Where is the line?

Updated: April 18, 2012, 1:58 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

The Talented Mr. Roto
I love "Star Wars." I'm not alone, of course. One of the most successful movie franchises in history, "Star Wars: A New Hope" has grossed almost $800 million worldwide since being released in 1977 -- not accounting for inflation -- before you even start counting what it's made in rentals, Beta and VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Ray, downloads and all the merchandising. (Click here to see my personal favorite.) Like many others, I've lost track of how many times I've seen the movie. Tons. So recently, I was staying at home on a Friday night with the twins, letting Mrs. Roto enjoy a night out with her friends, and I happened upon it on cable. Obi-Wan was dueling Vader to allow Luke and Han to escape with Leia and I knew I was in the rest of the way.

So I tweeted to all in general … "What's the best quote from a Star Wars movie?"

Hundreds of responses came in and I retweeted a bunch of them but I decided the best one is, of course, "Luke, I am your father."

Of course, as soon as I tweeted that, the responses started flying back all pointing out that, while that's the way everyone remembers the quote, it's not actually the quote.

[+] EnlargeDarth Vader
AP Photo/Henny Ray AbramsA long time ago, in a galazy far, far away, Darth Vader delivered the very first "who's your daddy?" taunt to Luke Skywalker.

The correct quote is, (spoiler alert!) after Darth cuts Luke's hand off, he says, "I am your father."

I actually gasped out loud when I saw that scene for the first time (I was an easily surprised kid, apparently). But the point is, it's one of a number of famous movie lines that actually were never actually said.

Like, "Play it again, Sam" is never actually said in Casablanca. The closest Bogart comes to saying it is when he tells the piano player (named Sam), "You played it for her, you can play it for me … if she can stand it I can. Play it!"

"Beam me up, Scotty" was never actually said during the Star Trek TV show. "Just the facts, ma'am" was never said during the original TV show "Dragnet." The quote everyone uses from "The Wizard of Oz" is "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto" but what Dorothy actually said was "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." And that's just the few I found after upwards of two minutes of cruising famous misquotations sites. Which, admittedly, for me, is a lot of research.

In baseball, lots of people like to talk about "The Mendoza Line," which refers to Mario Mendoza, your prototypical all-glove, no-bat shortstop who played from 1974 to 1982. His lack of batting ability became a running joke, but while everyone considers the Mendoza line to be .200, Mario Mendoza actually has a career batting average of .215.

I bring up all of these issues of misperception because there are plenty about "The Wandy Line." It's a simple streaming pitchers philosophy for ESPN standard 10-team leagues which I named after Wandy Rodriguez, whom, at the time, I felt was right on the border between starting pitchers who must be rostered no matter what and guys you can cut and pick back up if the matchup is right, but otherwise not worry about losing. Now, of course, Wandy is well below the Wandy line, but just like Obi-Wan never said, "May the Force be with you" (he actually says "The Force will be with you … always"), I will keep the Wandy Line name because it sounds better than where the line actually stands, which is what we'll establish today.

If you read my preseason Draft Day Manifesto, you know I linked to this chart from our draft kit which showed the average stats you needed in each category to get X number of points, and how many points teams scored in each category, by finishing position, over the past three years. For example, it reveals that teams that finished first in home runs in a 10-team league averaged 310 home runs over the past three years, but that the average first-place team actually finished third (earning eight points) in home runs, which required an average of 280 home runs. That sort of thing.

The chart shows the data for all 10 standard rotisserie categories, but there's one it doesn't show. And it's probably the most important one of all.

At-bats.

Over the past three years, the typical ESPN 10-team standard rotisserie league-winning team has led its league in at-bats.

In addition, the hitting category winning teams score more points in than any other? Runs. Makes sense. As I wrote in my Draft Day Manifesto this year, runs scored is an underrated stat. We're more impressed by big homers and big RBI totals or big batting averages. But runs, while not flashy, are a product of good baseball. You get at-bats and you get on base? You're going to score some runs, along with helping in the other categories, because the more at-bats you get, the more likely you are to get a hit, drive in a run, crank one out of the park or swipe a base. And while you can get multiple RBIs or even multiple steals from one plate appearance, you can score only one run at a time. That is also true for home runs, of course, but not every batter is a home run hitter. But every batter is a potential run scorer. So by making sure you get as many at-bats as possible, you're giving yourself the most chances that something good is going to happen. And if you take an 0-for-5 that day? So be it. You know which category winning teams averaged the least points in the past three years? Batting average.

The pitching category that winning teams averaged the most points in? Strikeouts. Which also makes sense. More strikeouts generally means you are pitching well and you are pitching deeper in games, which gives you a better chance at wins. Plus more innings can more easily absorb those bad ERA and WHIP starts.

I'm not guaranteeing that if you win runs scored, strikeouts and accumulate the most at-bats that you will win your league, but I guarantee you'll be in the running to do so. And that's all we're shooting for in April.

And the key to doing just that? The Wandy Line.

The idea behind the Wandy Line is that it allows you to maximize at-bats and non-starter innings. In ESPN standard leagues, everyone has a 200-start limit. We'll talk about maximizing those 200 starts in a second, but since we all have the same limit, the place to gain an advantage is in every stat you can get without using up one of those 200 starts. There are no limits on how many at-bats you can accumulate or how many innings you can pitch.

[+] EnlargeTim Lincecum
AP Photo/Eric RisbergFor four out of five days, Tim Lincecum's contribution to your squad is to make your roster look pretty by having his name on it.

For four out of every five games, your starting pitchers are not earning you anything. You are getting a zero from that roster slot. And considering you get only three bench slots in ESPN standard leagues, every spot is really, really valuable.

There are some pitchers that are so good, so elite, so consistent that they are worth burning that empty slot for four-day stretches. Those pitchers are considered Above the Wandy Line. There's a secret handshake and everyone gets a decoder ring.

Everyone else is expendable.

Ideally, every single day your starting lineup has an active hitter in all 13 spots, whatever starting pitchers you have actually starting that day are active, and the rest of your slots are occupied by a bunch of relievers -- either closers or high-upside setup guys who get strikeouts and pitch those high-leverage innings in which they can vulture a win (Aroldis Chapman has two already this season) or back into a save.

And how do we accomplish this? By getting rid of any starting pitcher that isn't above the Wandy Line or starting that day. Your three bench spots should be occupied only by ATWL pitchers who aren't starting, or hitters who aren't playing but you can't throw back.

As for the pitching slots, better to have a middle guy that at least has a chance to pitch and contribute. There will be days when those guys don't get in the game, but at least they have a shot. And on those days that they do, those additional strikeouts and quality innings will add up.

So on any given day, your active pitchers are one of three types of players:

• A pitcher who is actually starting that day with a good matchup. • A closer or a good middle reliever who ideally gets strikeouts.
• A starter who is above the Wandy Line but you couldn't bench because you needed those bench slots for hitters who aren't starting and needed to be replaced by pickups.

That's it. If he's a starter who is not above the Wandy Line and is not going today and there's someone on the waiver wire that you could put into your starting lineup that day, then kiss him goodbye. Doesn't always have to be a starter. In fact, with only 200 starts, it shouldn't be a starter a lot of the time. It should be an offensive player to fill a hole that day or a reliever.

Look, I'm writing this on Wednesday. So check out Tuesday's top performances as sorted by our ESPN game score. The 10 best starting pitching performances on that day were by, in order, Danny Duffy, Clayton Kershaw, Neftali Feliz, Ross Detwiler, Edinson Volquez, Trevor Cahill, Kyle Lohse, Kevin Correia, Blake Beavan and Kyle Drabek.

Outside the top 10 were guys like Matt Moore and Tommy Hanson. Of the top 10 pitchers, only Kershaw, Feliz and Lohse (after his Opening Day start) are owned in most leagues. The other seven are widely available. It's only one day and I'm not saying you should drop Moore to start Correia. But pick any day you want. The results are the same. Other than the elite guys, you have just as good a chance as getting a good start out of a guy you streamed in because of a good matchup as you do by starting a solid top-50 starting pitcher.

According to our stats chart, to get third place in ERA the past three years required a 3.46 ERA. To get third place in WHIP, you've needed a 1.22 WHIP. And to get third in strikeouts, you've need 1,343. Which, divided by 200, is 6.7. Which sounds good to me. Let's shoot for at least six strikeouts a game and anything we get from relief will be gravy.

Using those baselines -- 3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and at least six strikeouts -- I looked at every start from last year in which pitchers went at least seven innings while getting at least six strikeouts but giving up two or fewer runs and eight or fewer baserunners. Guess how many pitchers managed to reach those three thresholds 10 times last season, regardless of whether they won?

Keep in mind there were 73 different pitchers who made at least 30 starts last year, so in general we are talking about how many got those numbers in one out of every three starts.

There were 22. That's it. And it's all the names you'd expect: Jered Weaver led the pack with 17, followed by Justin Verlander and Cliff Lee (16 each), James Shields, Kershaw and Dan Haren (15), Ricky Romero, Roy Halladay and Madison Bumgarner (14), Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Yovani Gallardo (13). The only real surprises on the list, if you hadn't paid attention to last season, would be Gavin Floyd with 11 and Doug Fister and Cahill with 10 each.

The point is that it's fewer guys than you think that get those numbers very consistently. And so, it is with those marks (and our projections) in my mind -- a 3.46 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a K/9 of six or more (not the same as six per game, but good enough) -- and with team offense, home park, bullpen and career track record also thrown in there, that I present to you this year's Wandy Line.

[+] EnlargeShaun Marcum
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireSorry, Shaun. We thought of renaming the line for you, but "The Marcum Demarcation" just doesn't have the same right to it.

These pitchers are above the line. They're the guys you should start no matter what and never drop.

Halladay, Verlander, Kershaw, Lee, Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Weaver, CC Sabathia, Haren, Price, Hamels, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Gallardo, C.J. Wilson, Stephen Strasburg, Shields, Adam Wainwright, Ian Kennedy, Bumgarner, Moore, Hanson (while healthy), Josh Johnson (also while healthy) and Mat Latos. Just squeaking above the line are Daniel Hudson, Romero, Brandon Beachy, Matt Garza, Jordan Zimmermann, Josh Beckett and Shaun Marcum.

That's it. That's the list right now: 32 guys. So basically, in a 10-team mixed league, you should have three starting pitchers or so you never cut. Everyone else can be shown the revolving door.

Wheres … ?

So whenever you put out a list like this, be it a top-10, a top-100 or a top-1,000, someone will always ask, "But where's [insert name of omitted person/place/thing here]?" as if the exclusion were merely an oversight at best, or a grievous personal affront at worst. Anticipating certain names to be brought up in this manner, here is my answer.

Jeremy Hellickson: Got lucky last year. His fielding-independent stats showed that he should have fared worse, mostly due to a K/9 rate of 5.57. He's gotta show me that he can either repeat that performance without the K's, or that he can bring that strikeout rate in line with his minor league numbers. Until then, he's below the line.

Ubaldo Jimenez: Could get above, but last year's 1.40 WHIP and his ugly spring still weigh on my mind. Also, he's pitching for a bad team, and while I don't chase wins, I don't run away from them, either.

Yu Darvish: Under the line until proven otherwise. Don't know what we're dealing with yet.

Gio Gonzalez: Love Gio, but career WHIP of 1.42 and never been lower than 1.31, and it's not like he was pitching in a hitters' park.

Anibal Sanchez: Another pitcher whose WHIP is worse than you think.

Max Scherzer: Because there's just a few too many days like this.

Cory Luebke: Need to see another year from him before I'm sold. I can't go there just yet, but I do love him, and I have faith he'll finish the season above the line.

Chris Carpenter: Can't stay healthy. If you have someone else you need to use your DL slot for, show Carp the door.

Johnny Cueto: Declining K/9 rate and health concerns.

I know it'll seem weird sometime when you cut a "big-name" pitcher for some middle reliever, but trust me, in a 10-team mixed league, you'll be able to find the 100 or so starts you need to fill out the 100 or so you'll get from your three ATWL guys. Read our daily notes to find those pickups, maximize your at-bats and relief innings and concentrate on quantity over quality. It's elementary, my dear Watson. Words, incidentally, that were never actually spoken by Sherlock Holmes in any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is partial to Yoda's wise "Do or do not. There is no try." Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"