Robert Downey Jr. and Phil Hughes have more in common than you might think. Both dealt with notoriously weak starts to their careers in The Big Apple. Hughes in pinstripes had four straight years of a 4+ ERA, and Downey on SNL. Both had to deal with brace-faced divas, Joe Girardi and Anthony Michael Hall. One was scouted by Gene Michael, the other Lorne Michaels. One wanted to impress Pettitte, one wanted to avoid petting Randy Quaid’s pet squirrel. One had to wait for A-Rod to finish frosting his hair before he could use the bathroom, one made frosting out of cocaine. But once they were out of New York, the world opened up to each. Yesterday, Hughes won his 16th game, going 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 baserunners, 5 Ks, and lowering his ERA to 3.52. His K-rate is 8 and his walk rate is 0.7, as he set the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio at 11.63. Think about that walk rate for a second. Okay, the second is up. He walked 16 guys in 209 2/3 IP. That’s as terrific as 186 Ks, which is what he had. His ERA doesn’t look amazing in today’s day and age where everyone has a sub-3 ERA, but Hughes was actually unlucky and had a 3.15 xFIP. Everything together has me excited about Hughes for 2015 fantasy baseball. I could see him being relegated to 2nd fiddle status with some other 3rd or 4th fantasy starters, but outperforming his draft spot. Circling back to AMH, any time a guy like Hughes strikes out as much as Anthony Michael Hall and walks less than Uncle Buck, color me excited. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

So here we are, the last week of the season. If you’re playing now, you’re in the money game of your head-to-head league, or you’re in a dog fight to pull ahead in the roto standings. I’ve said this for the last three weeks but, congratulations! You did something right. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there are a few things you definitely didn’t do, you didn’t draft Justin Verlander, you didn’t draft Buster Posey or Joe Mauer anywhere near the first 5 rounds, you didn’t invest in one of the top 3 closers, and you probably didn’t draft Dominic Brown (Sorry Tehol). They say fantasy championships are made after the draft. Whoever they are? Seriously do you know? I’m just going to guess that if there is a they that writes these cliches, then they know Nick Capozzi. Mostly because he knows everybody in the fantasy industry. I’m also going to assume it’s a secret club that I’m not privy to. You know, like Skull and Bones.  Wow that escalated quickly! Where was I? Oh yeah winning fantasy championships. Well my belief is that the secret to winning in the final week is pitching, and how you use your streams. If you’re in a H2H league with a limited move number than be careful. One must choose wisely. With this in mind I have created a new format for these posts. As I mentioned last week I had the vision of putting my rankings in spreadsheet form and providing a couple of key metrics I felt gave you the readers full transparency into my thought process. Well my vision is reality behold the new and improved two startapalooza. You’ll see that in addition to the Pitcher’s name and opponent, I’ve also provided the pitcher’s handedness, the pitcher’s Home/Road ERA, the opponent’s Home/Road wOBA, and the opponent’s Right/Left wOBA split. These are the numbers I look at most closely when creating my rankings for the week. So why not share them with you? Enjoy, I put some time into this and I believe you’ll find it extra helpful. I hope it also sparks more debate in the comments and gives you guys all the more reason to challenge my tiers. I’ve also made sure that I based my Two-Start roster off of Rudy’s new two start pitcher SON/tool. This way all the information mirrors each other and gives some continuity to the post. Thanks again for reading and I’m looking forward to bringing this format back next season. Go Get’Em!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Here’s an example from your own life. You walked into a bar and negged the first girl you saw. Told her she had nice hair, then immediately asked her how often she dyes it. Never worked before. This girl laughed and talked to your dopey ass. She even thought it was charming when you told her to pay the bar tab. Went home, had great sex and the next morning she’s moving some of her shirts out of her dresser, so you have room to bring a few of your things over. You tell her that’s not necessary and she shrugs, goes into the bathroom, calls her mother and starts crying loudly. Seemed awesome, turned out psycho. Now imagine she didn’t reveal she was psycho for three months. That’s Steve Pearce. At some point in 2015, he will start moving his shirts out of his dresser and you’re gonna feel real awkward. Right now, he’s insane. Yesterday, was part of that insanity as he hit two homers, bringing his season total to 20. No longer is the fortune cookie’s ending ‘in bed,’ it’s now ‘with Steve Pearce.’ There’s some noise about him changing his stance and that’s led to him having a breakout season. Yeah, don’t buy it. He’s 31 years old. Not the death knell for anyone, but when you’re barely rosterable as a utility man for a major league team for almost seven years, you don’t suddenly change your stance and everything’s great. He’s a 10-homer utility man, disguised as Jesus. It will end at some point in 2015, but for now Pearce your genitals, make the devil horns and ride the lightning! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Baltimore’s shiny new outfielder, Alejandro de Aza, was 4-for-9 with two triples and 2 RBI in yesterday’s double header. Welcome to Plaza de Aza, where we help win fantasy baseball leagues for you. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed in the past five days Alejando de Aza has been doing work for his new team, gathering in a hit in his sixth straight start. He’s also got two stolen bases, two homers, five runs and six RBI in that stretch and he’s doing every thing he can to contribute to the O’s postseason run and your fantasy team right now. Buck Showalter is clearly feeling what Alejandro’s putting out there, as de Aza is steadily moving his way up to the top of the lineup. If he gets hot, he’s a guy that could help you in a lot of categories in the two final weeks. Grey told you to BUY him and don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone who you’re dropping or selling to pick up this hot little crab cake, be it Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton, Anthony Rizzo, your soul, etc. Just don’t think about it. Forget about it. Just do the deed, close your eyes and click add/drop. You’re trying to win this thing and Alejandro can help.

Here’s what else happened Friday night in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Alright Head-to-Headers and Weekly League players. This is more than likely the most important week of your season. You’re either kicking off the first round of playoff match-ups or you’re grinding out the last week trying to get that ever elusive playoff birth. Not to worry my peeps, the Legendary Lifshitz is back and ready to drop some two start pitcher science on y’all. In fact I’ll be taking over as your captain from here on out and into 2015. That’s right! I’m your 2015 Two Start Huckleberry! Think of me as the top prospect getting called up for roster expansions with an eye on the starting job next year. You know like Xander Bogaerts but less of a disappointment. Unless you’re my third grade teacher Ms. Schultz. Then I’m more of a disappointment. What can I say the women had high hopes.

As for the roster of Double dippers, it’s not bad. Lots of good streamers and ton of middle of the road options. I’ll try and focus a little more on the arms with lower ownership levels, knowing those are the guys you’ll be looking to for the extra counting stats to put you over the top. This is one of the most fun times to be a fantasy baseball manager. This is for those digging through the wavier wire looking for that streamer to get you into the dance, or that spot starter to help you lock down that swing category to get you into the next round of the playoffs, or even the roto owner looking to capitalize on the less savvy owners who hit their innings limits this week. May you use this as your guide good sirs! Unless you’re in a league with me, then I hope all your pitchers get shelled. Sorry but I’m in it to win it no matter the cost!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When you get a little cumin, coriander, curry, power and speed in the same dish, you got a Marte party! Whatever happened to that Next Food Network Star? She disappear with every other one, except Guy Fieri? As Anthony Bourdain aptly said, Fieri is the Poochie of the Food Network. Due to Fieri’s success, they keep trying to sandwich (pardon the word) new personalities onto their network. This past season they awarded a Hee Haw Fieri. Instead of the frosted hair, he had a cowboy hat. We call this show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Farting By The Fire! Any the hoo! Going into yesterday’s game, Starling Marte was tied with George Springer and behind Michael Morse on our Player Rater. To that, The Count would say blah blah blah. Crazy enough, Drew Stubbs was above all of them, and in the top 40 outfielders. By the power of Coors, I pronounce you fantasy worthy. Of course, Marte went 3-for- 4 with his 7th and 8th homers yesterday, so he’ll probably shoot above those aforementioned outfielders. Marte’s a little behind his pace from last year, but I’m going to like him next year for one simple reason: a guy that can hit 12 homers and steal 40 bases is very valuable as long as he doesn’t hit .220. That’s like a manhole in Fantasy Town! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

What a week to be a Nationals pitcher, you’re six games up in the division and you have the D-backs and the Giants rolling into town. So much of my focus this year has been on Daily Fantasy that I tend to see things through DraftKings colored glasses. If you’re unfamiliar with the format and scoring, pitchers have much higher floors than hitters and the scoring is laser focused on K’s and innings. Low strikeout/ good ratio guys need not apply. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg have been good but I always seem to be a little underwhelmed by what I get from them. I’m hoping for a big week from both of them. The Diamondbacks and Giants are both in the bottom 1/3 of the league in wOBA over the past fortnight and both have a k% over 20%. Don’t be surprised if owners of the Nats frontline starters run the table in ratios this week.

Other than the aforementioned Nationals aces, Max Scherzer‘s week sets up to potentially be a monster one. The Tigers and the Scherz-nit travel to both Tampa and Minnesota, as he faces crappy offenses in pitchers parks. Reverse HodgePadre Ian Kennedy gets two road starts this week. I wonder if he’s the first Friars pitcher to be better away from Petco? It’s so confusing I devoted a chapter to it in my forthcoming book “Things That Don’t Make Sense”. Should be a best seller, Gary Busey did the foreword. Most of the content covers the last 5 years and a two week period in 1639. Diamondbacks Ace(?) Chase Anderson looks to continue his hot streak against Washington and San Diego. I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t come away with another two quality starts. Overall this week’s two start pitchers remind me of the stock at a Marshall’s, a couple of finds, a whole bunch of mediocre crap, and a few things so ugly they can’t be unseen.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The trade deadline was three days ago. By now fantasy experts like Trojan Croftbell and Cocky Karazola have picked over these deals until the bones were showing, and gone over the “slashes” these guys compiled while “toeing the rubber” and talked you, and themselves really, in-and-out of pickups until they were dizzy. There’s no other way to analyze this. Unless you take some of the moving parts to Week 19 of the Two-Startapalooza party!

What happens to the headlining acts is obvious. Jon Lester is a must-start almost every week. In the post-season, he becomes Orel Hershiser ’88, or at least Billy Beane and any long-time A’s fan that shudders at the thought of Orel Hershiser ’88 hopes. David Price scratches the surface of the Must-Start layer some weeks, but more often than not he’ll break the barrier thanks to some interesting non-sabermetrical splits. This year, Price had way better numbers away from the Trop (6-2, 2.74 ERA) than inside of it (5-6, 3.41). Which also means he had the same numbers on grass than on turf, and of course the Tigers play on the green stuff in Detroit (as opposed to the Rockies, who play on the green stuff in Denver, but that’s different).

Then there’s the other guys. It might not seem like what happened to John Lackey and bed crapper Justin Masterson matters as much, but as Twitter pal Ralph Lifshitz pointed out to me on my feed (@NiceRazzball), the Cardinals can turn anyone into a solid starter (see: Jake Westbrook and Joel Pineiro, Lifshitz said, and to that I say point taken). That being said, and I feel like I’m going to be saying that a lot this week – getting something out of Lackey is one thing, but getting the Masterbaterson to get right on a consistent basis is something else. Can you imagine rolling that guy out in the playoffs? Yipes!

Drew Smyly, who got the shaft in the Price deal and goes from a nice park on a winning team to a mediocre team in a crappy stadium, falls down at least one tier per week. He becomes a stat-piler guy for those in search of Two-Starters. Jesse Chavez falls off the radar completely, as he ends up in the A’s bullpen. I’ll miss seeing his oops-I-crapped-my-pants mug every week.

A few of these guys get a double dip this week. For some more Two-Starters, keep on reading…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As I type this, I’m in a small, but expected depression as a disgruntled Mets fan living in Minnesota after today’s non-waiver trade deadline. In the middle of thermal packaging related activities, I saw deal and deal and deal swing by. All I get from both the teams that I follow most? A Kurt Suzuki extension. Oye. All that did was disgruntle me more, as I like Josmil Pinto quite a bit. I figured at least Bartolo Colon would get traded for some PTBL or a BoB (bucket o’ balls). Ah well.

On the other hand, if you’re a Tigers fan (I’m not a bandwagon A’s fan until the Mets are good, I decided today), you must be pretty excited. Drew Smyly wasn’t as dominating as a starter and Austin Jackson continued to short-come expectations. Instead you have an second ace, and can now appropriately consider Justin Verlander your number 3 or 4 or 5. [Jay’s Note: Or playoff closer?] Verlander has not been good, but he’s also been almost as unlucky as he’s been bad, or he’s hurt and isn’t saying anything/doesn’t know it.

July 1st, I noted the luckiest pitchers to date, but the one thing I didn’t do at that time was look at the pitcher’s luck/bad luck relative to their career rates. So for this post, for luck, I z-scored each pitcher’s luck stats relative to their career stats (homerun to flyball ratio, left on base% and BABIP). I weighed each z-score by the stats correlation to ERA. Therefore the luckies pitchers (using luck alone and excluding skill) as of 7/27 is: Josh Beckett, Jake Arrieta, Collin McHugh, Scott Kazmir, Garrett Richards, Zach Britton, Jordan Lyles, Drew Pomeranz, Dellin Betances, Alfredo Simon and Danny Duffy. Chris Young, Jason Hammel and Jesse Chavez (update: both Hammel and Chavez were rocked in their last start). However, this all excludes skill (contact rate, strikeout% minus walk% and ground ball to flyball ratio). Incorporating this, here are the actual luckiest pitchers as of 7/27:

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As always, probable pitchers are subject to change.  For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

Two-Startapalooza’s back, beoches!

Man, I gotta tell yunz, I had a superly-dooperly extended break, and all ya’ll who know me know that there is not one hint of sarcasm in that statement. There were some lessons learned, particularly on the baseball front, although almost none of those items involved fantasy baseball since there was no fantasy baseball. We learned that Major League players love Derek Jeter so much that they’re willing to sully their good name by not only grooving him pitches in the All-Star Game and but also admitting it and then awkwardly and unsuccessfully backtracking. We learned that the Guru had a Derek Jeter Retirement Barf Bag – I bought five, by the way. Thanks Guru! We learned that another Derek, Derek Holland, is the grand Puba of not one but two fart games played in the Rangers bullpen, Pink Eye and Fart Bottle Roulette (nevermind the fact that Holland has been injured all year). We learned that baseball doesn’t give a crap about one Anthony Keith Gwynn Sr.

I for one learned that Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom gets recognized around New York for his fantastic early 1990s mullet and that he is not one bit ashamed of it. I discovered this in a great New York Times piece on deGrom that I read when trying to decide if I should stream him or hang onto him. Well, the fact that deGrom is a proud business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back kind of guy was just enough to make me sacrifice to keep him. That and the fact that he was mowing down dudes heading into the All-Star break. Over his last three games, he whiffed 27 and only walked four. Two of those were fairly dominant performances. If there was ever a time to scoop up Zane Smith’s more attractive clone (this is not saying much, as old-schoolers well know), it’s right now. deGrom is slated for a two-start week, including one in Safeco.

Here’s some more two-start guys for next week. Oh and tip of the cap to Sky, who did an amazing job filling in at Two-Startapalooza. During his stay he introduced some cool new ideas I might run with but also left behind a whole lot of some kind of sticky substance. Thanks Sky! I think?

Please, blog, may I have some more?