The Cheap Seats: How do you fix your fantasy baseball pitching staff?

Jose Leclerc #25 of the Texas Rangers
Many fantasy baseball managers who drafted Jose Leclerc are in a state of regret. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

I've worn many different hats in my time at Yahoo, and we've produced different kinds of content. Articles and blogs, podcasts and digital shows, live chats — I suppose it's about time we gave a fantasy baseball mailbag a try.

The Cheap Seats mail bag. (Banner by Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

The Cheap Seats will come your way every Tuesday through the heart of the baseball season. Baseball and fantasy baseball questions go to the front of the line, but we can talk about all sports, life, music, food, travel, pets, movies, just about anything. Catch me at @scott_pianowski on X/Twitter, and away we go.

Great question. We've spent so much time talking about injured pitchers so far this season, but we also have to consider the other potential agony of pitching investment — oftentimes, they get knocked around, and it's scary. Are they secretly hurt, too? Is it going to turn around?

The good news is that you followed a reliable frame for fantasy success — solve the hitting first, figure out the pitching during the year. Walks and strikeouts stabilize quickly for both hitters and pitchers, so my pitcher pickups would largely center on early K/BB leaders, especially if there's a secondary reason that might explain their success. I'm also not afraid to grab high-skill relievers even if they're not immediately getting saves; that's the timeless Ron Shandler advice, prioritizing skills over roles.

The best thing I can tell you is that a base in hitting will always be easy to trade, and the waiver wire is generally stocked with more speculative pitching as opposed to useful hitting. Although I know you are probably tempted to dive in to a fix-it job, I would advise mostly being patient for 2-4 more weeks, then reappraise the situation.

If the shape of your team is the same at that time, you'll surely still be able to trade for pitching, and at that point, you'll have a much clearer idea of what pitchers you should target.

Mason Miller is a nifty symbol of today's pitching environment. The Miller highlights are almost too good to be true; his Sunday save against the Nationals was the filthiest pitching clip I saw last week. But Miller's also throwing well past 100 mph on so many pitches, and you're not human if that doesn't make you nervous.

Mason Miller headshot
Mason Miller
SP - OAK - #19
2024 - false season

I'm curious to see how the Athletics handle Miller forward. Do they give him another run as a starter, knowing a bigger workload would surely help the team more (even with some efficiency giveback), or do they take heart in the fact that he's excelling in a role that might allow him to stay healthier?

Miller's save upside is capped on the lousy Oakland team, but wipeout innings are always welcome on our rosters. I can't promise he'll stay healthy, but he's one of the top 12 fantasy baseball relievers on my clipboard as we stand today. And when Miller heads to the mound, I immediately turn to his channel.

We expected the Reds to be a carnival, and so far, so good. They're fifth in runs, eighth in homers and easily first in both steals and attempts. Must-see TV. Elly's a big part of that, with a .900 OPS, four homers, six steals.

Elly De La Cruz headshot
Elly De La Cruz
SS - CIN - #44
2024 - false season

De La Cruz's under-the-hood stats are about what you expect; he's electric when he makes contact (batted-ball sliders to the right) but still struggling to make contact and put the ball in play (plate discipline and contact sliders to the left).

We're at Choose Your Own Adventure time with De La Cruz. The league adjusted to him last year and he was sub-Mendoza for the second half; there will be some inevitable slumps here. But he's part of a fun offense in a hitter-friendly park, and the Reds are letting everyone run like crazy. If I rostered Elly at the moment, I'd probably adopt a simple rule for prospective trades: If the offer presented isn't an obvious yes, just say no. If you do want to move him for a premium, I suspect one of your rivals will come calling with a FOMO offer soon enough.

I'm glad to see so many of our readers adding Cowser in the last 7-10 days, a high-pedigree player who always looked ready to steal time from Austin Hays. But cutting Bellinger to add Cowser is too reactionary a move. Bellinger's up-down career has been hard to explain over the past few seasons, but he still has too much upside and recent history of production for me to consider cutting him in any format, even very shallow leagues.

My buddy Scott Jenstad had the right tack on this question: yes, you want to add Cowser; just drop someone other than Bellinger to do so.

Spanning the Globe

I don't know who my second favorite actor of all time is, but Philip Seymour Hoffman has always been No. 1. Hoffman was fully capable of carrying a film as the lead (Capote the most obvious example), but my favorite Hoffman roles are probably the supporting efforts.

1. Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. It's a crime Hoffman was not Academy-nominated for his perfect embodiment of Bangs, the mercurial '70s rock critic. Hoffman has four scenes and just under 10 minutes of screen time. Commit every second to memory; he's at the top of his game. Amazingly, Hoffman had the flu the entire time he was shooting the picture.

2. Scotty J. in Boogie Nights. Although Hoffman was grossly underrated for his ability to play characters of strength, he was undeniably brilliant embracing roles that demanded humanity and shocking vulnerability. This is a perfect example of that.

3. Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly. Hoffman's hilarious role as the washed-up child star lacking self-awareness is perfectly played; it validates your 90-minute investment in an otherwise forgettable film. I almost listed Hoffman's lead role in the quirky Love Liza for this final spot, but that's a very dark performance; I wanted to end with something fun.

Another fun Hoffman role (albeit a very small part) is him playing The Mattress Man in the overlooked Punch Drunk Love.

This could have been a separate article; maybe it will be someday. Hoffman's body of work is a treasure. I'm just sad we won't be getting any more of it; I'm still not over his death 10 years ago (where does the time go?), a gut-punch on Super Bowl Sunday.

You know how much I loved this question. I could go on and on about awesome covers; here are a few that first came to mind.

And then there are the timeless cover versions that are so enormous, it's not commonly understood that they were not originals to begin with.

If I go any further with this list, my editors are going to put me on a time-out. Until next week, amigos. Keep those questions coming: scott_pianowski on Twitter/X.