The MLB playoffs are still a month away, but your fantasy baseball playoffs are practically here! Your starting pitching philosophy changes dramatically when the stakes are high and time is limited. If you’re a strong team in the playoffs, you’ll want to use pitchers with confident outcomes. If you’re a weak team, you might need to make some risky pitcher plays to stay in the running — but nobody expected the #6 seed to advance anyway, right? When the expected outcome is “lose,” you should take every risk you can to put variance in your favor and win.

Let’s jump right into the actionable items. As mentioned last week, I am no longer providing the hierarchical ranks — the data window of remaining MLB games is insufficient to move the ranking needle on up-and-coming pitchers.

News and Notes

Blake SnellWe mentioned him about a month ago when he was still available in 30% of leagues, and now he’s available in 3% of leagues. What are you waiting for — snag him! ENYWHEY. Snellzilla decided to do his end-of-year 2021 performance in 2022. Over his last 4 games, Snell has a 13.5 K/9 and a ridiculously unlucky .370 BABIP. In other words: he could be even Snellier. Is that a word? I’m not trying to up-Snell you here, but you’re starting BS — wait, that sounds unprofessional — Snellzilla every outing from now on.

Robbie RayAnother week, another fight in Razzball chat about the status of Robbie Ray. Coolwhip mentioned something about R^2 (P.S. that abbreviation doesn’t actually save space) being lost. I went over to Ye Olde Razzball Player Rater and pointed out that Ray was SP34 on the year. Ray has really poor win luck on the year — if he had 2 more wins (which would give him 11 wins out of 24 starts), he’d be in the top 25 of starting pitchers. Coolwhip, I forgive you. Ray will always be a bit more volatile than other pitchers. Comes with the pants. Over the last month, Ray has a 2.33 ERA and 3.07 FIP. In perspective, Ray’s FIP is better than Corbin Burnes. You’re starting Ray in every outing and enjoying his K/9 on your way to fantasy playoff glory.

Martin PerezOne of the great conundrums of 2022 fantasy baseball. Which one of these doesn’t belong: Shane Bieber, Logan Webb, Kevin Gausman, Martin Perez, Robbie Ray. That list is roughly the order of SP29-SP34 on the Player Rater. What’s really weird is that Perez snuck into the top 20 of K/9 in August — ahead of Gerrit Cole and Kevin Gausman. Perez’ K/9 success is pretty stunning for a guy who had over 1,000 IP and 185 games started of 6.04 K/9 in his career. Perez didn’t even finish 2021 as a starter on a Boston team that needed starters. But just like there’s “win luck” and BABIP (which is often “hitter luck”), there’s also strikeout luck. Perez generates practically no whiffs (swinging strike rate between 5-7% over his last three starts) and his BABIP over his past 6 starts is .240. That’s a ton of luck going his way. Sure, we can narrate this as “crafty veteran knows how to limit damage.” Whatever. Perez has a 5.65 FIP to go with a 5.29 ERA over his last three starts — oh! and a nearly 6 BB/9 — so we’re probably looking at Perez’s yearly collapse. Couldn’t come at a worse time for fantasy managers. The Rangers just jettisoned their manager and Perez’s next starts come in Coors and then combinations of HOU, BOS, TOR  — you get the picture. If you’re still trusting rickety Martin — wait, Ricky Martin! I love that guy. ENYWHEY. Martin Perez — time to let go for your fantasy teams.

Kohei AriharaRemember this guy? He came over from Japan in 2021 and was supposed to be a quiet innings eater. A couple injuries and another year later, he’s finally back in MLB. Arihara spent extended time in the Rangers’ AAA system, which was probably unnecessary for the 29-year-old and the Rangers MLB club that is 22 games out of the division chase. After canning the Rangers manager, somebody in the front office probably said, “Remember Arihara? Oh yeah, we’re paying him millions to pitch to 21-year-olds.” Even straight out of Japan, Arihara’s skill set wasn’t supposed to wow MLB audiences. In 2022, Arihara made 14 starts in AAA with underwhelming results, but that could also be chalked up to a crisis of confidence. Arihara is a guy to keep an eye on after the Rangers finish out this next crucible of top teams. Basically, Arihara has 6 weeks to show MLB teams that he’s either worthy of another shot or to give his future NPB team a good taste of what he’s got left in the tank. Deep league dynasty managers shouldn’t consider him an asset — trade him off if there’s still time. Tread carefully with Arihara, but managers might get a feel-good fantasy story at the end of the year if the dice roll in his favor.

Keegan ThompsonEarlier in the year, Thompson was in the top 30 starters for quite some time. Over the last month, he’s got an 8.50 ERA and a 9.37 FIP. Don’t dream it’s over! Except, Thompson is off to the IL with back tightness. Whether it’s truly “injury” or just “ineffective,” Thompson is done for 2022 fantasy. Cut and move on to literally anybody else.

Alexis DiazRoleless Rob alert! Available in 50% of leagues. Diaz is a rookie who jumped into the Majors and has some rough edges. However, since his July call-up, he’s got a 14.6 K/9, a tolerable 3.2 BB/9, and an elite 0.54 ERA / 1.74 FIP. Problem is, he’s also only thrown 16 IP in that span. But since the start of August, Diaz has a 17.6 K/9, 1.17 BB/9, and he hasn’t allowed a run. What’s better? In those 7 IP, he’s notched 1 Win, 2 Saves, and 2 Holds. So, 5/7 appearances resulted in a decision. Could we have found our next RCL cheat code? Could he be your ratio guy for the fantasy playoffs? High risk / high reward for Alexis Diaz. Temper your wins expectation (it is the Reds), but a guy with this K-ability doesn’t come around often. I’d take the risk and add Diaz as a Roleless Rob.

Andres MunozRoleless Rob part 2 alert! Munoz is also available in 50% of leagues. Similar deal as Diaz: Munoz has a 19.7 K/9 since the start of August, albeit with a more worrying 4.15 BB/9. Also, a 0.00 ERA. Also, only 8 IP. But remember how the Mariners took Paul Sewald and effectively made him a top starter to finish out 2021? Munoz could be in that role for 2022. Over Munoz’ last 8 outings, he’s notched 1 Win, 1 Save, and 4 Holds. So, 6/8 appearances resulting in a decision. Another high-risk / high-reward Roleless Rob play. Unlike the Reds, the Mariners are in the thick of the Wild Card chase, and guys like Munoz could snag multiple Wins to finish out the year. I’d also take the risk and add Munoz as a Roleless Rob.

Josiah GrayHe’s been incredibly volatile throughout the year, and we’re on one of the downtrends right now. He’s rostered in 90% of leagues and has a fine 9.28 K/9, but his 5.06 ERA and 7.34 FIP demonstrate that he’s utter fantasy trash. His swinging strike rate is under 10% on the month, and he hasn’t notched a win since early July. Calendar check! It’s the end of August. In the time since that fabled win, he’s allowed 16 home runs, good for a 3.4 HR/9 rate. Like, he is literally throwing batting practice. Why is he 90% rostered? Can I be in the tournament where 90% of managers are marching out a pitcher with a 7 FIP and 3.4 HR/9 rate? Yeesh. ENYWHEY. Guess you know who to stack against in DFS now. If you’re in the demographic that’s rostering Gray, I would encourage you to swap Gray for literally any warm body on the free agent wire. No, not Josh Hader. Stop that whataboutism.

Jose BerriosI won’t pretend that we’ve all been yo-yo’ing on Berrios. Just a bit ago, I told you to sit Berrios for the rest of the season, and then he goes out against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium and Ks 9 over 6.2 IP while allowing only 1 run. A 14+% swinging strike rate. BABIP of .353, so he should have been even better. A thing of beauty. In that same blurb where I told you to sit Berrios, I also told dynasty managers to acquire him. The Blue Jays have a ton of money invested in the 28-year-old Berrios. JB has been one of the most reliable fantasy pitchers for years. But we can’t ignore that Berrios has been flat-out terrible for most of 2022. So, I’m upgrading Berrios to “You do you” status. We’re clearly watching an ace figure himself out. Gerrit Cole does this every year and we don’t complain. After a less-than-appealing matchup at BOS this week, Berrios is slated to face the Cubs, possibly the Pirates, and possibly the Rangers. If there’s a series of matchups to get an ace back on track, it’s that series. It’s up to you what to do with Berrios, but I’m still indicating that dynasty managers should “buy low” and redraft managers should cross their fingers at the upcoming easy slate of matchups.

Justin SteeleAvailable in 40% of leagues and has a 13.3 K/9 over the last month. However, we can see a 2021-style Dylan Cease style of boom/bust over a month-long span. Prior to his current hot streak, he had a 4 K/9 with a 5 FIP for 2 games, which was preceded by a 12 K/9, 3.35 FIP streak, which was preceded by a 3 K/9, 4.02 FIP streak. You get the idea. Boom or bust. The circle of life. It’s up to you whether you want the risk, but if you’re a manager that’s trotting out Martin Perez or Josiah Gray, I’d recommend you switch over to Justin Steele. Even when Steele isn’t “booming,” he’s still causing less fantasy damage than Gray/Perez.

Lucas Giolito6.30 ERA over the past month but a 2.57 FIP and .441 BABIP. That’s what we call unlucky. Gio’s had a rough year but I’d keep starting him in the fantasy playoffs.

Sean ManaeaWoof. 12.91 ERA over the last month to go with a 7.30 FIP. Yet, 12 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, and a ridiculously unlucky .450 BABIP. Nothing here makes sense. Start at your own risk, but he should be performing much better than we’re seeing.

Reid DetmersAvailable in 10% of leagues, surprisingly. Go check your wire and add if available.

George KirbyAvailable in 20% of leagues, amazingly. Kirby has a 1.51 FIP over the last month to go with a nearly 10:1 K/BB ratio. Like, that’s insane. People are more willing to start Josiah Gray than George Kirby? I don’t want to live in this world anymore.

Tyler MahleHit the 15-day IL but signs seem like a full recovery is due — Mahle got a clear MRI and he was lifting weights two days after being placed on the IL. Both team and player indicate he’ll be back ASAP, so keep starting when he returns.

Shohei OhtaniTough to complain about Ohtani, but he hasn’t really surpassed 6 IP since the beginning of July. Remember what I said about the Angels protecting his health? Ohtani’s ratios are excellent but the team and environmental concerns have him with a 2-3 record over his last 6 starts.

Johnny Cueto28IP, 5.97 K/9, 3.91 xFIP over his last 4 starts. Oh, wait…that’s actually Sandy Alcantara’s stat line. Lemme line up Cueto’s last 4 starts now: 30.2 IP, 3.82 K/9, 4.34 xFIP. Here’s the power of narrative: Cueto is like 85% as good as Sandy Alcantara! And we can flip that: Alcantara is 15% better than Cueto! You do you on both.

Have an awesome week and let me know how your teams are doing down in the comments!