcher. Overall, I do not think this will hold but I wanted to find out at what level of pitchers is the two-start week always more valuable. I broke the pitchers up into five groups:

Elite: Sub 3.25 seasonal ERA

Above-Average: Between 3.25 and 3.75 seasonal ERA

Average: Between 3.75 and 4.25 seasonal ERA

Below-Average: Between 4.25 and 4.75 seasonal ERA

Poor: Over 4.75 seasonal ERA

Points Leagues

GSERA_GroupNumAVGCountRate
2Elite97 33.220.96
2Above-Average9927.090.87
2Average18322.260.83
2Below-Average15621.680.76
1Elite38315.330.71
2Poor25314.020.62
1Above-Average39612.900.60
1Average67911.100.55
1Below-Average56310.090.50
1Poor11786.100.33

First off I decided to take a look at how two-start pitchers fared in points leagues. For this, I used the scoring for Fantrax Best Ball leagues. The idea here was to essentially show how valuable or important it is to have a wide base of pitchers to work with. Having a large number of pitchers means that you will most likely have at least one two-start pitcher per week. Stacking them can be important o massive point totals.

Everything is fairly self-explanatory except the CountRate column. This column shows the frequency with which a player in that given tier had a top 80 point total. This was essentially my proxy value for startable. The incredible thing is that based on my data, compared to single start pitchers, the two start pitchers were more valuable on average than even the elite options for all tiers except the “Poor” group. Their average point total was only marginally worse than the average one start elite and their Hit Rate was only slightly lower.

So for those of you in points leagues, that may not be best ball, load up on as many two-start pitchers are you can regardless of their overall skillset. The probabilities show that they are likely more valuable than all starters outside of the elite group.

Roto Leagues

GSERA_GroupNumAVGSGPCountRateSGP
2Elite97 0.980.90
2Above-Average990.690.74
2Average1830.480.71
2Below-Average1560.400.61
1Elite3830.450.71
2Poor2530.060.43
1Above-Average3960.350.65
1Average6790.280.59
1Below-Average5630.210.53
1Poor11780.020.37

Using the same general idea, I looked at each given week and calculated the Standings Gain Points for Roto formats. Using the numbers and formulas found at Smart Fantasy Baseball for a 12-Team league, I was able to come up with an estimate for a given week’s Roto value.

Immediately off the bat, we can see how overall pitcher quality matters much more here. While the Poor tier was able to keep up with the Elite one start options in Points formats, it still lags significantly behind in Roto formats. My assumption for this is that high WHIP and ERA totals are much more detrimental in Roto than they are in points formats.

However, we do see an interesting trend with the Roto numbers. Both Average and Above-Average two-start pitchers are more valuable than even Elite single start types and Below-Average arms out-earn Average and Above-Average single start pitchers. Although, the Above-Average single start pitchers have a better hit rate than the Below-Average two-start types.

Comparable Value of Two-Start Pitchers

So the big question is how does this make me a better player? Each team and each league are different on average, but two-start pitchers of any non-awful skill set will be a safer and more profitable play than a pitcher of a tier immediately above them. When it comes to FAAB, it is important to evaluate each two-start option in front of you to determine what tier of pitchers you are bidding on.

Based on this information, I am going to modify the way I present the information in my weekly two start column. Each week I will place the predicted starters into there same tiers based on projected full-season ERA. This will be extremely helpful in deciding between pitchers but also deciding between two-start and single start options. In a world with fewer games and fewer innings to go around, finding and hitting on the correct two-start options could be massive.

I want to take advantage of the extra offseason to enhance my in-season content. This was just an introductory look at the value of two-start pitchers and it is something I want to go further into. Feel free to reach out with any ideas or questions that you may have but are not sure how to dive into.


For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content and updating everything the minute we know when the season will start!


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2 Comments
  1. Joseph Iannone says

    Good read Paul. And, whether you intended to do this or not, you pretty much reinforced what we have been doing for a long time. Trying to get as many 2 start pitchers as possible. I try to take it up one more notch than that. I look at a pitchers match ups. You increase your odds of a great week by grabbing the 2 start pitchers who have good match ups for the week. Deploying an average tier righty pitcher on the road against a team that is struggling against righties at home will likely give you a lot more bang for your buck than an average tier righty on the road against a team that is killing righties at home. The first guy is the one you want to spend extra FAAB bucks on or try to corral before anyone else does. The other guy might kill you for the week. Math is great, but i think one needs to mix in a look at the teams and player involved. I use wOBA against data from Fangraphs in my spot starting articles “Pick Your Spots” at Major League Fantasy Sports . com. Thanks for your advice and insight,
    Joe Iannone

  2. tim williams says

    Appreciate the article. Will be following throughout the season.
    Cheers

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