As a Braves fan, my heart sank this week. Did the Braves fan collective actually believe that we’d catch the Nats in the NL East, or really even compete for one of the wild card spots? Probably not. Well, realistic fans didn’t. Oh, you gonna win with R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia and Bartolo Colon as the front of your rotation? Haha, #gtfo. The Braves are just in a waiting game for their pitches (sounds a lot like my #Razz30 team) and trying to develop their hitters fast enough to match them up together in the new SunTrust Park.

And yet…an MVP was emerging. Freddie Freeman was creeping up my rankings fast, and it had nothing to do with my hometown allegiance. He was a bonafide star, as The Ringer recently penned, and entering the highlight of his career just at the perfect time to bring the Braves into their next chapter of dominance (hey…a persistently melancholy Atlanta fan can hope…). And then Aaron Loup happened.
The Braves lost their MVP for 8-10 weeks (but bring out the red carpet for Matt Adams!!!!), but let’s pump the breaks on his drastic downfall in value from a fantasy perspective. His next two months may have been fingered (Tom Green, anyone?), but moving past my homerism tears I see a great opportunity to buy. Right now.

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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.

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Major Key Alert! Now, for all you Gen-X’ers and cowboy hat-wearing’ country boys, “Major Key” is a term used by us Millennials. Well, anyone can use it really. You should try it in your next board meeting, or at home in a convo with your wife. Have a great idea? Care to pass on some knowledge or drop a little truth bomb into a situation? Gotta give ’em that major key.

And yes, there’s an emoji for that…

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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…

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HOT TAKE! Haha, everyone can get all giddy about the renaissance happening in Washington, but I’ll take my attention a little further north in the NL East. Sure, a certain Zimmerman is on pace for like 75 HR and 180 RBI, but I’m not interested in the past. Give me the future. You can take your old balls and five year plan, I’ll take the upside of a incredible prospect we’ve been waiting on for two years.

Listen, everything’s lining up for this. Curtis Granderson? He forgot how to hit. The Mets pitching staff? Essentially dead. Haha, they have Jose Reyes playing 3B. For the Mets, the future is now (watch out for Amed Rosario to get the call soon), and a primary cog for them in that movement is Michael Conforto. Finally.

If you lookout the current stats and slap line, Zimmerman’s the choice, but in projecting out the future, I’d take the younger option. Even ZiPS agrees with a 21 HR to 16 HR ROS projection in favor of Michael. (Keep reading…I’m a fan of Zimmerman, too.)

  • Michael Conforto, OF, NYM (75.9% owned) – With a current line of .325/17/7/20/1 Conforto’s bringing great value since taking over an everyday role. All those numbers are in only 96 PA. Looking deeper the peripheral stats seem to be sustainable, as well, whereas guys like Zimmerman have a massively inflated BABIP and ISO. And by massively inflated I mean it’s almost double anything consistent with their careers. Conforto, though, sports a .345 BABIP and a .300 ISO. Those may drop slightly, but even if they go down to the ZiPS numbers (in 450 PA) of a .224 ISO with a .292 BABIP it gives him a season ending slash of (~).285/81/28/88/3. That’s sustainable. And greater than Zimmerman. They’re both rising, but I’ll take the young buck. And if you’re in one of the 25% of ESPN leagues where he’s not owned…change that. Fast.

ROS projections are tough. Take the savvy veteran with a lower ceiling but higher floor? Go for the risk of the young’n without the history to prove he can do it further? Find what works for your team and go for it! Here’s the Top 100 Hitters…based on my thoughts! My. Subjective. Thoughts.

They just happen to be right a lot. Ha!

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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.

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It was almost 15 years ago (somehow) when Outkast introduced us to the truth that sometimes “roses really smell like poo-poo-oo.” Ha, that silly Caroline thought she was special. Back in January, not gonna lie, I had a two weeks spurt of praying and hoping that I could break the mold, that I was special, and that I could get away with not smelling while disregarding one important component of every adult’s life.

After a wedding in Charleston for New Years Eve I came home with zero deodorant. Who in the balls steals deodorant, I don’t quite understand. But that triggered a little experiment for two weeks of wearing none. (Gasp) The horror!

Well, I actually got away with it. For a while. Then came one day at work when I had to walk about 10,000 steps…you can see where this is going. Let’s just put it this way, I didn’t raise either of my arms anywhere north of about 5 degrees from my sides. While it wasn’t doo-doo that I smelled like (because that would be quite possibly the. worst.), Ol’ Three Stacks was right in that you just can’t avoid the necessary elements and think you’re 100. For Caroline, that betch needed a little humility. For me, it was as simple as stop being a cheap bastard because the experiment failed miserably. But, oh, for Rougned Odor? The approach would catch up with him eventually. Here comes the massive drop.

  • Rougned Odor, 2B, TEX (96.2% owned) – I can feel the scorn of all the Grey acolytes reading this. I’m lucky enough to somehow be a part of the FantasyPros Expert Consensus rankings, and while doing a little studying back in March one person stood far above the others in his love for the smelly Texas man with a nasty right haymaker: our Grey. Now, I trust Grey’s ratings above almost everyone else’s, but with Odor we weren’t in lockstep. And then his first week happened and I felt a little silly, because our mustached macho man was looking quite nice for his top 15 ranking of Rougned (3 HR in first 4 games). But then reality set in: this dude’s streakier than Frank the Tank running around the quad (somehow also almost 15 years ago). With a BABIP south of .300 last year he hit .271 and posted 33HR with 14 SB. Incredi-belmo! When the ol’ BABIP drops under .200, though, you get a player slashing .194/9/4/13/1. His game doesn’t allow him to weather the bad storms because he never walks (4.0% this year), whereas players that walk to a double-digit rate can still provide value while getting on base when the bat goes cold. He’s a special talent with a massive ceiling, but until he turns it around there are plenty of other options I’d rather own. At only 23 years old he’s prime to turn it around and still finish with a .250/80/25/80/12 line, but if April’s a precursor for the rest of 2017 we need to pump the brakes on what we dreamed he may be. .270/90/30/90/20 just ain’t happening. This is bad Odor. You’ll have to live with it. It’s definitely not roses.

Now, I’m sure I’ll look like an idiot for this in a few days when he goes all Anthony Rendon, but then I’ll just say this was all a ploy to make my big boss man look better (insert Grey cackle here)! Still worth the 96.2% own rate? Yep. Still worth a top 25 ranking where even I had him preseason? Nope. And much of the below rankings are my subjective thoughts, so don’t agree? THAT’S WHAT THE COMMENTS ARE FOR!

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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.

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When you’re 6’7″, 275 lbs as an athlete there are a few limits to how you can reach the highest level. Running back? Nope. Shortstop? Nope. Quarterback? Well, Jared Lorenzen did at about 4 bills, so maybe? But as much as Andre 3000 loved singing about the prototype, you can’t put that label on a 6’7″, 275 lb outfielder. Remember Richie Sexson? Ugh. Hey, @JB…what would it look like with you galavanting around the outfield? #Razz30

All that to be said, I was totally out on the Aaron Judge experiment. He has massive power in his bat, but I just didn’t see his build and makeup translating well into a MLB slugger. Same worry I have about Phillies minors monster Dylan Cozens. In 670 plate appearances at AAA the last two years Judge hit around .250 with 27 HR. He improved from 2015 to 2016, but I just held some big hesitations.

And man…was I wrong.

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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.

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A lot’s happening in Korea these days. Not sure if you watch the news, but let’s just say they’re not happy with us in the North. You know, the whole communist vs. freedom thing. [Jay’s Note: Or is it simply two man-child idiots battling over who’s more emotionally unstable?] But in the South, where our friends live, we may be getting on their bad side, as well. No, not in a manner that causes global political strain, but with one of their most beloved past-times… our national past-time.

The KBO had a monster in it the last few years. Sure, Japan claims Godzilla, but Korea can say they produced a baseball godzilla. Steamer loved him in the preseason projections, ESPN hated him enough to put his pre-draft ranking at 200+, and other Razzball pundits warned of not overspending for someone that couldn’t make it in the MLB just a few years ago.

And now? Well, Milwaukee not only paid him, but they’ve been seeing a lot of the gif above recently. Platoon? GTFO. You don’t platoon this…

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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!

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