With beloved Razzball writer Ralph Lifschitz finally revealing his true identity on Twitter, I realized it came down to me — the pitcher ranker and weekend editor — to unmask the final mystery man of Razzball: Grey Albright himself. So I invited the Fantasy Master Lothario to a fancy brunch that I never showed up to. Instead, I snuck into Razzball HQ…which wasn’t hard to do because Donkey Teeth is there literally every minute of every day searching for shirtless pics of Yusei Kikuchi. Grey never locks his office because he feels that he gives away all of his data for free on the internet; there’s no reason for anybody to break in. Except, for the holy grail: the real identity of the Master Lothario.
I sat down in Grey’s chair behind his office desk and began rifling through his personal belongings. There was his autographed Kevin Kouzmanoff rookie card, his 40 oz. drinking mug with Adam Dunn’s face, and his passport for the time he worked as a scout in the Dominican League and told the Twins to take Wander Javier instead of Juan Soto or Fenando Tatis Jr.
The passport! I had it! I opened it, my fingers trembling from excitement and having nothing to do with my habitual caffeine intake to keep me awake while I typed articles. Suddenly, I heard footsteps in the hallway approaching. Grey was smart to me! I quickly put the items back in their home just before the Fantasy Master Lothario entered.
“Everywhere!” Grey said, “I thought we were meeting for hamburger sandwiches this morning?” He carried a boba drink in his hand and moved the straw up and down in a rhythmic pattern. I quickly recognized it as “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan.
I looked at him, and it all made sense. The anger toward ESPN. The alternate identity. The inability to say anybody’s last name without adding 16 extra syllables. I knew I had to speak truth to power. It was time to let him know that I knew.
“Yes, we were to meet for burgers this morning, Eric Karabell Jr.” I had spoken it into existence. The world shook beneath my feet. Grey started to lose his footing. Razzball HQ, after all, was in California, and earthquakes were common. When it was calm again, it was as if the world was new. The mid-day sun shone through the windows. I could hear Donkey Teeth shouting in the breakroom that Sam Hilliard was launching dongs. And Grey, his shirt covered in spilled boba, looked at me and said, “Clubbie, do my laundry and get the exit velocity of that home run.”
I was only too happy for my analytics and laundry service.
News and Notes
Joe Musgrove: How can we start anywhere other than Coolwhip’s favorite boi, Joe Musgrove. Because he threw a no-hitter — Joe that is, not Coolwhip. Coolwhip can only throw back some beers. But Musgrove — he was cranking. His pitches were about 1MPH faster than his previous average, and he finished the game with a nice 35% CSW. On the year, Musgrove has 15 IP with 3 hits allowed, 18K, and 0BB. Why was everybody somewhat low on Musgrove in 2021? Because in 2020 he was pretty bad to start the year, with an ERA over 6 and a K-BB% of 12. He had a month off in 2020, and after his return, he had a K-BB% of 33% and an ERA of 2.16 and a FIP of 1.39, and a K/9 of 13+. Those, my friends, are SP1 numbers. Now if you’re a Razzball regular, you saw Coolwhip’s Joe Musgrove 2021 Fantasy Baseball Outlook this past winter. If you followed my SP rankings, I had Musgrove in the equivalent of the Top 30 SP. And if you drafted him, you’re getting ace numbers right now. The only thing I wished I had been — other than braver as a child — was bolder as a ranker to see how similar Musgrove and Corbin Burnes were at the end of last season. See, Musgrove had the tough start to 2020, and Burnes had the rough 2019. A couple of visits to the fastball fixers and they’re suddenly Lightning McQueen off to the races. Fingers crossed everything stays in gear for Musgrove in 2021.
Kohei Arihara: Looking through Musgrove’s box score, an astute investigator could notice that the opposing starting pitcher was none other than the international man of mystery, Kohei Arihara. Going back to his time in Japan, Arihara was never a big K guy. Luckily for y’all, I read Japanese and figured out what the Texas front office didn’t really notice: He’s not all that exciting. In 800+ innings in Japan, he racked up only 626 strikeouts and compiled a 3.74 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. So, I loaded up the ol’ Stathead (at least that’s what my wife calls it) and plugged in Arihara’s career numbers into it, looking for an MLB comp. I spent way too long fiddling with the criteria because, well, few pitchers in MLB last 800 IP with a 12.5% K-BB%. And then I talked to the Razzbois and we decided that wasn’t possible, and Nate Marcum showed me what he found on FanGraphs. So I dug through that and found two close comps: 1) J.A. Happ, and 2) Miles Mikolas. Happ has more K% and more innings, and Mikolas has same K%.BB% but 50% fewer IP. So, J. Miles Hikolas, welcome to the MLB! Arihara is off to a less-than-stellar start to his MLB career, with [checks box scores] 2 strikeouts in his first two starts. Whew. It just got hot in here. So, if you’re in a super-deep league — like, you’re oxygen-deprived and painting psychedelic images in a cave — then you can roster Arihara. Otherwise, let him go.
Stephen Strasburg: 6IP, 8K, 2BB, 0ER. Strasburg struggled with injuries all through spring training, including his puzzling vestigial tendon injury where half of baseball Twitter finally learned about the theory of evolution. And Strasburg, minus one tendon, went out and produced a quality start for the first time since 2019. Bully! If you were one of the brave managers that took Strasburg, you’ve got a nice reward so far. But seasons aren’t won in the first start, and the long-term results from carpal tunnel recovery are less than thrilling. Running with Strasburg right now is like buying a car with a salvage title from the auto-lot. Yes, it could work just fine. Maybe it was just hail damage. Or maybe that clunking noise is something you should check out. White knuckle and hope that Strasburg keeps performing well.
Corey Kluber: Wow, this is totally the “boring and injured” pitcher list. ENYWHEY. I’m here like Dr. Oz to tell you to eat more kiwis. Kluber followed up his lackluster first outing (4IP, 3BB, 5K) with a 2.1IP outing where he gave up 5R (3ER) while walking 2 and striking out 3. Some rankers put Kluber in the top 30. After the next start, 10% of the season will be done, and he’ll likely have as many IP as some middle relievers. I’ve already warned you about Kluber, and if you’re still white-knuckling his performances, I have nothing but admiration and recommendations for hand surgeons for you.
Jacob deGrom: 8IP, 14K, 1ER. See, here’s the thing about taking pitchers early: the rarest category they contribute to are Wins. Wins are arbitrary and often out of the SP’s control. DeGrom now has two lights-out performances to start the year and 0 wins to show for it. If you had taken Jose Berrios and Joe Musgrove in your roto league, you’ve got more Ks, the same WHIP, and 4 wins. Fantasy baseball is, well, a game. And sometimes you gotta play the game. Sure, deGrom is nasteh (which is what Donkey Teeth says when he’s in hot yoga), but the reason he doesn’t top the end-of-year SP charts is something he can’t control: the Mets doing Mets things. Fingers crossed his teammates give him some support for the rest of the year.
Jake Arrieta: Speaking of starters with 2 wins, Arrieta is the poster child for arbitrary wins. Sure, he’s 35. He could pitch a few more years. But with an average launch angle of 21 degrees, a K-BB% less than 10, and an xERA and xFIP above 5.00, we’re a scant few games away from seeing Arrieta’s numbers regress to the mean. So, don’t roster Arrieta, but do stack against him in DFS.
Madison Bumgarner: No, I’m not trying to sell you snake oil. If I was doing that, I’d be complimenting your hair. After all, it’s really shiny with EWB’s Classic Carpenter Snake Oil! But Bumgarner…isn’t as bad as his numbers indicate. Sure, an ERA of 11.00 isn’t great. or even acceptable, but neither is his BABIP of .433. He’s got a 3% barrel rate and a 13% swinging strike rate. Yeah, the velocity isn’t stunning, but his pitches aren’t rating too poorly overall, and his CSW% is at 29.5%. Bumgarner’s not too far from his surprising CSW% neighbor, Clayton Kershaw. Now, I know you want to make a million dollars and personally, I know the secret: staying the course with pitchers who seem to be the victim of poor luck. MadBum seems to be in a bad-luck trap, so hang on just a bit longer if you can. If he keeps pitching like this, that BABIP should regress and we’ll see better numbers for deep league managers. Nobody in a 12-teamer or less should be rostering MadBum anyway.
Corbin Burnes: You’ve probably seen the tweets by now: Burnes is the first pitcher in 100 years to start the year with 6+IP, 9+K, 0 BB, and 1H in each start. Guy’s the embodiment of Acumen, the Greek God of Shooting Your Shot. In the pre-season, I hypothesized if Burnes brought in his slider more, he could be a top 10 SP. Instead, he’s bringing his curveball out more. Unforch — which is the name of my porch removal service bee-tee-dubs — the slider is still the superior pitch and it’s not getting the use it should. So, I’m not saying one needs to improve upon a historically good start to a year…but imagine if that slider came out more.
Dylan Bundy: One of my top SP1 targets has 12IP, a 12 K/9 with a 26.5 K-BB%, an xERA of 2.22, and a SIERA of 2.80. Those sure sound like top 10 SP numbers. Fingers crossed he keeps those performances up and can notch a few wins.
Rich Hill: Mountain of Dick has been really good to start the year. Problem is, he hasn’t pitched more than 60IP in a year since 2018. He was already injured in spring training, and he pitches for the Rays, who love to pull pitchers early. Maybe they’ll preserve his arm a bit better than his other teams. Regardless, if you’re in a tournament and are desperate for arms, take a flier on Mr. Mountain. If you’re in a standard league, only roster him if you enjoy YOLO’ing your money into AMC stonks.
Brent Honeywell: 2IP, 0ER, 0H, 2K. Honeywell showed up as an opener for the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Honeywell is an elite prospect…who hasn’t logged regular-season innings in organized baseball since 2017. So, temper all those expectations. It’s the Rays, and there’s service time to be manipulated, and there’s injury history. The most likely upside outlook is probably 80IP, which gives Honeywell the profile of an elite reliever. The most likely normal outlook is 50IP, which gives Honeywell the profile of a spot starter like Freddy Peralta last year. Useful in deep fantasy leagues, but only a streamer in other formats.
Elieser Hernandez: Officially hit the IL with biceps inflammation. That injury could take a month to alleviate, possibly longer. We can’t have nice things.
James Paxton: Off to see Dr. Freeze. Cut in all formats.
Trevor Williams: The internet got excited when Trilliams went 6IP, 2ER, 2BB, and 6K. That’s completely yawnstipating in most formats, but the big deal is that Trilly has been one of the worse starting pitchers in the majors over the past couple of years and now he looks just OK. From 2017-2020, he threw 500 innings of 4.34 ERA ball with a K-BB% around 10. OK, that’s not bad in real life, but no fantasy manager was winning their leagues with the former Pirates hurler. Now that Trilly is on the Cubs, he joins Jake Arrieta in the possible “career rebirth renaissance squad.” The 35-year old Arrieta and the 29-year old Williams have plenty of track records to say, “we are no good for your 12-team standard league.” But the hype train that’s carrying all of us through 2021 has spray-painted across the side, “Take a shot on us in deep leagues but don’t expect too much.” Funny, I didn’t know taggers wrote like that.
FAAB God, Millionaire
Here are some quick take options on players that are rostered on less than ~50% NFBC leagues:
- Adrian Houser: Finished 2020 adequately, 4.12 xFIP through 2 starts in 2021.
- Chris Flexen: Hey, why not?
- Jose De Leon: Going to be a lot of white-knuckle starts
- Alex Cobb: Same as last week, missed a scheduled start this week due to weather.
- Taylor Widener: Peripherals look bad but has limited damage through 2 starts, will possibly stay on the team after Zac Gallen returns.
- Trevor Williams: Maybe the Cubs fixed him?
- Steven Matz: Looks like he’s back to his old form.
A couple of pitchers we can look at and clearly say, “You changed something! I like it!” See Musgrove comma Joe. However, it’s still dangerous to over-react on 2 starts of data because we know some of the best pitchers actually start a bit slow. So, here’s what I decided to do: the familiar S-Tier, A-Tier, and so on. Here’s how I define those:
- S-Tier: If these pitchers continue their performance in this manner, they’ll be in the Top 10 at the end of the year.
- A-Tier: We’re seeing some good starts and bad starts, but these pitchers are most likely to finish in the top 25.
- B-Tier: Some rough or aggressive starts with the potential to finish SP5-SP30.
- C-Tier: Past history concerns and current start are indicating a finish from SP20-SP70. Anybody above C-tier should be rostered in 12-team leagues or shallower.
- D-Tier: Deep leagues, tournaments, and extreme streamers.
Please remember that the order within the tiers really doesn’t matter. I wrote 8,000 words on that before. Just trust me. I tried to organize the pitchers have I’m more “certain” about to the top of the tiers, but there are a bunch of other categories I calculate behind the scenes that also influence rankings which made some of the certainty rankings get wonked up. I’ll try to fix this next week. Any pitchers that don’t appear remain with their pre-season rankings. Most notably, Robbie Ray should be back in action this week, and y’all know I love him. But, I’m not gonna tell you to start him against the Yankees.
And continuing my previous ranking stats, these stats — K-BB%, SIERA, and CSW% — are all reflective of the types of pitchers who finished SP10 or better, as well as being effective indicators of prediction of performance in my Space:X model (based on Carlos Marcano’s more accurate and more complex speX model). The stats below represent the current MLB year up to Saturday, April 10.
Let me know if you have questions in the comments, keep your hate mail in your desk, and I’ll see you soon!
|Lance McCullers Jr.||17.10%||3.77||34.40%|
|Jose De Leon||33.30%||2.35||34.60%|
|Daniel Ponce de Leon||9.50%||5.45||21.50%|
|Chi Chi Gonzalez||-10.00%||7.6||21.30%|
Aye, you made it this far, didn’t ya. EverywhereBlair is, well, located at home right now. He’s a historian and lover of prog-metal. He enjoys a good sipping rum. When he’s not churning data and making fan fiction about Grey and Donkey Teeth, you can find him dreaming of shirtless pictures of Lance Lynn on Twitter @Everywhereblair.