I really wanted to start this post with a quote, something like “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, or something like that. I figured that was a great way to offer hope and encouragement regarding the “second half” of the season. Let’s face it, with this whole “seamingly” out of nowhere spike in offense the last two seasons, there’s one inevitable conclusion. Pitching sucks!!! I mean we’ve been holding onto any shred of decency available. Look at Jason Vargas! Why am I ranking Jason Vargas? Does he have some sort of magnificent secret about these new Hi-C joints MLB is calling balls? Why the hell is he so much better than Justin Verlander? I have too many questions! I’m supposed to have answers! Here’s the truth, as if I’ve been lying to you before. There’s maybe 20 matchup proof starters in all of baseball, and then the rest of them you have to be careful with to varying degrees. Now, that’s not necessarily true for points formats, or deeper leagues with quality starts. Or even those with a greater emphasis on counting stats over ratios. But in our RCL formats, or any 5×5 roto with innings or starts limits, you must choose wisely. Around every corner lurks a roofie to your ratios. Just because Jordan Montgomery has been good more often than not, that doesn’t mean I’m up to a level of confidence that I’d start him in Colorado. Nah mean? Nod along. If you’re having trouble knowing which starts to avoid, check out Rudy’s Stream-O-Nator. It’s the perfect objective voice on those tough decisions you won’t get in your own head, or from your friends. That is, if you have friends with voices in your head and all. Anyway, be careful out there, and good luck in the second half.
Below you’ll see this week’s update to the Top 100 starters. What’s changed is we haven’t had three days of unfortunate meltdowns and last minute 2PM on Monday DL placements, to throw things into flux. So no cloud of full on recency bias hanging over the whole thing. BT-dubs, I don’t remember a world before the phrase “recency bias”. It’s unbelievably overused, and I for one am contributing as much as I can to it’s exhaustion. It’s not just fantasy sports specific either. It’s multi-purpose!!!! For example, let’s say my wife says something to the effect of “Ralph, you’ve been terrible in bed of late”, I can claim recency bias, and then mention all those times I wasn’t. Oh, and I guess it works for pitchers, prospects, and (those icky, disgusting, and gluttonous) hitters too. Where am I going with all this?
Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings for ROS based on 12-team Roto)
Disabled List (Ranking When Active): Noah Syndergaard, NYM (8), Dallas Keuchel, HOU (13), Chase Anderson, MIL (29) Kyle Hendricks, CHC (33), Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS (31), Matt Shoemaker, LAA (54), Andrew Triggs, OAK (61), Matt Andriese, TB (68),Vincent Velasquez, PHI (73), Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD (75), Kendall Graveman, OAK (76), Matt Harvey, NYM (99) Brandon Finnegan, CIN (100)
- I often list the number of pitchers with SwStr% of 10%+ and groundball rates of 50%+, and I often hear the same complaint from the voices in my head. “What about the weak contact flyball guys?”. Don’t worry random commenter in my head, I got you. This week We’re listing all those with infield flyball rates, or IFFB%, of 10%+ and SwStr% of 10%+. These heroes are as follows, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke, Carlos Martinez, Jacob DeGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Robbie Ray, Chris Archer, Johnny Cueto, Dan Straily, Dylan Bundy, Drew Pomeranz, Masahiro Tanaka, Marco Estrada, Patrick Corbin.
- There are 17 pitchers with that combo of swinging strikes and infield flies, and 11 of them are in my top 20.
- Since returning from the DL Cole Hamels hasn’t been the guy of old, but he’s shown glimpses the past two starts. Over those 14.1 innings, Hamels has struckout 12 while only allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, and a walk. Small sample, but possibly a glimmer of hope. The upcoming opponents for the Rangers aren’t scary either, @KC, @BAL, @TB, MIA, BAL, SEA, @MIN.
- Jason Vargas has been one of the most surprising breakout players in recency-bias-memory, and it’s been on the strength of his knuckle changeup. He throws the pitch 30% of the time, and the outcomes are exactly what you would expect from an elite offspeed pitch. It gets a high number of swinging strikes, with a 21.85% whiff rate. While rarely allowing contact with a BAA of .155.
- Another veteran enjoying an uncharacteristically strong season is Ervin Santana and his two pitch focused approach. Santana throws his fastball or his slider 75% of the time, and each pitch has been successful at limiting good contact. The fastball boasts a .204 batting average against, and the slider is even better at .153. Unfortunately his breaking ball is the only swing and miss pitch in Santana’s arsenal, inducing whiffs at a 14.8% rate.
- Since Robbie Ray ditched his sinker (more or less), started throwing his curve more, and some very good things happened. In fact he now has four pitches with a swinging strike rate north of 10%.
- Over the past few weeks a great deal of talent has returned from DL exodus, and into the Top 100 Starters. Chief among them is Madison Bumgarner, who’s set to start this Saturday. The last two rehab outings were tough, but take those with a grain of salt. I don’t think you can expect him 100% with total certainty, but I’d be shocked if he’s anything less than 98.43%.
- I took a long hard look at Rudy’s rest of season projections for starters, and I was a little shocked to see how much higher they were on Danny Duffy than I was. He’s had an injury plagued follow up to his highest inning total in a single season. He’s not missing bats like he did in his breakout 2016, and much of that is due to the year over year deterioration of his fastball’s dominance. In 2016, Duffy was getting 12.77% swinging strikes on his four-seamer, that number is just 7.25% this season. In turn the batting average on that pitch has jumped 40 points from .239 in 2016 to .279 in 2017. Makes sense that he’s throwing nearly 10% less four-seamers this year, which has led to a spike in slider usage. That’s not a great development for a player with a history of arm injuries.
- The player rater isn’t very rosy about the rest of season numbers for a few starters in my Top 60. The biggest disagreement is over Ivan Nova’s rank; I slotted Nova in at 43, and Rudy slotted him in at 71. I get the lack of strikeouts dings his value but he’s had worth in ERA and WHIP, in a season where that’s more scarce than ever.
- The player rater loves Tanaka rest of season, ranking him 24th from here on out. I’m sorry, but I have memories and emotions, and those prohibit such lofty ranks.
- As is a running theme here at Razzball I’m the high man on Michael Fulmer. Serious question, why do you hate Michael Fulmer? He offers a four pitch arsenal, a mid-90’s velocity fastball, lots of groundballs, lots of infield flies, and great ratios. I understand the K’s are under 7 per 9, but are you really taking Lester, Porcello, even Cueto over him?