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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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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Hey friends! Are you in your imaginary baseball management championship bracket right now? Or at least the consolation bracket? I know we’re winding down and the vast majority of players are just awaiting some solid playoff baseball DFS. But for those of you still in the season-long baseball basket, let’s see if we can’t get you a couple starters that will save your season — or starters you might want to stay away from.

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All I ever wanted for Christmas was to see Robbie Ray get all worked up. And Santa brought me my gift early this year! Maybe you casual fans just want to see Lance Lynn get worked up, but when Robbie Ray and the Orioles manager get into a tongue-lashing, that’s the kind of baseball I want to see! Yeah, things are getting pretty slow here on the baseball side. On the plus side, I’m in the top 20 in RazzSlam. On the downside, the cutline only sends the top 10 to the playoffs. So, it’s kind of like I’m the benevolent tight-pants-loving lord of a small fiefdom that resides outside of Coolwhip’s kingdom. I beg thee, King Coolwhip, let Luis Severino pitch! How are all of your teams doing? Still active? Let’s see if we can find some pitchers for your fantasy playoffs!

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Just got back from the First Annual Razzball Flag Football Competition, where we took on Bishop Sycamore in a battle of the fake schools. As expected, Donkey Teeth served as a quarterback while Grey stood on the sidelines wearing his “Coach” attire. It was a little weird to see him wandering around with a $10,000 handbag, but I don’t judge. Rudy called the plays, although his reliance on bootleg plays 90% of the time really underestimated DT’s ability to turn left. He’s a donkey, Rudy! He goes forwards! Besides from DT being stubborn, the game played out fairly nicely, with yours truly spraining an ankle in the first 30 seconds and then spending the next hour watching the game from the shade of a tree with a little adult beverage. In the end, Bishop Sycamore defeated the Razzballers 122-6, our only points coming from an accidental pick-6 when Coolwhip designed a replica Bishop Sycamore jersey and snuck onto the other team. Their rosters were so confusing they didn’t notice. On to the Greinke graphic and the pitchers! Hut, hut, hike! 

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Fantasy playoffs! I don’t kink shame here. If you’re Googling “MLB Playoff Fan Fiction,” that’s your thing. My thing? Ranking pitchers in a giant table. We’re down to the last month of the MLB regular season — and many fantasy leagues are in the playoffs already — so you’ll want to start any hot hand you think will help your team. Within reason, of course. We’re going to see a lot of rookie starters called up, and even with their immense hype (see Cabrera, Edward), they can still put up lackluster performances that don’t really help your cause. As always, consult Rudy’s Streamonator Tools (and if you’re not subscribed, where have you been? Jump in and support us!) and check-in with the writers throughout the week. We’re here to help!

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It’s back-to-school week! Do we have any students out there reading this, or is it all just all people who last updated their phones when Bell Northern went AWOL? Still can’t believe the price I used to get on long distance. With each passing week, we’re watching a couple more pitchers fall to the injury, so let’s try and focus on finding some replacements for the arms that just hit the IL.

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I’m writing this lede as Tristan McKenzie comes off a near-perfect game with 11Ks. As fans — like, baseball fans who spend their time watching games and maybe even attending them — this is cool as hell, right? A rookie throws a no-hitter in his first appearance on Saturday night and then another near-rookie throws a near-perfect game the next day. Each pitcher is on a bombing team that is in a race for draft picks in the 2022 lottery. Yet, the players refuse to give up. They see the lights, the contracts, the ability to overcome their past mistakes. But we as fantasy players, sometimes we’re just puzzled. Do I like McKenzie in a real-life setting? Oh hell yeah, I named him the “Cardiac Kid” last year after his desire to be a cardiologist. But in fantasy? He struck out as many batters on Sunday as he had struck out in his previous 3 starts combined (he also had a 6.00 ERA / 6.00 FIP / 5.8 K/9). The reason we play fantasy sports is just because wild stuff like this happens. The unexpected happens every week, and we can’t predict who will throw a no-hitter or who will get blown up. With that, I bid everybody a great week as we round the corner into the last weeks of the fantasy baseball season. 

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I spent Friday afternoon calling TD Ameritrade to see if Grey had traded me to ESPN for the return of Manny Ramirez to MLB. After seeing reports on Twitter from Jeff Passan that Grey was actually at Boba Hut — the Star Wars-themed boba joint — instead of The Great Fantasy Industry Meetup, I started to relax. My eyes shut, the words Fidelio shooting through my head. Yes, I was loyal to Razzball. Grey was loyal to me. I could sleep, not worried about being traded…And then the e-mail from Boba Hut came. Its contents stated: “1 – Mandalorian Suit, Size XL. 1 – Boba Hut Face Mask (extra ventilated). 1 – Boba Hut Platinum Membership Card. Start date: August 1, 2021.” He sold me for a boba! Grey, I hope you enjoy that umami texture. As for me, I’ll be on the 4AM – 10PM shift at the Boba Hut in Pasadena, so come see me if you have a moment.

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We’re 60% of the way through the season and you haven’t sued us for boredom! I can’t believe we’re not boring! I’m going to put that on my next CV so that my next potential employer can reject a “not boring” person. Or maybe that will get me kicked out of Elon Musk’s hole-digging company. Ever wonder why billionaires want to dig holes and fly into space at the same time? Probably for their space boring tech. Elon Musk watched The Expanse and thought it was an inspirational business story. I think he’d make a good asteroid maven. Can’t become president on Earth? Why not be king of your own asteroid? Rob Manfred’s probably already prepping for a 2030 Moon Base MLB game, sponsored by Gemini, where all the players get paid in Bitcoin. Then when Shohei Ohtani Jr. hits a 3,000 foot popup, Manfred will cancel low gravity on the moon and return all the players to their natural home: a row of folding chairs in a hotel lobby. I kid! We here at Razzball love Rob Manfred and everything he’s done for the game of baseball, including making the lives of pitcher rankers completely miserable by getting rid of Spider Tack. Catch me after the Greinke graphic to see what’s in store for the rest of the season!

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