Hey everybody! This article will wrap up my 2022 starting pitcher analysis. I’ll explain my rankings process, highlight some notable successes, and highlight the deficiencies. Along the way, I’ll teach you how to build your ranking sheet from Razzball data! If you’re the kind of person that thinks managing an Excel sheet with 3,000 data points is fun, this article is for you!

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Well folks (leaving the comma out makes it sound like you live in a well and you’ll emerge like The Ring and I like that aesthetic) — you’re either in the fantasy baseball playoffs, or you really love reading me week in and week out. Probably the former, but I’ll pretend it’s the latter. Some leagues have already finished, like the Tout Wars Daily Fantasy League that our own MattTruss claimed second place in this year. Congrats Truss! Other leagues are entering their first (or second!) round of playoffs right now. RCLs and best ball leagues go until the last day of the season. So, let’s put it this way: as long as you’re here asking questions, I’ll keep posting. Sound fair?

That said, as we’re down to less than a month of MLB baseball, it’s less and less useful for me to tell you how a pitcher might regress. So, just as we did away with the rankings about a month ago, we’re going to continue shifting the format of this column to help everybody with their pitching plans throughout the fantasy playoffs. We’ll combine some news, some pitcher pickup options, and cover some matchups to target or avoid. As always, toss your questions down in the comments, and I’ll do my best to not embarrass myself or yourself or Greyself. Grey’s elf? What is this, The Lord of the Rings?

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About a month ago, we joined hands in a prayer circle and prayed to the Ghost of Tommy John that he wouldn’t claim the elbows of any of our fantasy starters. So far, so good. Tommy John must have approved of our sacrifice of Coolwhip and offerings of Orange Julius! Thank you for your service to Razzball, Whip, and please don’t haunt us. We were just trying to win! But for real, Whip is alive and kicking and that Orange Julius in fresh in my hand, ready for slurping through a hot dog straw.

The majority of y’all who are still attending my weekly starting pitcher therapy sessions are here because you’re in the fantasy playoffs. If so, drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you need, friend! For everybody else, I assume you’re here either because of inertia, my jokes, or you just want to see if I somehow lose my sanity and tell you to spend all of your dynasty bucks on Sandy Alcantara. The latter will never happen. 

Let’s jump in and see what we can do for your fantasy playoffs! 

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If you’re anything like me, you’re currently in grass-stained covered sweatpants trying to eek out an extra minute of summer before the kids go back to school. Or, apparently, for most of you southerners, your kids have been in school for like two weeks. Somewhere out there, there’s SouthernwhereBlair who writes for RassBalls and discusses tight-pantsed pitchers. Or maybe that’s just me projecting my best self. Thanks, therapy! ENYWHEY. Let’s spend the next 1800 words discussing our favorite pitchers and why they make our pants tight.

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The MLB playoffs are still a month away, but your fantasy baseball playoffs are practically here! Your starting pitching philosophy changes dramatically when the stakes are high and time is limited. If you’re a strong team in the playoffs, you’ll want to use pitchers with confident outcomes. If you’re a weak team, you might need to make some risky pitcher plays to stay in the running — but nobody expected the #6 seed to advance anyway, right? When the expected outcome is “lose,” you should take every risk you can to put variance in your favor and win. 

Let’s jump right in to the actionable items. As mentioned last week, I am no longer providing the hierarchical ranks — the data window of remaining MLB games is insufficient to move the ranking needle on up-and-coming pitchers. 

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A crucible is a trial or challenge faced by a protagonist, where they endure a challenge and come out new and improved. Kind of like the time Grey brought us to Chucky Cheese as a “team building” exercise. Naturally, we all started sumo wrestling in the ball crawl pit, only to find that Grey had released several crocodiles among the balls. Where did he get the crocodiles, you ask? I dunno, I didn’t ask — I spent most of the evening consoling Son after he lost his big toe. But after that “Chucky Crocodile” experience, we emerged as a bonded team, readier than ever to do battle on the fantasy baseball front.

A lot of you are in that fantasy crucible right now. About 50 games remain in the season; I round up because I only work in base ten numbers. So, about 10 starts remain for your favorite hurlers, constituting about 25% of the season. Rankings fail more than ever now: playoff teams will rest their aces, non-playoff teams will give cups of coffee to their minor leaguers, and a quick search of the baseball news sites indicates some teams are talking six-man rotations already.

Of course, “rotation” can be loosely construed because minor league relievers are plentiful and can eat up plenty of innings. From August 17, 2021 until the end of the 2021 season, Paul Sewald made 26 appearances and made 26 IP. Comparatively, Logan Gilbert — the top starter for the Mariners last year — made 8 appearances and pitched 42 IP in the same span. Over on the White Sox, Michael Kopech made 16 appearances and notched 23 IP in the same span. Kopech pitched as many innings over the final bit of 2021 as did Carlos Rodon, who ran out of steam and watched his fastball velocity plummet. Sometimes, your fantasy dream is as much about letting go of players who have run out of steam as it is about finding new, shiny players.

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Remember when it was July and we were all watching Stranger Things for the first time and getting Covid for the fourth time and I mentioned that a lot of fantasy baseball leagues were a matter of weeks away from the playoffs? Hey Siri, tell me what I said a few weeks ago. Weird thing is, Siri could actually do that, but Siri just doesn’t want you to know they could do that. Just like I could tell you that Grey has been wearing the same pair of “lucky” socks since 2007, but he doesn’t want you to know that. ENYWHEY.

As we look into crystal ball that reveals the pitchers of the future, let’s take a special look to see which pitchers might take a breather along the way and become less useful for fantasy managers in the playoffs. Before we get too far, it’s worthwhile to note — this kind of discussion isn’t an exact science. However, there are factors that clue us in to which pitchers will be less or more useful to fantasy managers in the playoffs.

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Ah, the smell of a new clubhouse! This week marks our favorite time of year: where winning MLB teams acquire great players to make their championship runs, and where losing teams sell their top players for minor leaguers nobody will see until 3 years from now [stares at Simeon Woods-Richardson]. If you’re a fan of a team that’s buying, congrats! I hope you get a Juan Soto in your “Christmas in July” stocking that hangs over the fire pit. For the rest of us that sing the praises of teams who are classic “selling” teams, may your up-turned cocktail glasses bring you solace.

Let’s check in on the deals and rumors!

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It’s second-half baseball! Nothing more exciting than watching the race for the bottom. [thinks of headline to submit to TMZ] ENYWHEY. Enough about the Athletics. We’ve got one of these great years for the AL Central. The Minnesota Twins would be in 4th place in the AL East, but are somehow atop the leaderboard in the flyover division. The Twins wouldn’t be in first place in any other division in baseball except for our beloved AL  Central, home to the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. Remember when those teams were threats, and Miggy and Beltran and Greinke and Scherzer and Verlander were all just little spuds waiting to be big potatoes? No you don’t remember them because you were born in this century and only stumbled upon my article because some TikTok star made fun of it? Welcome, junior! Let’s win you a fantasy league. 

It’s the second half of the MLB season, so much like like our pants after seconds at the 4th of July picnic, we need to adjust.  

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I used to work a night shift on Tuesdays in the summer, but it was an outdoor job, so I never got to watch the All-Star Game on TV. Usually, I’d go sneak some Dairy Queen or gas station ice cream as compensation. The All-Star Game never really moved the needle for me. I suppose being a Twins fan, there’s not much to watch on my end year after year. Yankees and Dodgers fans? The All-Star Game is just another primetime game for you guys. Last night, Apple TV offered me the elite matchup of the Pirates vs the Rockies, and YouTube TV offered me Red Sox vs Yankees. Truth be told, I’ve been blacked out of Twins and Brewers games for two years now. MLB wonders why there’s an audience problem. Meanwhile, I — a guy who ostensibly likes baseball — have watched more Minnesota United soccer games than Minnesota Twins games in the past half decade. Go you Loons! ENYWHEY. If the All-Star Game is your thing, enjoy it. Me? I suppose it’s the one time a year I can watch some Twins and Brewers without being blacked out. 

This is a fantasy baseball break, so let’s do the obligatory thing where we evaluate my pre-season picks, recap the hits my system made, and gloss over my misses like you’re five Heineken’s deep at a dinner party.

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The most popular song in the universe right now is Running Up That Hill by art-pop super queen Kate Bush. The most common comment about that song I see on the ‘net is “Hey, have you heard the Placebo cover?” Yeah, I own that on CD. The second most common question: “Would Max from Stranger Things actually be listening to Kate Bush?” See, I thought the big “plan falls apart for the gang” moment would be when Max’s Walkman — truly, the uncredited hero of the series — ran out of batteries for the 98th time, or the cassette unraveled or warped or got put too close to a refrigerator magnet. I didn’t think the final boss interloper would be Alex from Stardew Valley doing Varsity Captain America and, you know, physically stepping on the Walkman. 

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Friends, folx, well-wishers and haters — Happy third birthday to my tenure as the Top 100 SP writer. There have been ups (Robbie Ray), Downs (Scott), and 89,140 instances of me saying “that’s a lateral move.” When Grey found me living behind a Burger King dumpster in 2020 (yes, he was wearing one of those paper crowns), he came to me and said, “EWB, would you like to become the 15th most important imaginary sports pitching ranker on Reddit?” And I said, “King, you’re so short and your ideals are so pure. I will endeavor to be better than the previous guy yet not so good that we put the other 14 rankers out of business.”

Everything in moderation, right?

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