Not Your Grandfather’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers…

Back when I was just a young Jack, Grandpa-Donk would regale all us little Donks with tales of his extensive world travels. The old donk especially enjoyed visiting Mexico. On his first venture down south of the border, gramps experienced the full wrath of Montezuma’s Revenge. His exact words, “Coming out both ends for days”. But somehow, after that maiden voyage to the other side of the Rio Grande, G-Donk never again suffered the Hispanic Hershey Squirts.

This reminds me of the curious case of Francellis “Frankie” Montas. Last year Montas started 11 games from the end of May thru October. After posting three quality starts in his first three outings, Montaszuma’s Revenge hit abruptly, as Frankie managed only 2 quality starts over the course of his next eight outings. The Runs were plentiful, if you know what I’m saying.

This season Montas has come out with some solid logs. Game logs, I mean. Thru his first four 2019 starts, the one named Francellis has thrown 23 1/3 IP, boasting three quality starts, a 2.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, an increased K rate, decreased walk rate, and loads of fiber in his diet. One cause for optimism this go round, is the addition of a nasty splitter to his repertoire this year which opponents are batting a measly .143 against. The splitter complements an elite fastball which is up almost one full mile per hour from last season, now sitting at an average velocity of 96.6 mph, along with an above average slider. Mr. Montaszuma has also been getting ahead of hitters often in the early going with a lofty 63% first pitch strike rate. Make sure Montas isn’t available in your league, I can wait.

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If he wanted to, Eloy Jimenez could’ve hit home runs in any of the White Sox first 11 games. He chose to delay the gratification for one reason: he’s a diva. Eloy waited patiently as the team traveled from Kansas City, to Cleveland, to Chicago, where he played in front of dozens of fans in each city. Finally, on April 12th, 2019, the White Sox arrived in New York City. The stage had been set and Mount Eloy would wait no longer; he erupted with a monstrous 3-for-4 night including 3 RBIs and his 1st AND 2nd career home runs bringing his average up to .319.

There were people asking about dropping Eloy in the comments this week (I assume these were all bots). The answer was always: DO NOT DROP ELOY!! I had Eloy ranked 40th overall in the preseason and he slotted in as my #15 outfielder, I’m standing by those rankings.Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Not Your Grandfather’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers…

Overreaction is part of human and donkey nature. Recency bias is unavoidable. But in a world where those who adapt not only survive, but thrive, could the risks of overreaction be outweighed by the rewards of adaptation? Good question. You have a lot of good questions.

I remember a few years back when Grandpa-Donk smuggled a three pound rib-eye steak out of the grocery store under his shirt, even though he had $200 burning a hole in his pocket. Did my family overreact and make gramps come live with us? Of course not; we all had a nice laugh over some grilled rib-eye and went on with our lives.

But when Gramps-Donk caused a 12 car pile up on Dixie Highway, without a license, in a car he “borrowed” from his neighbor, that’s when we knew it was time to make a move. So we did what any good family would do and threw the old goat into that nursing home from Happy Gilmore. Adapt and thrive.

I’ll now relate this insensitive and poorly thought out analogy to starting pitchers in fantasy baseball. After a month of overreacting to mostly meaningless spring pitching performances, we finally have a two-start regular season sample for many pitchers; the March days of experimenting with drugs and new pitches are over, these guys are now trying their best to get hitters out. Two-starts may seem like a small sample, but in an age when most starting pitchers will only reach 25-30 starts, two-starts is actually 6-8% of their season. It’s time to start reassessing.

Before getting into some of my early season risers and fallers, I do want to address the Bartolo Colon sized elephant in the room: The re-juiced baseballs. Small sample sizes and that’s what she said jokes aside, I fully believe we’re headed for record power numbers this season. What does this mean for us as fantasy baseballers? I think it means the elite top tier arms are even more valuable than they already were. With a surge in power we can expect increased pitching rates across the board, meaning a guy who gives you 200 IP of sub 3.00 ERA can really move the needle. Just some food for thought as we monitor the ever changing landscape.

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Grey Albright threw two innings on opening day. Sweat, and other mysterious bodily fluids, dripped from Grey’s brow; he was gassed. Albright didn’t wait for Rudy to call to the pen, Grey signaled himself for the lefty, Donkey Teeth, to enter the fold. Fantasy Master Lothario is still knocking some of the spring rust off, just like Chis Sale, so you’re stuck with Donkey Teeth telling you tales of Paul Goldschmidt’s monster 4-for-5 night with 3 homers & 5 RBIs in only the second game of his Cardinals career. Truth be told, Dan Pants will be back to take over this column next Friday, since Friday is slinging night for Grey, Cougs, and Donkey Teeth. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Not Your Grandfather’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers… It was established in the first edition of 2019 Top 100 Pitchers: starting pitchers are much like grandparents. Exciting when they’re young and healthy, disheartening when they’re old and feeble. No reasonable mind would dispute the likeness between our elders and dudes who grasp and thrust balls for […]

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While Grey was off gallivanting in Jackson’s Hole sipping hot toddies and drafting his AL-Only team from heated chair lifts, I spent my day at a shady Illinois car dealership drafting my AL-Only team in that same league while getting fleeced on a used car. After I spent $35 on The Messiah, Adalberto Mondesi, Grey cracked, “I hope you get a better deal on that car than you got on Mondesi!” Oh real funny, Grey! That’s rich coming from the guy who spent $10 on Bryce Harper in an AL-Only league!

Nevertheless, my AL team took a turn for the worse when the car dealer tried to tack a $399 “Dealer Inventory Fee” onto the negotiated sale price. And that’s the story of how I spent $3 on Daniel Mengden and $1 on Chad Pinder in the all-important late stages of an AL-Only auction with the titans of the industry. Fortunately, our friend Scott White of CBS gave ya boy Donkey Teeth one more shot at the glory-hole in the NL-Only version of the same league. And this time, I wouldn’t be preoccupied disputing undisclosed dealer inventory fees while being stuck with auto-nominated Chad Pinders. Anyway, here’s my 12-team NL-Only team and the tale of how I left Grey lusting after my Wong, again:

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Not Your Grandfather’s Top 100 Starting Pitchers…

Starting pitchers: You can’t live with em, you can’t win your fantasy baseball league and then use the championship trophy to score babes without em. I know, you won’t be able to do that second part either way, but it’s called fantasy baseball for a reason.

Starting pitchers remind me of grandparents. Oh boy, where’s Donkey going with this one? Don’t worry Grey’s random italicized voice, I won’t get into my James Shields pants peeing analogy.

When they’re young, visits with gramps and granny are full of excitement and unexpected gifts; those times are as magical as a Walker Buehler vs. Jack Flaherty locker room sword fight. But as time passes, and our elders age, it’s not all ice cream, pizza and 13 strikeout gems. Hips are fractured and ulnar collateral ligaments are severed. The pizza and ice cream is replaced by prune juice and fruit cakes, with a side of 8 earned runs in 2/3rds of an inning.  And of course there’s the erectile dysfunction, brought on by another Tyler Chatwood misfire.

In this biweekly top 100 starting pitchers column, I’ll track developments of decreased blood-flow, fractured hips and, most importantly, those mythical GILFs (Grandmothers I‘d Like to play Fantasy baseball with; what did you think it stood for?) as they rise across the fantasy pitching horizon. Here’s a little GILF tease along with my preseason top 100 to hold all you grandmother lovers over…

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Imagine you’ve just arrived in Arizona to enjoy some Spring Training action. In exchange for sitting through two dozen enthralling exhibition baseball games in less than a week, you’ve agreed to first take your sweetheart on a day long horseback riding excursion. You’re about to pay full freight for this pricey little adventure when a shady looking cowboy pulls you aside whispering tales of an unadvertised, half price donkey option.

It’s a pivotal crossroads: Do you forfeit a few servings of nachos at the ballgames and pony up for the trustworthy horse, which you’re confident will deliver you to the promised land? Or do you gamble on the cagey donkey, which may nibble on your girl’s foot halfway through the trek before taking a nap in the middle of the desert?

Aaron “The Horse” Nola ADP 23
German “The Donkey” Marquez ADP 80

The Horse Case: In 2018, Aaron Nola made the leap from “up and coming miniature horse” to “purebred stallion”. This pony made strides across the board. Most every metric we care about saw marked improvement for A-A-Ron last season: ERA, FIP, xFIP, WHIP, SwStr%, F-Strike%, Barrel%, even all three of his FICO credit scores saw a major improvement! So the question for me isn’t so much, “Is he legit?”, as it is, “Is he worth the top 25 overall price tag?”.

With a 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 224 Ks in 212.1 IP, Nola was so good last year that we have to dig pretty deep to find reasons for concern. One number that does jump out is his 87.6% 2nd half strand rate which was the 8th highest in the majors. Great pitchers do tend to buckle down once runners are on base, but I still think this number comes down a bit next year. Another minor concern is the innings jump…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Imagine you’ve just arrived in Arizona to enjoy some Spring Training action. In exchange for sitting through two dozen enthralling exhibition baseball games in less than a week, you’ve agreed to first take your sweetheart on a day long horseback riding excursion. You’re about to pay full freight for this pricey little adventure when a shady looking cowboy pulls you aside whispering tales of an unadvertised, half price donkey option.

It’s a pivotal crossroads: Do you forfeit a few servings of nachos at the ballgames and pony up for the trustworthy horse, which you’re confident will deliver you to the promised land? Or do you gamble on the cagey donkey, which may nibble on your girl’s foot halfway through the trek before taking a nap in the middle of the desert?

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Another baseball season is in the books and with it, another year living in your mom’s basement with zero prospects of freedom on the horizon. As your fantasy guide donkey, I consider it my duty to lend a hoof in resolving this dire lodging situation. Let me regale you with my story of escape from the comforts of mom’s basement, out into the unknown.

Looking back, there was one major factor which led to my now girlfriend rescuing me from my mom’s basement and allowing me to move into her much nicer basement. It began with an innocent conversation with a friend about stinky balls, sweaty dongs and general swamp crotch. Through this one conversation, I discovered we don’t need to live in constant fear of these groinal afflictions.

My buddy spoke of a miracle cure for this vicious epidemic. The magical solution goes by the name of talcum powder. It turns out, if you cover your genitalia in this wondrous powder, you’ll never fall victim to the swampy nether stank again. Don’t take my word for it, sprinkle away and see for yourself. Just don’t forget about ole Donkey Teeth once you’re living it up in your new girl’s basement.

Now, a bit of fair warning: you’ll want to grasp the sack loosely as you apply the marvelous talcum formula. As a wise man once said, if you cling too tightly you’re gonna lose control of your powder application. This all reminds me of Hold on Loosely – Part 1 & Part 2 where we discussed the dangers of clinging too tightly to mid-round fantasy baseball draft picks.

In the past Hold on Loosely chronicles, I speculated about the growing phenomena of elite offensive fantasy baseball production becoming more available later in drafts, or even on the waiver wire throughout the season. Take a look at some examples of this occurrence in the table below…

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