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I drafted The Hound in three of four leagues. It would have been all four, but Clark Olson sniped me by a few picks in the Main Event. I like pitchers like Bassitt — reasonably priced veterans with a history of success — but it was the premonition that did the heavy lifting in persuading me, and once I have one share of a player, I’m more likely to buy another, all things being equal.
Bassitt’s first start was the following: 3.1 IP, 9 ER, 4 HR, zero strikeouts. I thought maybe the premonition was the universe’s way of mocking me for believing in such things.
Since that start Bassitt has put up the following numbers: 45.2 IP, 1.97 ERA, .94 WHIP, five wins, 41K and 22 walks. As you can see the peripherals don’t support the stellar results, but those results still count — as long as Bassitt was active for you. Luckily, he was active against the Braves this week in all three of my leagues for his best start. (The Mason Miller injury saved him a benching in one.)
Bassitt has been a good pitcher since 2018. While his velocity is a little down from last year, it’s in line with some of his previous successful seasons, and same for his swinging strike rate and K percentage. The only thing really out of whack are his walks which are way up. Maybe he’s still adjusting to the pitch clock, or maybe it’s just a small sample aberration — who knows? I also don’t mind a little Tom Glavine who would risk walking batters rather than giving in when he was behind in the count. But in contrast to Lance Lynn, Bassitt’s results since the first start have been great, though I think the two should be valued about equally going forward.
I’ve mentioned before the hardest thing about mid-tier pitchers is knowing when to use them, when to bench them and when to drop them. There’s not a huge gap between SP35 and SP75, and one or two good or bad starts can easily see those rankings flip. On the one hand, you want to take the longer view — who are Lynn and Bassitt over the last three years rather than over a one-month sample? — but on the other these aren’t static stat-producing All-Star Baseball cards that will necessarily regress to the mean value of the cards over time.
That is, they will regress to the mean, but the mean is moving, and you can’t be sure whether the information you’re getting from the results is the regression happening or the mean changing. Every breakout sets a new mean for a player, as does every collapse. You could get Paul Goldschmidt in the middle rounds last year, and Manny Machado there two years ago. People thought the mean had moved for them, but it hadn’t, and regression (positively) toward the mean rewarded the owners who used the bigger sample.
The takeaway from this is the results can’t solve this problem for you. Obviously, you can note whether a pitcher has lost velocity (or a batter exit velocity), and you can understand aging patterns, and do your best playing matchups. But as Yogi Berra said, 90 percent of the game is half mental, and that 45 percent doesn’t show up until after the player has made the adjustment, at which point it’s too late.