Those who have followed my columns over the years are well aware of my tendency to build a fantasy team around hitting in the draft, leaving the pitching spots to the bargains, breakout candidates and sleepers of the later rounds. The thinking is that pitching as a whole can be unpredictable, so why take the risk with your premium picks?
The question then becomes, what qualifies a pitcher as that bargain, breakout or sleeper candidate ideal to nab in those later rounds? There's no exact science, but when I'm scouting pitchers, I analyze a pitcher's defense-independent statistics, or his "command ratios," numbers that include his strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed rates. Sure, that doesn't account for a pitcher whose entire arsenal is rather hittable, but it does identify pitchers less likely to make mistakes, and therefore "safer" choices for fantasy.
The safest choices, in my mind, met all of the following criteria in 2006: