Commentary

The Wandy Line

Updated: April 27, 2011, 12:03 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

Best as I can tell, there are 12.

Famous lines, I mean. Twelve lines that have cracked the public consciousness. By lines, of course, I mean actual "lines," either real or imagined, not words of movie dialogue.

The Talented Mr. Roto

Here's how I rank the current most famous lines:

12. Mason-Dixon Line.
11. Blue line.
10. The line in the sand.
9. The free throw line.
8. The thin line that is between love and hate.
7. Three-point line.
6. The line you don't cross.
5. The dotted line.
4. The yellow line.
3. The end of the line.
2. The Mendoza Line.

And because it's both where the buck stops and because I am a company man,

1. The Bottom Line.

Sure, you could argue for the thin line that Huey Lewis walks on, or Johnny Cash's line, but I'll put that under "others receiving votes" and stick with just 12 lines that everyone has heard of, understands and, in many cases, follows. I am hoping to add to that.

Regular listeners to the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast I do with Nate Ravitz are already familiar with my concept of the "Wandy Line."

According to our average draft results here on ESPN.com (based on standard 10-team mixed leagues), Wandy Rodriguez was the 25th starting pitcher drafted this past year. I also happen to have a long-standing obsession with the man only I call "WayRod."

The basic premise of the Wandy Line is that there are about 25 starting pitchers who need to be owned and started at all times in all leagues. Those are the guys "above the line." Everyone else? Expendable. Or "below the line." In a 10-team mixed league, there is so much quality starting pitching available this year that you can play matchups, stream pitchers and do just as well as you can if you have some of these bigger-name pitchers on your roster all year long. And any difference between the two staffs will be more than made up for by the improvements you make to other parts of your team.

With only 10 teams in a league and each with only a three-man bench (plus one DL slot), it means two very simple things: There are lots of free agents available, and you don't have a lot of extra roster slots to play with. In all fantasy leagues, the key to success is maximizing value, right? We all understand that.

The Wandy Line is an in-season strategy about maximizing value in two ways. First, it's about improving other areas of your team that aren't starting pitching. There are lots of pitchers with big names whom you can trade for help in areas where you need it. These are guys who are owned in 100 percent of leagues but are below the Wandy Line.

It also hopefully frees you up from the mindset of "I have to start this guy." No, actually, you don't. Because the guys below the line are not every-day starters, even if they have a big name and are owned in 100 percent of leagues. In a standard league, you have a 200-start limit, which works out to roughly one start per day -- the season being roughly 180 game days long -- so you can afford to be selective.

But let's put the theory to the test. First, who is "above the Wandy Line?"

Here's the list of pitchers I feel are guys who should be started every time out, no questions asked, in basically the order I've thought of them. This isn't a ranking, it's a grouping.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Chris Carpenter, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Josh Johnson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tommy Hanson, David Price, Chad Billingsley, Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Roy Oswalt, Shaun Marcum, Jhoulys Chacin, Gio Gonzalez and, for now, Yovani Gallardo. That's my list.

You could make arguments for Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano, Mat Latos, Trevor Cahill, John Danks and a few other guys, and that's fine. This is my list. The point is, the group isn't much more than these guys.

For example, here are some guys owned in more than 60 percent of leagues whom I would have no problem trading or in some cases dropping to open up a slot for streaming starting pitchers:

Clay Buchholz, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Travis Wood, Jeremy Hellickson, Gavin Floyd, Jordan Zimmermann, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Drabek and Edinson Volquez, just to give a few names.

But let's put my theory to the test. I asked the great Alvin Anol of ESPN Stats & Information to look at the past three days of pitching. I'm writing this Wednesday night, so that seems random enough. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this past week.

Ideally, you want strikeouts, but to keep this simple, let's look at how many starting pitchers had starts either of six innings with at most two earned runs or of seven innings and three earned runs or less. (Remember, the ERA of a "quality start" can be as much as 4.50, which is why we're not using that as a benchmark.). I'm also gonna throw out anyone who gave up more than nine hits and walks combined. Because this is better (and statistically different) from a quality start, we'll call this a "Matty start" because I'm egocentric like that.

So look at his list of every starting pitcher from this past Sunday:

OK, first let's get rid of the guys who are above the Wandy Line: Billingsley, Carpenter, Hamels, Haren, Sabathia, Lester, Hanson and, for now, Gallardo. Now, how many qualified for a "Matty start"?

There were seven: Cahill (owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues), Fausto Carmona (9 percent), Livan Hernandez (1 percent), Brian Duensing (7 percent), Jeff Francis (10 percent), Marco Estrada (1 percent), Michael Pineda (63 percent), and that's it.

Jason Marquis (1 percent), Anibal Sanchez (39 percent) and Brett Myers (100 percent) don't qualify because they had 10 or more combined hits plus walks.

Of those seven, we'll call two "unavailable" because they were guys you couldn't just pick up: Cahill and Pineda, although I bet the latter's ownership was lower before Sunday, seeing as he's one of the most-added players in the game. But whatever. We'll say two. Leaving five guys you could have just grabbed. If you want to add the three disqualified guys (each had exactly 10 total hits plus walks), it becomes seven "widely available free agents" and three "guys below the Wandy Line who are owned all over but whom I feel you could trade or drop."

The argument against, of course, is: What if I choose wrong? There were lots of widely available free agents who were terrible. That's true. But there were also widely owned guys with "bad" games; Hellickson, Sabathia, Bumgarner, Gallardo, Hanson and Dempster.

But that was just one day. Let's do that again, this time for this past Monday.

Again, we throw out the guys above the Wandy Line: Price, Lincecum, Marcum and Scherzer.

Here's who met our criteria Monday: Kevin Correia (25 percent), Carlos Zambrano (52 percent), Daisuke Matsuzaka (4 percent), Ted Lilly (89 percent), Tim Stauffer (5 percent), Joe Blanton (3 percent), Kyle Davies (1 percent), Jason Vargas (1.3 percent). (Wilson and Liriano don't qualify because each had at least 10 walks plus hits.)

Similarly to Sunday, we show six free agents and just two (Lilly and Zambrano) you would have had trouble picking up. And again, big-name guys such as Liriano, Hudson and Romero struggled just like some of the no-name guys.

Once more for good measure … here's Tuesday.

Once again, we lose the guys above the Wandy Line: Halladay, Wandy himself, Jimenez and Johnson.

Here are our qualifiers: James Shields (87 percent), Brett Anderson (100 percent), Danks (100 percent), Bruce Chen (15 percent), Hiroki Kuroda (100 percent), Doug Fister (1 percent), Jonathan Sanchez (100 percent), Jake Arrieta (1 percent), Brandon Beachy (5 percent), Randy Wolf (17 percent), John Lackey (35 percent), Matt Palmer (0 percent).

The "owned by many guys" make their strongest showing yet: Anderson, Danks, Kuroda and Sanchez, plus Shields. Five guys compared with Chen, Fister, Arrieta, Beachy, Wolf, Lackey and Palmer (seven guys). So on our best day of the three-day sample, it's still 7-to-5 for widely available free agents versus widely owned guys.

The argument here is still that it's much more likely a guy such as Danks or Sanchez will have a good game (and you feel much more confident starting those guys) than someone such as Palmer (at Texas, no less!). And I get it. Like any theory, it's not something that applies to every situation across the board with no thought. But I feel this does illustrate a fairly strong point.

Every night, excluding guys above the Wandy Line, there are more free-agent pitchers on your waiver wire who will perform well in a spot start than there are on the rosters of teams in your league. There will be some people in your league who will overvalue name starting pitching, and hopefully you can take advantage and improve your team with the knowledge that there are guys out there.

Ideally, you have a loaded offense and your entire three-man bench is pitchers you can stream in and out with your other starters while keeping four or five relievers on your team, so you can get innings to help keep ERA and ratio low while getting some saves and cheap wins.

We do a feature here on ESPN.com called " Daily Notes." It's remarkably helpful for specifically this kind of strategy.

Which pitchers are above and below the Wandy Line will change a little in the course of the season, but hopefully the concept gives you some ideas and some courage on how to shape your roster. Just because you don't know their names doesn't mean they can't be useful. Hear that a lot at bars, as well.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- isn't convinced Wandy will continue to be above the Wandy Line, but he's hopeful. 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. He is a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend

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