We have a bit of a light lineup this week due to some off days on Monday and Thursday, so Week 19 will be more of a challenge to find value among the Two-Start Starters. It sounds like Max Scherzer is going to be healthy enough to go and make his two starts, but that only helps out Scherzer owners and not the rest of us who are looking for some available value.

Even Streamonator is down on Week 19, as there weren’t any available starters owned in less than 75% of RCLs with a positive dollar value. There is one possible exception to that statement*, but we’re not going to let statistically-based advice from Streamonator stop us from rolling the dice this week, right?

There are, however, a few starters in our Replicas that I would roll with this week who might be available in your leagues. It will likely be harder to grab at least two of these starters in an RCL where waivers and ownership are a bit more savage, but all three are owned in less than 75% of ESPN leagues.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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Greetings from beautiful Sandestin, FL. I am on vacation for a long holiday weekend, but I am so dedicated to Razznation that I am taking time away from the beach to make sure you still have the information and insight you desire this week.

Before we get started, feel free to ignore Clayton Kershaw. I have no inside information that he might not start twice this week, but it seems that every week that he is on the list Dave Roberts and the Dodgers change things up on us. Going forward, if he is on the list, just assume that he will be removed. If he is not on the list, assume he will be added. Roberts and Co. are determined to tinker with their rotation every week, possibly just to mess with us. Since he is scheduled to start twice as of this writing, I assume that that will no longer be the case by the time you are reading this roughly 18 hours from now.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

I was originally excited to focus on Baby Thor Mike Clevinger in my first post taking over the Two-Start Starters for [email protected], but the rainout on Thursday threw everything out of whack. So, I had to pivot and focus on what’s going on in Seattle. Enter Ariel Miranda and Sam Gaviglio.

Of the two starters for the Mariners right now, Miranda is the one to target. To be honest, neither one is likely to be a long-term fix for your rotation. Gaviglio is a 27-year old who has an ERA of 4.01 over seven seasons in the minor leagues, while Miranda is a 28-year old Cuban who had moderate success in the Cuban National Series and the minors. Both are scheduled to start two games next week for the Mariners.

At first glance, it would appear that Gaviglio is the tasty treat that a starter-needy fantasy owner should target. After all, he has the shiny 1.29 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Unfortunately, not only is that a very small sample size, but there are some pretty serious red flags. For starters, while he only gave up one run against the Nationals, he only struck out one batter in six innings. That shiny ERA is also aided by the fact that he actually gave up five runs, but just the one was earned. Against the White Sox in his previous start, he went five innings and only struck out two batters. In his two starts this season, he has thrown 11 innings and struck out just three batters.

But that’s not it, here is the bigger issue with Gaviglio. His ERA might be 1.29, but his FIP currently sits at 4.22. At 2.93, his FIP-to-ERA ratio is the highest of any of the 40+ two-start starters in week 9. Between his lack of strikeouts, his lackluster career in the minors, and his inflated FIP-to-ERA ratio, you better believe he is going to regress to the mean sooner rather than later. Ignore that ERA and stay away from Sammy G.

As for Miranda, I like him more and hate him less. While he doesn’t have the same sub-2.00 ERA as Gaviglio, he does have an 8.75 K/9, a less hideous .40 FIP-to-ERA, and a 5.77 K/9-to-BB/9 ratio. While he has had a couple of disastrous starts this season, he also has six starts in which he has given up two runs or fewer. You could do worse than Miranda as a two-starter starter. In fact, you could have Gaviglio. Both should be available in more than 75% of leagues. Despite the fact that the Mariners visit the Rockies next week, there are worse options for two-start starters…

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

An 8.90 K/9? Who does Clayton Kershaw think he is…Madison Bumgarner? (Ooo, shots fired). Now, obviously this is all in jest, even the title, because King Kershaw is the model of consistency when it comes to fantasy baseball, and the only pitcher even remotely worth considering within the top 15 picks. So, here we are in the middle of May and Kershaw’s once again dominating to the tune of a 7-2 record, a 2.15 ERA and 7.75 K/BB ratio. Why the focus, then?

Last season it was a 15.64 K/BB ratio with a 1.69 ERA and a 10.39 K/9. A whole ‘mother stratosphere. But let’s not get it twisted: nothing’s wrong with the Dodgers ace. He still holds a .205 BAA, is inducing more soft contact than last year, and is maintaining that precious velocity across all his pitches (or enough of a gap in velo to make him so dangerous). No, if anything the problem is what we saw out of him last year. Did you take Kershaw in the 1st round this year? Good for you, but the chasm between him and the next best pitchers just isn’t as expansive as we saw in 2016. This version of Kershaw is the normal version of Kershaw that’s consistent with what we’ve seen with him across his entire career. And yes, it’s one of the most impressive careers in history, even at 29 years old.

It’s the difference betwixt (it’s just more enjoyable to write that) him and the others that is significant in the conversation. In the Two-Start asks this week you’ll see a bevy of strong options up there alongside the undisputed. To wrap it up, nothing’s wrong with Clayton Kershaw, he’s just back to normal and a few others are still doing they’re just-behind-him-thing.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

What if I told you John Lackey’s been the best Cubs pitcher so far this year? And nope, there’s no wink coming on the other side of that. Now, of course the word ‘best’ lends to high subjectivity, but arguably the fourth-most owned Cubs SP just may be posting the best season…even if his surface stats don’t tell that story. So, let’s start the story off right.

With a haiku:

Under the surface
Lies a fantasy monster
Named Long-face Lackey

To my surprise, I recently found Lackey available in an RCL. While starting pitchers are less valuable in those leagues (little tip for the newbies), Lackey more than deserves to be on a roster. When examining 4.29 ERA I know you think, ‘Oh, sugar plum fairies I must have this guy on my team!’ But since none of you have actually said, ‘Oh sugar plum fairies’ about anything, I know that’s just not true. Looking deeper, though, you see a K/9 that’s up a full point from last year. That’s matched by an ERA rise of a full point, too, but the xFIP (which takes HR away) says he’s on the exact same pace as last season: 3.35. There’s a 19% HR/FB rate sitting in his stat line, which is roughly 60% higher than what you should expect from John Lackey. Another part of the culprit? A .310 BABIP. It’s not crazy high, but when you consider that almost half of balls hit against him are ground balls it adds up.

End of the day are we looking at another Cubs Cy Young winner? Nope, but when Jon Lester walking more and sitting with one win, Jake Arrieta has an ERA north of 5.00, and Kyle Hendrick holds only a 2:1 K/BB ratio, a case can be made for Lackey taking the current crown. The others may be better in the long run, but Lackey’s lack of luck is the only thing noted against him right now. Not much else is lacking…

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

A friend of mine is incredible at dynasty fantasy football. I’ve seen him steal Odell Beckham Jr. at the 10th pick in a rookie draft. He fleeced the owners of one league into acquiring 6 first round draft picks in the same year. An orphan team that finished at the bottom the two previous years finished in the money his first season after adopting it. It’s ridiculous (and frustrating owning against him). But the phrase he uses to describe how he does it is completely perfect: “You gotta be a shark.”

Coincidence I mention dynasty fantasy football? Nope! Be on the lookout for Razzball’s first venture into dynasty football in the next few days! It’s by far the better version of fantasy football, and I’ll give ya all the rankings you need.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

You may think I’m high for this. In the slack channel for the #Razz30 our very own @Ralph Lifshitz himself mentioned that the Mets 5th man Robert Gsellman just may not be that good. And he may be right. Or…maybe not?

Don’t all race to raise your hands when I ask who wants a SP with a 6.23 ERA that just got lit up by my still-one-year-away Atlanta Braves. I know that’s not exciting, just like if Phil asked ‘Who wants a mustache ride?‘ above. But what if the Phil Dunphy wisdom bomb in that gif actually plays out with our highlighted man? What if Ralph’s wrong and we’re dealing with a great buy low option?

Now that I feel like I’ve used-car salesman’d (yep, we’re making that a verb) you for 30 seconds, let’s cut to the chase. The Mets rotation has more red crosses in it than the road in Mereen after Daenerys crucified the previous slavers. And that was a bloody mess. Awful to see. I’m not totally sure what’s happening to seemingly every Mets stud starting pitcher, but with Noah Syndergaard’s biceps trouble another one bites the dust. Sure, they got Zack Wheeler to return, Matt Harvey’s been impressive in his bounce back, and Jacob deGrom is still dominant (for now), but Steven Matz caught the bug the preseason, as well as Thor. Hell, even  Seth Lugo couldn’t avoid the plague happening in New York? Goodness, what pharaoh pissed off Moses in that organization?

Now, back to the focus of Gsellman. Not even 24 years old, he flashed enough promise through the minors to be the first named called up when it became clear Lugo and Matz couldn’t crack opening day. However, while his ERA, FIP and BB/9 were all impressive, strikeouts were not his forte. In his short debut last season, and thus far in 2017, the storyline’s been different: 66.1 IP and 64 Ks. That’s a small part of the picture, but when you see the whole portrait, especially the deeper cats, you find a great buy-low option. While ~70% of baserunners are usually left on-base (LOB%), Gsellman’s strand rate sits at only 52.5% this year. That will change. As will his HR/FB% that sits at 16.7%. 1 out of every 6 fly balls don’t leave the yard across a whole season. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole .377 BABIP thing. He’s not facing Tony Gwynn every at bat.

So, now that I’ve overwhelmed you with peripheral stats, here’s the bottom line. Is he as good as his 2.42 ERA and 2.63 FIP from last year? Maybe not, but he’s also not as bad as his current 6.23 ERA suggests. Meet in the middle and you have a 4 ERA (which is still higher than his current FIP) with a strong strikeout rate. Add in all the opportunity to remain in the rotation against a middling NL East and I’d put him on all my watch lists. Especially for his two starts this week.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

In a week where Clayton Kershaw is slated for two starts (pour one out for that first one. It should have been another epic matchup of Madison Bumgarner against King Kershaw, but alas…dirt bikes. Ugh!), the pitcher drawing the most attention, or at least the most reaction like the one above, is from none of other than the guy doing the reaction above! It’s like those Gronk wearing a shirt of Edelman, wearing a shirt of Gronk, wearing a shirt of Edelman things. You’ll get through this. I promise. And no more mention of anything Boston in this post. You have my word. (Still butt hurt about the Super Bowl. Always will be.)

Now, back to the matters at hand. Jason Vargas. Jason freaking Vargas. I was in an AL-Only auction at the end of March. $270 budget, 33 roster spots, 10 teams. Jason Vargas? Thrown out around #300 and went for a cool $2. I mean, who in the I want to cuss right now ever saw this coming? Certainly not ol’ Vargas himself. Why? Because this version of Vargas, the 34 year-old version, is every bit the same version as last 11 years who never held a K/9 north of 7 when pitching more than 12 IP in a year. And yet, here we are in Week 4 and Vargas is the ever-deserving candidate to be highlighted leading into this week, joining the echelon previously only befitted by Kershaw and MadBum.

Paul Sporer at FanGraphs said, “Jason Vargas is pitching out of his mind right now…His velocity has always been underwhelming (~86-88 mph) and it’s on the low end this year at 86.6. Vargas is using essentially the same pitch mix, too…I don’t really know what to make of this.” It’s a fascinating article that shines some light on the deeper stats of Jason’s breakout. Go nerd out for a bit after you finish here, because somewhere between his last healthy season in 2014 and now a beast has emerged. An 87 MPH beast. Can it last? Let’s hope it continues for at least his next two!

(For the record, I nailed the Eric Thames Top 100 and Andrew Triggs Two-Starts highlights last week. That probably means Vargas implodes this week, haha.)

Pitchers are listed in order by rank. Colors represent 8 toughest or 8 easiest opponents according to team wOBA for last 14 days.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

Confession: I never took trigonometry. Is it difficult? Is the reaction above the one you have when you do it correctly? Baseball doesn’t seem like the most difficult sport to analyze. There are general stats for everything, and scouts could always just look at  player and know whether or not he’d project as a toolsy major leaguer. Well, that is until Moneyball, at least.

Remember that scene with the scouts and Brad Pitt where Jonah Hill finally spoke up? At that moment Bill James did his best Billy Madison above, and since then the perception is that Billy Beane is an accurate representation of that beautiful gif (ok, not really, but the ‘Moneyball’ idea was actually incredibly smart and innovative for the historically cemented game of baseball and it’s stats).

Fast forward nearly a decade and a half from the 2003 Oakland team and they’ve still never won a series (although, the Cubs and Red Sox have while implementing the same methodology but with massively larger budgets). But the process is the same. Cheap, young contracts attempting to over-perform their salaries. It doesn’t take trigonometry to see the reasoning in the approach. Just a few Andrew Triggs. Or is it Triggses? Triggsies?

Primarily a reliever through the minors, Triggs kept his ERA under 3.00 every stop through the minors. Last season he posted a 4.31 ERA in 56.1 IP once he reached the majors, but his FIP sat at an impressive 3.20. He’s featured an incredible K:BB % through his career, and backed it up with an 8.79 K/9 to a 2.08 BB/9. This year? 11.2 IP so far without surrendering an earned run, albeit with minimal K’s. Don’t worry, though; they’ll come. And this week? Here’s where the beautiful math comes in…he faces A.J. Griffin and Ariel Miranda. Haha, all the sabermetrics in the world aren’t needed for that easy observation: Triggs is the favorite to win both of his starts this week. Put both of them in the home confines where he dealt a 2.81 ERA last season, and he’s shaping up to be a great option for Week 3.

But he’s not the only one…here’s how the rest of the Two-Start Starters line up for the week!

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   

College represented a wonderful season for Spring Break. Take all the general notions you have about the sun, the skin and the standards of attending an SEC school and, well, magnify them. Spring Break delivered an opportunity to experience those glories not just within your own bubble of a university, but through the intermingling of many. It broke down barriers. It let you see new places and meet new faces (there’s a rap lyric in there somewhere). It altered preconceived thoughts. And not just because of the imbibing, but due to the encounters with those that cheered for your hated rival. Case in point? The cruise through the Caribbean my junior year at UGA.

Listen, there’s nothing good about the University of Florida. Oh, you like chatched up hair, bro tanks, dude’s with diamond earrings and jorts? Well, it’s the place for you. As you can see, I clearly play into building the stereotypes of your rivals. As you can also see, all of the reasons have to do with one gender. I’m leaving out the ladies due to that Caribbean cruise. Now, before you begin believing that anything scandalous and debaucherous occurred, pump the brakes. It was a ton of fun, but MTV Spring Break it was not. The girls from UF that accompanied our crew of a dozen dudes were ev. er. ee. thing. From the pools, to the paradise excursions, to the parties and the pina coladas, I found myself leaving that week with a new respect for something from UF. (Still the only good thing about that school – and yes, I’m probably just jealous, because they are almost always better than us in sports.)

Right now I’m finishing our family’s Spring Break. Ten years later a lot has changed. No cruises, just carriers. For babies. No mini-bars, just mini-vans. No group of girls from UF, just one girl that’s far better than any of them ever dreamed of being. (You can read the Week 1 Primer to get an idea of #adulting in real life. And for an idea of how this series works.) But this year something was enjoyed the same as in 2007…pina coladas.

See, the good memories from the past can creep into the present with renewed enjoyment. In real life we’re talking about those Garth Brooks beverages. In fantasy we’re talking about peripheral stats and ‘stuff.’ You choose which one is better.

There are plenty of caveats to declare for the Week 2 edition of the Two-Start Starters. The lack of 2017 evidence after just one week for park factors, pitcher’s performance, and team hitting trends leaves us a little shorthanded in determining the best options. However, when you look to last year and combine it with what you can garner from just one week you can make a case for some strong options. For instance, I want the guy that posted a 3.80 FIP in 175 IP last year while bringing a 10.61 K/9 and a 2.72 BB/9. Oh, he went 6-12 and had an ERA closer to 5? That’s about as unlucky as my boy JoMo with any of those UF girls. Look beyond the traditional stats and you’ll find a high probability for not just one, but two great starts from someone who failed to get out of the fourth in his first start. It’s like pina coladas. In 2007 and 2017 it’s the same thing: what’s better than a cool, tropical, sweet adult beverage? Two of them.

And for the record, pina coladas are far better when swirled with a strawberry daiquiri. Miami Vice’s #ftw.

Please, blog, may I have some more?
   
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