I’ve been staring at the sun, wondering when the hydrogen will be exhausted and if I have enough time for my crypto 401K to return to profitability before we all end up in a black hole. Maybe that’ll put the current global milieu in perspective. Everything we own, all that we do, will turn to dust and ash as the sun enters a red giant phase and envelops the earth in its helium-fueled delirium. Maybe by then I’ll understand the appeal of BTS. Maybe by then pitchers will be predictable.

In the meantime, we keep rolling — you, me, the guy down the street. We roll week after week, thinking that we armchair astrologers of baseball have some sort of seance equipment that tells us — accurately — the future performance of a player. Yet every time I consult my crystal ball, all I hear is “variance.” Same as it was last year, same as it is this year. People forget, Alec Mills and his 62MPH curveball was a top 20 pitcher through half of 2020. Last year’s #1 SP, Max Scherzer, had a 3.00 ERA / near 4.00 FIP through the first month, followed by a lackluster July where he had a 5.32 ERA and FIP (take that regression!) and a Robbie Ray-esque 2.3 HR/9. Again, this is the #1SP of 2021 and future first ballot Hall of Famer Max Scherzer we’re talking about. Being a good fantasy pitcher isn’t about being good every day. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt didn’t become A-listers by being perfect in every single role. Amazon — the company — didn’t make a profit for nearly a decade after its founding. Same thing goes for pitches — being status quo is fine, but aces just tend to perform a bit better when they’re successful. Which brings me to the ol’ quote that should hang above your fantasy mantle: Being a good fantasy pitcher, is about being a better pitcher than other pitchers more often than not. If every pitcher in the league has a 4.50 ERA, the pitcher with a 4.49 ERA is the best in that category.

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“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” — Tony LaRussa, probably.

The thing about being a historian is you carry the past with you. Like Tim O’Brien wrote in his most famous novel, Tomcat in Love…wait, is that the right book? Or was it that other Vietnam-themed book where it was all a dream? Oh, sorry, The Things They Carried. Yes, this one is for Lemon, who’s floating in the breeze out there. ENYWHEY. We carry the burdens of the past with us, etched upon our hearts, weighing heavy on our souls. As the immortal poet collective Papa Roach once taught us, “The scars remind us that the past is real.” Funny, how that works for fantasy baseball. What you did in the past is both predictive of what you do in the future, but also completely detached from what’s going on in the present. “He’s changed,” we all whisper. “Velocity is down.” What, exactly, was the normal velocity? Do we all run 4-minute miles every year of our life? Or is it good enough to run 4.5 or 5-minute miles? Does it matter if we throw 96 or 94 or 25 or 6 to 4? And on and on it goes. Let’s jump over to the news and notes and find out which pitcher has me thinking so nostalgic.

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Remember that ultra-successful Hollywood box office hit Lucky Number Slevin? Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Josh Hartnett — what is this, The Sleventh Sense? That’d be a cool sequel, bee-tee-dubs. A little kid who steals money from banks because ghosts tell him all the secrets and then he uses psychic powers to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Who doesn’t love a Robin Hood archetype? ENYWHEY. Think about some kind of dumb title for this article like Week Slevin Top Hurlers! Hypehouse Arms: 2 Months minus 1 Week Edition! Can we get Jason Blum to produce this? Could use a good jump scare after this first item I share with you. Quickly, onto the Main Act!

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For those of you old enough to remember a time before Survivor and American Idol, you might recall the era of Kaizen that permeated the economies of the 1980s and 90s. In Japanese, kaizen means something like “continuous improvement,” and it was one of those old pre-capitalist ideas that got co-opted by industrial society. So instead of like, running a bit farther every day or being 10% happier, the concept of kaizen turned into this phantasm of continual product improvement and personal productivity maelstroms. Maybe you’re running faster, but it’s because your job needs you to finish your work and somebody else’s work at the same time. Product sprints. Agility. Synchronicity (and not the album by The Police). But “continual improvement” done in the name of producing things faster, doesn’t necessarily mean that the actual product is any better.

It’s really not a surprise that the fantasy sports world also adopted this kaizen mentality — more products, somehow “improving,” but ultimately making fantasy players work harder. How many people are old enough to remember when a copy of Baseball America and a printer was the complete setup to play fantasy sports? Now we’ve got data providers everywhere. How many accounts do you have with a data provider? I’ve got [thinks for a while] six? I’m still learning about fantasy analysis sites that I’ve never heard of before, and I’ve consumed fantasy content on the regular since Firefly was on actual broadcast TV. And which provider is better? Is it the one that outputs data the quickest? Is it the one that makes you laugh? Is it the one that uses the least amount of preface to their articles?

All this to say: I’ve “improved” my system a bit this week. Is it actually better? Who knows. I worked on it, I’ll tell you that much. I used best practices and data-backed principles learned from years of study. I had a “Hypeonator” that said if a player was “Hype” or “Whack” and then I deleted it. I merely open doors — it’s up to y’all if you take the hype. That said, let me share a bit of the terminology that I’ll be bringing to the fore for the upcoming articles.

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It’s gonna be May! [insert Justin Trousersnake GIF]. I wish writing this stuff was as easy as being in a boy band. If only I had been born with small pores and the ability to dance! Instead, I got this weird gene that keeps my feet locked on the floor, which also ruined any potential careers in basketball, rock climbing, or being a high wire trapeze artist. Apparently, I got the gene for spotting semi-useful fantasy pitchers as well. Thanks, mom! That’s my recognition of Mother’s Day — Mom, you were the one who gifted me this ability to stare at numbers and make sense of them. In another life, I could be that guy in the Matrix who stares at code all day and sees “blonde, red head…” and so on. But in this life, I’m 20 years beyond the production of Garden State and still wondering how people in the aughts thought The Shins were going to change music forever. Good job Hollywood! ENYWHEY. Let’s see what I can do for your fantasy teams this week!

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Welcome to week 4 — the week where all the data finally makes sense and the futures of every player become written in stone! Not really — that’s kind of the wonky thing about baseball — it might take years to make effective predictions about player performance (see Greinke comma Zack). For me, May is where I start to vaguely pay attention to baseball again because the stats are meaningful again. DFS becomes a bit more predictable, and the rest of us fantasy ballers (Grey’s mom’s word) are ready to spew out meaningful and actionable takes. Like, “Sit that clown Lucas Giolito! I kid, I would never bad-mouth a White Sox player [stares at Dylan Cease]. 

Let’s learn about some interesting players! 

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I’ll be honest: a lot of the job of a fantasy sports writer is constrained by search engine optimization and giving audiences what they expect. This article, for example, is ostensibly about starting pitchers. But what *is* a starter, anyway? So many teams are using openers now. So many teams are letting pitchers go 4.2 IP, or piggybacking, or bullpen games, or long reliever, or, or, or. And tee-bee-ache (pronounce that last word softly, like you’re staring longingly into its eyes waiting for the next clause), starters don’t require a mass of innings pitched to be effective for fantasy baseball. In 2021, Corbin Burnes finished SP5 with 167IP, Carlos Rodon SP10 with 132IP, Jacob deGrom SP13 with 92IP (!), Freddy Peralta SP14 with 144IP, and so on. Unless you’re in one of those quality starts league — which I established in the pre-season were just different ways of slandering a Win — you could really roll with any number of “pitchers,” broadly speaking, and do fine.

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The truth about a lot of the big-name fantasy sports touts is that they argue incessantly in the comments section. Right now on the Tweeters there are two major projectionists — actually three because two of them are fighting over the interpretation of the third projectionist — about how much of a sample size you need before making definitive statements about improvement. The short answer: it’s inconclusive. The long answer (which is me summarizing a decade of data collection): about 400 IP worth of pitching. This is why you see the ol’ standards like Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole always appearing at the top of the Streamonator and other Razzball tools — we know how to expect Scherzer and Cole to perform, but we don’t know how to expect Nestor Cortes to perform. You simply can’t know the wild card pitchers when there’s no data on them. Like I pointed out last week, if you based your team on Week 1 SP returns in 2021, you would have abandoned Max Scherzer after his 4 HR allowed outing and dropped him for Kyle Gibson, the eventual SP4 for most non-winning fantasy teams.

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It’s time to straight-up John McClain this article: We’ve had three days of professional baseball in 2022 and that don’t mean Donkey Teeth. If any tout is out there telling you to sell the farm and trade Juan Soto for Starty McStarter-Pants (two last names, how modern!), just mute them right now. It takes at least three outings to make a trend. Ugh. 10% of the season? OK, OK, lemme rephrase that: It takes at least 10% of the season to make a trend. Crap, that just says the same thing but I put the italics somewhere else…ENYWHEY. There’s a freaking reason you put your effort into drafting an awesome team, and unless you went Jacob deGrom/Lance Lynn to start, your job right now is to hold the line.

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All right, here’s the actual title: Contingency Exegesis, or How I Learned to Love the Fact that Jacob deGrom is Already Hurt. No, nononnono, I don’t mean it like, I like that he’s hurt. Rather, it’s the kind of mindset that I now get to enter where I consider the other 1,000 other possibilities that I didn’t take in the draft that I love. I didn’t draft deGrom [goes and checks Fantrax] anywhere this year. Or Max Scherzer. Of course I didn’t — I either got Corbin Burnes in round 1 and then waited until round 972 for SP2, or I got Shane Bieber in round 4 and then got Kevin Gausman in round 7. In the cosmic scheme of things, these are all just happenstance draft decisions. There are trillions of ways you could draft a roster. You could draft a fantasy baseball every minute from now until the sun goes black and still not draft the same team [stares at all those hypothetical drafts with Seiya Suzuki in the 1.01]. Regardless of how much I behave like Carl Sagan, us fantasy baseballers down here on this pale blue dot are basically done with draft season. A bunch of you are already in the black hole of fantasy sports because you chose Jacob deGrom as your SP1 (and if you drafted him as your SP2, you’re clearly reading this website for the sexy Greinke images and not the articles). So! Let’s talk about what to do when the inevitable happens: your favorite pitcher gets hurt. Or the sun goes black. One of those things will happen below. Don’t hold me to a high standard. 

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It’s the second-best week of the year behind Shark Week: Fantasy Baseball Draft Week! Brought to you by Manscaped and DraftKings. All those senior citizens who hear the word fantasy baseball and then start saying “I started on Usenet and then upgraded to the newspaper haw haw haw” are assuredly proud that the next generation of the game’s elite will be sponsored by shorn man parts and venture capital. Wait, am I elite? Where’s my venture capital? Fine, I’ll settle for the Venture Bros. Me, Edgar Allen Poe, and Me from Ten Minutes Ago are going in! Where are we going? To Draft Week!

All right, whatever. Weeks. All my home leagues are drafting this week, and I know the Grey/Rudy/Donkey Teeth annual meetup is happening in Vegas for the Main Event, and you’re probably looking at a draft for yourself. If you’ve been around since the start of the year, you’ve seen the best players I have to offer. For draft week though, all the ADPs have been established, and we’re running into ADP inefficiency 2.0. 1.0 happened during the Usenet era. Hah! Let’s see if I can get on Google Trends for the ubiquitous use of Usenet. But for real: even with literally every site in the world providing their fantasy baseball opinion right now, you can still find deals on pitchers. Let’s get you set up with the best starters to target for 2022:

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The other day I was suddenly fascinated by the history of the band Rush. Here’s the joke: Rush has the album Moving Pictures, and you probably know the song Tom Sawyer (de do de do doo doo, de do dee du doo) from that album, and now we’ve got Moving Pitchers in Free Agency. Hah! I tell funny jokes that need schooling in prog rock history to understand. But the band that would claim a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and feature three dudes that many would consider Top 10 at their instruments in the history of loud music (that’s Rush, bee-tee-dubya), they began from some guys playing street hockey. Geddy Lee’s parents survived the worst concentration camps in Nazi Germany, and Alex Lifeson’s parents were immigrants from behind the Iron Curtain. Neil Peart failed as both a busker and a bar circuit drummer before joining Rush, which at the time was a glam rock band. And they go on to be Hall of Fame prog rock musicians. Sometimes, it’s not about how somebody starts their career — it’s about getting that chance and then making the most of it. Nobody would have predicted the guys from Canada would become one of the most respected rock acts of all time, inspiring other heavy-hitting glam rock bands like Pantera. But they stuck with it, and now you can enjoy laser light shows in 7/4 time.

Just like Rush was completely unassuming to start their careers, here are a bunch of those Moving Pitchers that the field of fantasy baseballers don’t really care about — or are even scared of! — but they could make an impact for your 2022 fantasy team.

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