I’m in this charity fantasy football tournament that names all the divisions after bands, and I was gifted my first choice for a division: The Cure. Actually, I wanted Periphery or Devin Townsend, but nobody knows about them, so they don’t get divisions. But now, I’m playing for the symbolic championship of the band that made the greatest album ever: Disintegration. Yes, I have heard BTS. Yes, their chicken nugget sauce is tasty. No, their albums are not great. Yes, I like Korean music and moisturizing face masks and bulgogi pizza. ENYWHEY. Grey’s never listened to Disintegration, and if you’ve got time today, stop by his post and give him hell for that. For all the rest of you, let’s get to the news and a bit of self-reflection on the rankings so far!
- I first dabbled with voodoo magicks sometime in 7th grade, probably because I got bored in math class and began summoning anything that would listen. Little did I know that 20 years later, all those deals I made for clear skin and sub-20 minute mile times would come back to haunt me. First, I broke Jack Flaherty and Elieser Hernandez. This week, Max Scherzer made it a few pitches before his groin told him to hit the showers. 7th grade me felt the same way. Scherzer’s groin MRI came back “clean” — he must be hanging out with Gwyneth Paltrow or something — and he looks to miss minimal time. Also groin injuries suck for pitchers, what with them using their groins to develop torque. But Scherzer has a track record of healing with Predator blood better than the average heterochromatic, so fingers crossed he’s back hurling for your team soon. Late Update: He’s feel tingly in his groin and missing his next start. So, uh, time to pick up literally any pitcher that isn’t broken?
- The year is 2021, except it’s August instead of June, and every starter has been replaced with an opener. Willians Astudillo reinvented himself as a 2nd-inning specialist, and Aroldis Chapman leads the MLB in innings pitched. Jacob deGrom is stuck in the Mets trainer room — which is thankfully free of Mickey Callaway now — and looks at Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco. “What brings you here,” Carrasco asks to deGrom. DeGrom simply stares ahead at the TV in the trainer’s room, which plays a constant infomercial for Dr. Freeze on repeat. Seth Lugo walks by, ready to start his 6th game in a row. “See you soon,” Carrasco says to Lugo. ENYWHEY. DeGrom stepped out of his last start with flexor tendinitis and he seemed to not care whatsoever about it. Remember when he and the Mets trainers were insouciant about his oblique injury and then he hit the IL after leaving his next start early? It’s not like there’s a race to 200 IP this year. If somebody out there is in a position of power, tell the Mets to chill with deGrom before he joins Thor and Cookie.
- Late insertion! Bieber got rocked by the worst offense in the league in his last start, and is going on the IL as of five minutes ago. I’m writing this Monday afternoon, in case you’re lost in the time tunnel. Reports say he won’t throw for two weeks. Sound like he needs a staycation to take a break and chill so he can keep the Clevelanders in the playoff hunt. Yeah, maybe that. Or get…traded? Hmmmmm. Either way, sorry your first-round draft picks are all injured, Pocket Ace drafters.
- I got Grey to join me in appreciating Robbie Ray’s approach to pitching finally. That’s all. Also the Blue Jays bullpen is gonna keep Ray from getting anywhere near the top of the pitcher charts because they can’t save a game to save their souls.
— Razzball (@Razzball) June 9, 2021
- Civale, so hot right now. 15:1 K:BB ratio over his last 2 starts…and 3 homeruns. Feels like a Robby Ray-style trend. Civale’s FIP is nearly 2 points higher than his ERA over the last week and about 1 point over his ERA over the past month. Really low BABIP (which is even worse than being low-T), and Rudy’s rankings are seeing him as negative value in all formats over the rest of the season. Civale won me some money in DFS this week, but all signs point to a worse 2nd half for Civale. The smart money is to trade him, and the risky money is buy $DOGE.
- 24:2 K:BB over his last four starts…and he’s getting hit around a bit too. But I get a ton of questions about Shane McClanahan and whether he’s going to get Quality Starts on that Rays team. Well, Yarbrough is no Shane McClanahan, but he’s got 4 quality starts out of his last 5 starts, he’s got better numbers than McClanahan, and he’s available in most leagues. How about this: RotoWear makes me a “Yarbs” trucker hat and I wear it every day for the rest of the summer?
- 3.24 ERA over his last three starts. Control is still a mess. But, ya know, small steps? This is more important considering he was basically useless to start the season despite his high draft capital, and now he’s been promoted to “Don’t Buy.”
- The prize in the Yu Darvish trade has done something really weird this year: he’s walking nearly as many batters as he’s K’ing, but he’s also managing a sub-3.00 ERA over his past 5ish starts. Sounds like Javy Baez is getting a nice Christimas present from the Davies household this year! Davies is available in almost all formats and might be the kind of worm-killer you need if you’re behind in ERA or in a really deep league.
- Almost a starter again? Maybe? He’s up to 5 IP, which is great if you’re Antonio Senzatela. Velocity is there, but his pitches still aren’t particularly effective: in his past three “starts,” he has a 5.25 ERA and FIP over 4. Blah. You might be receiving trade offers from managers who feel that he’s “recovered” value, but remember that he’s pitching on a rehabbed elbow and couldn’t throw half his pitches as recently as April. Also, he has only 2 pitches, just like my Hollywood career. I wouldn’t recommend buying Lamet unless you love danger and spend your weekends spelunking in the sewers.
- 17:2 K:BB over his last two starts and a STERLING 1.50 ERA. HE’S BACK BABY. [runs off to the stat-o-nator] Oh, wait, those two starts were against Detroit. Eric Haase is a legit hitter, right? Just remember his previous 5 starts added up to a 5+ ERA, 4.30+ FIP, and lots of headaches for those teams chasing recency bias. Contrary to some analysts who have proclaimed Cease to be a Cy Young contender year after year, I think we’re simply looking at your typical SP3/SP4 for fantasy that you draft in best ball only: capable of dismantling bad teams, but “eating innings” against the good teams.
- He’s baaaaaaack. Which may be good or bad, I can’t tell. I would have included Maeda in my self-reflection below, but he’s been injured for most of the year. He told us he’s not a cold-weather pitcher so we kinda ignored his bad April. Then, he was still bad when the weather warmed up, but we learned he had a sore groin. What’s he doing, hanging out around Scherzer? Maeda’s starting on Monday, and I’ll be honest: I’m plugging him in my leagues right away. NO FEAR. At least that’s what my T-shirt from 7th grade says.
- Out for a bit, likely with Covid vaccine side effects. Also, he’s clearly getting a bit tired — he’s not built for these long hauls. Perhaps there’s some stay-cation strategy to his vaccine timing? Either way — get your vaxx if you haven’t because the Deltra strain of Covid-19 is coming for you faster than a deGrom fastball.
Space:X — Where are They Now?
In honor of Coolwhip inspecting his fantasy track record this week in his Deep League Review for 2021, I wanted to pause on putting the giant table in the article and instead see how we’re doing with this ranking system. Is it working? Is it cream or crap? Should I just abandon data and instead make hot taeks based on my random observations of Twitter highlights?
Now, I’m very aware that MLB started with the worst batch of hitting in history, which will artificially inflate some players’ value. Additionally, we’re at that 40% mark where strong starts and bad starts still don’t have enough counter-data to make conclusive statements. Additionally additionally, some of the known pine-tar hurlers are starting to mix more Tang into their sunscreen and we’re seeing massive spin rate declines in players like Trevor Bauer (last 4 starts: 4.32 ERA, 8.28 K/9, and 5.75 FIP) and Gerrit Cole (last 5 starts: 4.05 ERA and 1.55 HR/9). Told ya not to draft pitchers early! But as I pointed out in the pre-season, these kinds of pitchers are known for being so good when they’re on that they still finish in the top 10 even after extended periods of crapness. So, let’s focus on some of the lesser-known hits or misses of the Space:X system so far (checking against my rankings from my 2021 Preseason Pitcher Rankings and that diatribe I wrote, which is also called 2021 Preseason Pitcher Rankings):
- Brandon Woodruff: I was basically the only ranker on the planet to have Brandon Woodruff in their top tier. OK, I was tied with some other rankers, but given that most people drafted him as SP13, I’ll say that I was 3x as aggressive as the field. Right now, he’s 20th overall on the Player Rater, and is SP3 on the year. So, hey, that worked out. Too bad Milwaukee can’t hit. They’re in first place with players like [looks at old scorecard] Brocksmith Hardmantle. Sounds like he’s ready to play!
- Kevin Gausman: I had him in my “Affordable Aces” tier early in the year, considering him a good option for your SP1. The experts/drafters ranked him/took him as SP40-50. And now he’s SP2 on the Player Rater and 14th overall. Well, well, well. Mr. Magnetic has probably saved your team more than a few times, although the Giants are also getting more wins than most people expected — this is buffeting his fantasy value, and we might see that win regression hit soon, bringing him down to a more realistic top 10 finish.
- Freddy Peralta: I told you to acquire him in my preseason pitcher rankings. He’s rewarded you by becoming SP8 on the season so far. Everything seems balanced in his game, so he’s a good candidate to maintain his position. Innings are a worry, of course, but he had as many IP as Tyler Glasnow across the past few seasons. That’s good and bad. Like sweet and sour without the fun!
- Corbin Burnes: Here’s what I wrote in the preseason: “If Corbin Burnes makes it to 170-180 IP (he came close in the minors once), you’ve got a top 10 SP.” And that’s me quoting me! Alas, Burnes got the ‘vid early in the season, which robbed him of a couple starts, and he’s been on the bad luck side of the win category. That said, he’s 9th overall in points/game, meaning that a bit of luck in the win category and continued health will propel him toward that top 10 finish.
- Lance Lynn: Most people had him as SP17ish in rankings as well as ADP; although I don’t do the hierarchical thing, Lynn led off my “Affordable Aces” category, where he was technically SP11. He’s basically the most boring SP1 you could have, but he’s 6th overall in points per game and SP5 on the season. Can’t complain about that!
- Robbie Ray: Given that he was ranked/drafted as SP120 — basically drafted only in tournaments and 15+ team leagues — his ascension to SP41 is notable. He was my bold pick for the year, and if the Blue Jays could get a better bullpen, he’d be ranked even higher.
- Joe Musgrove: I put him in the volatile Tier 4, of pitchers who had the potential to be SP5-SP60. Musgrove had a tough start to 2020 and then righted the ship to finish the Covid year. In 2021, he’s been raking, and is SP16 on the year. He was ranked by experts as SP50 and drafted by the field as SP40. I was nearly twice as aggressive on Musgrove as the field, which has paid dividends for my
believersfollowers. I mean, I wouldn’t say no if you worship me.
- Luis Castillo: At least I didn’t call him the Cy Young candidate. Castillo’s been on and off but mostly off, just like my lawn mower. Thanks John Deere! We’re seeing signs of positive change in Castillo — and he has a huge discrepancy between his FIP/ERA — but he would need an immaculate finish to the year to redeem his draft value. Also, 60% of the year is left, which is plenty of time to turn things around.
- Blake Snell: He always worried about the IP but never the talent. Now we worry about everything. He’s failed to get to the 6th inning in all but 2 of his starts this year. Yuck. But his FIP/xFIP is 1.0/1.5 points lower than his ERA, which shows the invitation for the regression faeries to come soon.
- Dylan Bundy: Started out the season as a SABRmetric darling, K’ing 40 while walking only 9. His ERA was 4.00 and his true skill stats were even better, and we were all holding on for the regression faeries to visit. Did you know Maleficent was a fairy? The evil kind. Sometimes the magic favors you, and sometimes it sacrifices you to the FIP demons. Bundy’s past month has been a disaster; instead of the ERA catching up to the FIP, he’s lost his control and has a ERA near 10 and FIP above 7. So, here’s a player that started on track and then collapsed.
- Andrew Heaney: He’s actually on an upward trajectory, with a sub-3.00 ERA over his last 3 starts and a solid K-BB% on the year. But, the Angels staff has just been miserable all year, as if haunted by hiring Mickey Callaway and callously cutting Albert Pujols. Maybe clubhouse attitudes are important? Whereas Bundy seems to be falling apart, Heaney seems to be ramping up, and could be a “hit” by the end of July.
- Marco Gonzales: Control is tough to learn; just ask Janet Jackson. But Gonzales had always been a control freak, as if he was Jeff Bezos trying to organize a warehouse. His BB/9 last year was below 1.00. Below. OK, regression happens. But with nearly 500 IP of track record to work with, we all believed Gonzales’ ridiculously low BB rate was real: in 4 years, his cumulative BB/9 was 1.99. This year? 3.22. His hard hit % over those years? 35%. This year? 48%. There’s regression, and then there’s just losing it. He’s got enough track record for us to know that he’ll probably be better than what he is now, but he’s still likely not returning usable value for most fantasy managers this year.
Takeaway: It’s better to hit the “top” players than miss on lower players, and my system has elevated the unlikely top SPs of Kevin Gausman, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Lance Lynn, Joe Musgrove, and Robbie Ray. You could have easily drafted that rotation — Woodruff and Lynn in rounds 3-5, Musgrove and Gausman in 7-10, and Peralta and Ray on the waiver wire — while not overpaying for the obvious studs like deGrom or Bieber. I expect all of these players to be a bit lower on the player rater come the end of the year; again, we’re working with a smaller set of data and hitters are starting to warm up. Injuries have devastated MLB teams this year (stares at the Mets), so there are too many variables up in the air to be certain that my new system is superior to other styles. However, we’re seeing early evidence that the top pitchers are indeed on track and we’re returning value to fantasy players. Hopefully, we’re succeeding and having a fun time while doing that.
I’ll bring the big table back next week! Have a happy and healthy week!