Please see our player page for Jacob deGrom to see projections for today, the next 7 days and rest of season as well as stats and gamelogs designed with the fantasy baseball player in mind.

With all the changes to the 2020 season to the 2020 seasons swirling around, I wanted to narrow in on one specific item: the DH in the NL, and specifically, the impact to pitchers. I’m comparing Rudy’s Steamer/Razzball projections from March to those here in July; we’ll focus in on changes in projected ERA.

At first glance, it’s easy to minimize this change. After all, we’re talking about 2-3 plate appearances per start, and pitchers aren’t complete zeros at the plate. In a reduced season, this is likely only 25-35 plate appearances over 10-12 starts. How big of a deal is it?

To set a baseline, let’s first look at the impact on AL starters. Here’s the top 50, comparing their March to July ERAs:

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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?

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[places soapbox on ground, stands tall]

Starting pitchers are more important this year. But you should still take hitters first. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

For most fantasy league formats, you are chasing wins in 2020. Thus, WAGNOF (Wins Ain’t Got No Face). With starting pitchers, you’re looking for #1/#2 starters on good teams, who will pitch a lot of innings and contribute to Wins, ERA, WHIP, and K. Relievers with great K/9–even middle relievers–will help immensely with ERA, WHIP, and K. But wins? Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Whereas wins used to the be the domain of starters (and Twins’ middle relievers), we’re already getting reports of top pitchers having inning limits and pitch counts. So, we’ll be seeing a lot of wins going to middle relievers, which makes it much more difficult to predict that category (unless you’re a lifelong Twins fan, holla!). If you don’t believe me on this, then take the advice from three-time Trout Fishing Champion Grey Albright. If you’re in a league that uses Quality Starts, the top three tiers of pitchers are even more valuable because you’ll be relying on pitchers who stay in games AND who don’t give up earned runs. The coronavirus and the style of play in 2020 placed a high scarcity on pitchers who meet these requirements. That said, crafty managers can combine mid-tier pitchers with relievers who provide elite ratios and make an effective pitching staff that will win leagues. So, let’s teach you to be a crafty manager.

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On our Steamer Fantasy Baseball Rankings, which have been updated to a 60-game season, we have 1,310 players ranked. 645 of them gained value. Some, for unstints, gained $0.1 of value like Juan Soto. Another hundred had zero value change like Christian Yelich. Another 600+ lost value. These are their stories. *Law & Order sound effect chung-chung* This post will feature the top 20 players who lost the most value from doing nothing but bingeing Netflix for the last three months. Who knew Love Is Blind could hurt one’s fantasy value? “I’m gonna go with George, he’s so funny.” “Okay, Jenn, here’s George…He’s a sign spinner for State Farm!” Anyway, here’s the top 20 biggest negative value changes for fantasy baseball pre vs. post-shutdown:

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True story: DonkeyTeeth calls me up on the ol’ Twitter machine this morning.  Me, I’m just awake from dreaming of 5-year-old Blair riding out in my dad’s Buick Skylark into the Minneapolis night to celebrate the Twin’s 1987 World Series win.  Suddenly Donkey’s typing: “Top 100 Switchers.” And I’m like, “Donkey, it’s 7AM, I’m not ready for that!” He types into the Twitter machine, “TOP 100 PITCHERS!” So I say, that’s fine, here: 1) Beer, 2) Sangria, 3) Margarita… . Donk does it. You know. He starts typing, but doesn’t finish. The little dots on the bottom of my Twitter machine beep out in morse code–or whatever code Jack wants to call it–that causes mental insanity among so many people. I’m transfixed. The next use of a nuclear code, you know it’s going to be preceded by those little waiting dots. President Swift will have to verify the code with Vice President Lovitz but only after they clear their notifications. Finally, Donkey’s message comes across. “2-for-1 pitchers at BWW if you get there before 9AM. See ya.” That’s the level of training they give here at Razzball. I tell ya, I get no respect at all. 

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Hello, again. Thanks for stopping by. I’m noticing talk ramping up around the fantasy baseball world on how to approach pitching with the short season coming up. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to get the shortest end of the stick the owners want us to get, if we get anything at all. I’m honestly not overly optimistic we get baseball in 2020, but I’m going to operate under the assumption we will get 48-ish games at least. So, if that’s the case, that sure ain’t a lotta starts per starting pitcher. I mean it’s like 10 tops, assuming the typical five-man rotation. So, what, 70-80 IP maximum? In a perfect world it’d be 90 with 10 complete games, so let’s shave a few off for safe measure.

It seems a bit counter-intuitive to suggest fading the top guys, at first glance. “But, like, JKJ, if there aren’t as many starts, don’t you want the best of the best to increase your chances of those being good starts?” you may ask. While I see the logic and merit in that mindset, I think you could get similar returns from non-top-tier guys in a drastically shortened season. It’s really their longevity and big innings that put them ahead of the pack.

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I’ve only been loosely following the counterproposals MLB and the MLBPA are exchanging. Where are we at now, 200 to -38? How does a negative game take place? Only position players are allowed to pitch and only pitchers get to hit. You thought that was cute before, huh? It seems like the most likely season is 50 games, which would be wild. Stats like steals are going to be so very hard to manufacture. I’d suggest streaming rabbits against pitchers that can be run on from the jump, to be honest. Here are the worst pitchers when it came to stolen bases yielded per inning in 2019.

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You see a girl across the bar.

She’s gorgeous.

An angel.

Maybe.

It’s dark.

Tough to see real well.

But one thing you can say for sure is there’s a human sitting across the bar in this post-rona scenario. 

You’re eager to move a little closer, maybe buy a couple drinks. And who knows? Might be the start of something long term. 

You can feel the competition looming. Lotta hungry eyes in the house. Can’t sit around much longer. Have to move in before you’re certain.  

What I’ve just described is the free agent pitching pool in most dynasty leagues. It’s also the general pitching landscape between spots 150 and 200–this week’s focus point. The situation can seem dire most nights, but people get picked up all the time, and some turn out to be great finds. 

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Old guys can throw balls, man. 

You probably haven’t been to the gym in a minute, but just imagine/remember the locker room. 

Young guys’ balls tend to have a little less movement. More velocity, fewer wrinkles, less wiggle. Ah, youth. 

Command is where the locker analogy falters. Old guy pitchers have movement and command. They are stars of their own Viagra commercials, popping their car’s hood on the side of the road because they’ve learned a thing or two about engines by now and just plain know how to get stuff done. 

Youth reigns in dynasty baseball, but it’s nice to have some oldsters in the locker room when readying a crew for extensive ball-work. 

This old-balls bit is gaining momentum in my mind, and I’m not loving that, so let’s just cut to the first fifty.

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A wise man once said, “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are usually both right.” That was Confucius, who also once remarked to a bright young pupil on a particularly overcast day in 531 BC that “He who places his livelihood in the hands of starting pitching health is indeed the king of fools among us all.” I can assure you he said both of those things, and I can assure you that I will do my best to heed his insightful words as I reveal the pitchers on my 2023 All-COVID Team.

Like I said, Confucius was a wise man. He would have never dared use ESPN’s rankings to set up his fantasy baseball draft board. No, he would likely make his way to a site like Razzball, where he would study my 2023 All-COVID Team with great satisfaction before stumbling across this post. At this point, we would likely faint out of mere displeasure.

Projecting the top pitchers in fantasy three years from now is an asinine task in nature. Experts such as Grey who are able to nail preseason fantasy pitching rankings year-by-year have achieved quite a feat as is. To venture further into the unknown is, quite frankly, setting oneself up for failure. But, to heed my good friend Confucius’ words, I will be “he who says he can,” and I shall be right.

Please, blog, may I have some more?