Fantasy Baseball Paradox – Hitters Pitching and Pitchers Hitting

After the Mets vs. Cardinals game on Saturday, April 17, 2010 that went 20 innings, I have been asked for my thoughts on whether offensive players should get credit (or demerits) for their pitching statistics if they are thrown out on the mound.  This bizarre game saw two Cardinals’ position players (Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather) take the mound and pitch because St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa ran out of bullpen arms and refused to use any of his other starting pitchers.  Mather ended up taking the loss in the 20th inning.  This game seemed like it belonged in the Biff Tannen-dominated alternate parallel universe that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited after losing the Sports Almanac. 

Sadly the outcome of the Mets vs. Cardinals was a decade too late and not included in the Sports Almanac.

This question has a fairly simple answer that can best be summed up by asking another question – does your fantasy baseball league give credit for pitchers’ offensive statistics?  Without having any specific data, I would surmise that 99% of all fantasy baseball leagues do not count offensive statistics for pitchers.  Perhaps one of the only circumstances where pitchers’ offensive statistics counted would be an NL-only league.  Of course, the AL pitchers will seldomly get to hit during interleague games in National League ballparks.  But the National League pitchers are the ones who hit more frequently and would be the only ones that could sensibly be counted.  However, it seems that outside of Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez, and a handful of others, no pitcher would be worth monitoring for offensive statistics. 

To count pitching statistics for a position player would be even more senseless.  At least a pitcher is in the game at his specified position (ok, in rare scenarios pitchers do play the field like Jesse Orosco in 1986 and Kyle Lohse this past Saturday).  But in almost every instance, a pitcher is batting in the lineup at his designated position – pitcher.  When a position player takes the mound, this is clearly not his specified position.  It is usually done in a blow-out game where the manager doesn’t want to burn up his bullpen arms in a mop-up role.  Or, it could happen in an extra-inning game when every other pitcher has been used – just like on April 17, 2010.

Felipe Lopez was the first Cardinal position player to take the mound.  In most fantasy leagues, he qualifies at multiple infield positions due to games played in 2009.    During fantasy baseball drafts, you may have noticed Felipe Lopez was not a choice to select from in the pitchers’ lists or rankings.  Why is this?  Because he is not a pitcher.  So he is thrown into this game out of desperation and happened to have accumulated statistics, including surrendering one hit and one walk.  While the hit and walk count for the players who achieved them (the exception being if it was a pitcher), these statistics do not count for Lopez in fantasy baseball.  He is an infielder and accumulated points and statistics for what he does at the plate.  He is not a designated pitcher in real baseball or fantasy baseball.  So just like a pitcher may lose fantasy points for surrendering a homerun to an opposing pitcher, the pitcher who hit the homerun will not be awarded those points either.  Joe Mather was credited with the loss, but this should not count against his personal fantasy statistical accumulation.  The only exception that would apply across the board is in leagues that contain entire team pitching staffs and receive points or debits for wins, losses, earned runs, etc.  Here, while Mather is clearly not a pitcher, he was pitching for the Cardinals and the team sustained a loss.  So in this case, his loss would count and there is no debate on that point.

These circumstances are rare and may only come up a handful of times during the season.  But it is still something that is debatable and could be interpreted in multiple ways.  If your fantasy league allows pitchers to accumulate offensive points, then it only makes sense to allow position players to accumulate pitching points.  If your league does not count pitchers’ offensive statistics, then in no way should you count position players’ pitching statistics. 

Fantasy Judgment recommends that league Commissioners address this issue in your league constitutions so there is no ambiguity in its interpretation.

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