Dudes and five lady dudes, pitching is going to be a mess in 2020. Pitching is usually where I excel at pinpointing guys to draft and avoid, and right now I’m looking at an array of hot takes: “Top starters are more valuable! “Top middle relievers are more valuable!” “Tops are bottoms, and I’m not talking about baseball anymore!” I can’t tell hot takes from shiitakes. Usually I’m able to say, “With 100% confidence, I would not draft a top starter.” This year, if you’re saying anything with 100% confidence, you’re lying. Seriously, don’t trust anyone who is confident in predicting anything in a 60-game season. We’ve never seen anything like this and may never again. Embrace it? Sure. But “Be Water” like Bruce Lee said, and adapt. With so few innings to prepare for the season in Summer Camp, will top starters even be ready to go? That alone should shut up the “You need top starters” people. With so few innings in the actual season, that should also shut up the “Don’t pay for starters this year” people. Instead, let’s just break down the categories, and see if we can’t just win those. Laura also just gave you a solid look at possible ERA strategy. So, with a 60-game season, what is a fantasy baseball strategy for ERA & WHIP?

1. Ground Ball Rate: I tried a ton of different combinations, and ground ball rate produced the best ERAs and WHIPs in the month of April last year. I chose April to focus in on because pitchers who start fast are going to be critical. As I said in the opening, none of this has a hard-fast rule. If a pitcher is throwing a lot of ground balls, well, good things could happen. Of course, GB% is prone to wide fluctuations of BABIP and ground balls are not exactly exciting. But if a pitcher comes off a long layoff and comes out throwing ground balls, how bad could things be? According to April GB% rates, not terrible for ERA and WHIP. Top ten guys last year were: Cole Hamels, Frankie Montas, Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Marcus Stroman, German Marquez, Andrew Cashner, Max Fried, and Jon Gray. Only one guy had an ERA above 4.25:  Kyle Gibson. Yes, even those Rockies pitchers were good last April. One word about them though. Coors in the summer is a lot different than April, so I’d be careful. Oh, and only one guy mentioned had a below-average WHIP: Andrew Cashner.

2. K/9-BB/9: In season-long leagues with 162 games, K/9-BB/9 is my number one draft tool followed by everything else in a distant 2nd. It’s the easiest most common sense thing you can look at and it does 95% of the lifting. If a guy strikes out hitters, and doesn’t give out free passes, he will be successful. K/BB does the same, but, if I’m being honest, I usually do the other subtraction in my head. Over the course of 32 starts and 162 games, this is awesome. I’ve had much success. In a 60-game season, well, I’ve looked at months of this stat and it’s not doing nearly as well. Top ten guys last year for April: Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Blake Snell, Jack Flaherty, Zack Greinke, Tyler Glasnow, Caleb Smith, Zach Eflin, Luke Weaver, and Jose Berrios. Sounds great, right? Yeah, it’s not bad, but the top 3 had 4.00+ ERAs. The WHIPs, as you can imagine, were sparkling. When you turn everything into small samples of a 60-game season, I think weak ground ball contact is going to beat K/BB.

3. Streamonator – In a good season, I usually drop at least one starter I’ve drafted by the middle of April. With eight weeks only in a season, how long you think I’m running out there with anyone I draft? One start? Maybe. If Lucas Giolito is my number one starter, and he is in a few leagues, I might, honestly, only keep him for two starts if his first two starts aren’t good. This entire year is going to be about matchups, and I will be streaming starters using the Streamonator from the start. Podcaster Ralph texted me earlier, “I might only own Reds starters, since they’re facing Tigers, Royals and Pirates a lot.” PR ain’t wrong. I have Marcus Stroman in a lot of leagues, and he checks out with the 1st Rule of ERA & WHIP about ground balls, but if he gets Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola and Scherzer, I might just have to peace out on him.

In summation: This is a working theory. Again, as I keep saying, after stealing the quote from William Goldman, no one knows anything. In a 60-game season, this will be even more pronounced. Shoot, I’ve already pronounced it a half dozen times in this post. I’m pronouncing it better than the name Luis Castillo. Ground balls to an able defender interests me more in a small sample mostly because: How bad could it get? Maybe he has a bad BABIP luck start, but that’s a bridge that’s worth crossing when we come to it, and other clichés. If you can find guys who are good at ground balls, Ks, BBs and the Streamonator likes them, then vroom vroom. Before matchups are locked in stone, though, here’s a list of guys who excelled last April and May at ground balls and K/9-BB/9:

APRIL

Cole Hamels
Frankie Montas
Sonny Gray
Luis Castillo
German Marquez
Stephen Strasburg
Ross Stripling
Pablo Lopez
Tyler Glasnow
Joey Lucchesi

MAY
Charlie Morton
Rich Hill
Jacob deGrom
Patrick Corbin
Eduardo Rodriguez

 
  1. Al Koholic says:
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    Wow this year will certainly be to the advantage of the advanced statistical guys. My work hours and other Hobie’s don’t really allow me to dive to deep into that game plan.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Lucky we’re here!

  2. JakeTPE says:
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    Hey Grey,

    Hi! Hope your pandemic summer is going well and you and yours are healthy. Is your family back East OK?

    Same goes for Razzball Nation of course.

    So a little baseball is better than no baseball. Just gotta hope no player or staff gets it bad. Ugh.

    My last few starters are Houser, Alcamtara, and Cease.

    Best available guys are Hamels, C. Smith, and A. Wood.

    Stand pat or swap one or two out? Any strong feelings either way? TIA.

    Be Water (and Drink Water!)

    Jake

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Thanks, appreciate it! Hope you’re well in the Far East

      Hamels over Cease

      Yes!

      • JakeTPE says:
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        Thanks Grey!

        Business as usual here except no US summer vacation unfortunately…. Stay well sir!

  3. galica says:
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    Grey!

    Really great intel, thanks so much.

    a. Signed up Hill and Lucchesi in exchange for 2 dart throws. Both Hill and Lucchesi should be owned right? Hill so-so, but Lucchesi at least right?

    b. MLB quote of the day for July 7, 2020

    ‘Every time I sign a ball, and there must have been thousands, I thank my luck that I wasn’t born Coveleski or Wambsganss or Peckinpaugh.’

    Melvin ‘Mel’ Thomas Ott, aka ‘Master Melvin’. Though diminutive in stature for a power hitter, Ott was the first NL player to pass 500 career HR and lead the NL in HRs 6 times. In 1929 (his first full season), he hit 41 HRs and 151 RBIs – both records for a player starting the season under 20. Because of his power-hitting, he walked a lot. He led the NL in walks 6 times, tied the NL record for 7 consecutive plate appearances with a walk and set the NL record for walks in a double header (6).

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      A. I like Lucchesi over Hill

      B. Haha, that’s a great quote too!

      • Dave D says:
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        Looks like Lucchesi will likely go twice at Coors. Hmmnnn…

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Really? Yuck

        • Thanks DD

          • Dave D says:
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            No prob, Smitty. How you feeling about your early DC Razz team going in this 60 gamer?

            • Like my staff (Buehler, Castillo, Snell, Maeda) but fell short in the OF. Will have to get some production out of guys like Tsutsugo and Teoscar. Hoping Kelenic gets a shot at some point, with only 60 games anything is possible! Your club is solid – good luck Double D

              • Dave D says:
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                Thanks, man. Your staff seems super solid. If your OF guys do work out I think youll be in the running. Good luck to you too!

      • galica says:
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        Grey!!

        a. Signed up Dustin May over Lucchesi with the SDP going to Rox twice news.

        b. I liked the quote too. Was surprised I didn’t do Mel Ott yet. There are a lot of them out there including the Dom Domaggio and his brother Joe.

        c. Glad that Chappy passed his intake test! My goodness so many tests to pass.

        Cheers,
        Ante

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          A. Let’s do it!

          B. Yeah, that was a solid quote today, much enjoy

          C. Yep, one test down, 40 tests to go

    • swaggerjackers says:
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      I hate Rich Hill as much as the next guy but that Minnesota schedule has me rolling the dice until he gets hurt.

  4. Dave D says:
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    Looking at the schedules a few things stand out: SFG have a ten game road trip in August that starts with 4 in COL, [email protected], [email protected] The only SFG I was considering was Cueto but he will be unstartable in that stretch. Also SDP has 7 games at COORS. Good for hitters, but SP? Looks like it may line up Paddack to miss COORS the first time round, but Lamet, Richards, Davies seems like they could have 2 of 10 starts there. That diminishes their value quite a bit for me.

    Nice write up. A few good laughs and, as usual, great info to consider.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Yeah, was looking at the schedule too…Red Sox have 7 games in Yankee Stadium out of 10 games — haha — Diamondbacks play 14 road games at Padres and Giants — whee!

      Appreciate it!

      • Dave D says:
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        Yeah, Im not feeling as reticent anymore towards having MadBum and M. Kelly in both my DC’s. I even have R. Ray in my non-Razz. Im actually kind of happy about that now. It doesnt offset probably losing Wheeler, but its good news.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yeah, I just drafted Bum in one league for the first time

          • Dave D says:
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            Thats funny. Ive never owned him before either. Itll be an interesting experiment, but defintely a pretty favorable road schedule. You know hes’s going to throw a gem when he returns to SFG.

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              He could actually be good in 60-70 IP, I’m more interested in him now, and after seeing schedules

              • Dave D says:
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                Yeah, and with a decent team might actually put up some W’s again for first time in several years. Just maybe. His current NFBC in 10 July drafts is 143. Not a bad option there. He also fits the K/BB formula quite well.

                • Grey

                  Grey says:
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                  Yeah, agreed, 60-game season is made for vet SPs who tire mid-way thru season

      • Corbin and Bum will benefit. Looks like pre-season games start July 18

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yeah, think there’s only like 3 of them for each team

          • Wow hard to imagine

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              Yeah, it’s goofy

  5. RicoSuave says:
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    Great work Grey!
    Thank you

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      No problem!

  6. John Kruk says:
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    Hey Grey and all you Razzballers out there. How are folks dealing with longstanding keeper leagues? Yahoo hasn’t yet set up a tool that allows a league to skip the season and restart next year. Have folks come up with an end around? I like the idea of punting the keeper league to next year and setting up a one year roto league to enjoy the madness in whatever capacity we can. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      We’re punting our keepers to next year…If they don’t allow it, why not just start a new redraft for just this year, then reenter keepers next year?

  7. LOLmets says:
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    The nice thing about razzball (and fantasy baseball) is it was an escape from reality. Yesterday’s comment section almost made me want to never come back :/

    Save that stuff for twitter y’all

    • Cram It says:
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      It’s tough when there’s no actual baseball and tensions are running high in the current climate. Never had a consistent issue like this in the, sh*t, has it been 10, 15 years???…that I’ve been frequenting this site. I mean, all I said was “players didn’t want to risk it”, which is what 99% of the people understand, and I became a target for having an “agenda” and constantly get attacked by the same 5 people.

      Don’t poke this bear, and talk baseball. Ah, like you did below, good job!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Ha

  8. LOLmets says:
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    In a 60 game season here’s a batty call. Luis Robert will be the number 1 overall fantasy player. He will have an insanely hot start like Puig did when he first joined the league, and pitchers won’t figure out how to get him out in time for a correction.

    All in Luis Robert

    • Dave D says:
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      If he’s hitting 9th, no way. If he leads off maybe. That would probably take TA getting COVID and Moncada staying out longer than anticipated. Stranger things have happened though… nothing would suprise me anymore in 2020.

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        Do agree that batting 9th isn’t great

      • Dave D says:
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        Looks like he wont be a “batty call” then since he will not be a FA anywhere…

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’d buy that on Luis Robert

    • swaggerjackers says:
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      That dude is allergic to walks. I’d rather take the bet on the other extreme and say he’ll hit under .230 and won’t be an everyday player by month 2.

    • Love Luis Robert and believe he settles into leadoff role with T. Anderson sliding down to the 2 hole. I love his potential and expect him to be extremely valuable. Run Luis!

  9. Cram It says:
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    Grey, has it been 15 years you’ve been running this site? I can’t remember what year I found you and started participating. Definitely 2008 at least, but maybe 2006? Is that possible??!!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Started in 2007/8 — Craziness, right?

      • Cram It says:
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        Damn, it really is.

        • William Hung says:
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          My first period of being exposed to Razzball was when Grey recommended Erik Bedard as a sleeper, and then he did that FIP article where he said to pick up Ubaldo. I’ve been following ever since…

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Bedard! Haha

  10. TC says:
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    Conforto and Fried a fair offer for K. Marte in a standard categories roto keeper league? If not, what level pitcher would I have to probably include? Thanks.

    • NUX says:
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      Can’t hurt to start there, i see that both sides are around $22 according to Rudy’s Trade Analyzer. But I would want the Ketel side for sure, so be ready to have a counter. How many keepers each year? What other SPs are on your roster besides Fried?

      • TC says:
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        15 keepers, and my team is pretty stacked off a title last year. I’m basically trying to work multiple player deals for an upgrade. Other pitchers of value that I could include are Pearson, Corbin, or Clevinger. Just don’t think the last two are worth the Conforto to Marte upgrade, but I could obviously be wrong.

        • NUX says:
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          Who are you playing at 2B right now, without Ketel?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’d want Ketel

  11. Saint says:
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    Hello Grey,

    Looking at FanGraphs leaders I see a separate category for K/9 and BB/9 but not one for K/9-BB/9. Are you just manually creating a category for K/9-BB/9 as you stated above you are doing the subtraction in your head?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’m just doing the subtraction in my head…Not like it needs to be accurate down to a decimal point, just quickly look at 9-2 and it’s 7, which is good

      • Saint says:
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        Cool thanks. So definitely different than the K-B% column.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yeah, but not especially different

  12. Scott Kimmel says:
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    Grey,

    Would you drop King Felix or Daniel Hudson for Michael Fulmer? The Tigers are saying that he is ready to go and might use him in the bullpen to start off this season to minimize his workload

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Felix opted out of season

      • Scott Kimmel says:
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        so drop Felix for him?

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Yes

          • Scott Kimmel says:
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            Thanks Grey.

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              No problem

  13. NUX says:
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    BDon on the Yahoo pod w/ Andy B was great!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Ah, nice! Will have to listen

  14. swaggerjackers says:
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    @Grey: I know he got some dart throw love but is it still worth holding onto Sunday Santana in a weekly format roto league? Is he destined to lose at bats and end up in a frustrating playing time situation? Francona loves mixing and matching guys and his terrible defense mixed with the presence of Franmil has me considering moving in a different direction.

    I could punt him for Myers, Riley, or Aaron Hicks. It’s an OBP league.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      They just lost Delino to covid; not sure why Domingo wouldn’t start every day he’s healthy

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        I do like Riley tho, obviously

      • swaggerjackers says:
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        Having grown up a Cleveland sports fan, I get the feeling Francona is going to get at bats for Bauers, Luplow and maybe Greg Allen late in games. Plus Delino will be in the mix at some point.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Gotcha, then go Riley

    • Keeping an eye on Hicks, Boone may have him leading off

  15. bossmanjunior333 says:
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    Would you punt SP in a QS league or try to grab a top ace and then stack your hitting. 14 team OBP roto. Thanks!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Punt? Nah, I’d want a pitching staff

      • bossmanjunior333 says:
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        Well not completely punt, just wait on starting pitching and load up on elite relievers. Cats are ERA, WHIP, K, QS, K/BB, and HLD+SV. I’m just concerned QS are going to be too hard to come by, especially early, so I might be better off loading up in the other cats.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          That works for me with those cats

  16. bossmanjunior333 says:
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    One more question, would you still draft Soto in the first? Hasn’t tested positive but is in quarantine right now. Auction Calc has him 4th overall player. OBP league with TB. Thanks.

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