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About a month ago, we joined hands in a prayer circle and prayed to the Ghost of Tommy John that he wouldn’t claim the elbows of any of our fantasy starters. So far, so good. Tommy John must have approved of our sacrifice of Coolwhip and offerings of Orange Julius! Thank you for your service to Razzball, Whip, and please don’t haunt us. We were just trying to win! But for real, Whip is alive and kicking and that Orange Julius is fresh in my hand, ready for slurping through a hot dog straw.

The majority of y’all who are still attending my weekly starting pitcher therapy sessions are here because you’re in the fantasy playoffs. If so, drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you need, friend! For everybody else, I assume you’re here either because of inertia, my jokes, or you just want to see if I somehow lose my sanity and tell you to spend all of your dynasty bucks on Sandy Alcantara. The latter will never happen.

Let’s jump in and see what we can do for your fantasy playoffs!

News and Notes

Shane McClanahan: I told you earlier in the year that this moment would come. You make it to the fantasy playoffs, and your ace pitcher crashes like Icarus to the Earth’s soil. But like Icarus’ father Daedalus, you must reconstruct your team from the ashes. McClanahan landed on the 15-day IL with shoulder impingement, which sounds like some kind of carnal tax evasion problem. Let’s be honest — would it be in the Rays’ idiom to take their star young pitcher who removed himself from warmups and keep playing him at full speed? Answer: No, the Rays protect their pitchers religiously. [stares at Tyler Glasnow] If I’m a betting man, if McClanahan returns, he’ll probably do limited innings on his way to staying warm and stretched out for the MLB playoffs. Fantasy managers must stay the course and activate him from the IL when he returns — the upside potential is just too good to give up at this point.

Tyler Glasnow: AAA-rehab start on Wednesday! He probably won’t be ready to start in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean Glasnow won’t A) become a Roleless Rob!, or B) start for the playoffs on your DFS team. Watch those news updates and see if he pops into the majors in 2022. Also, if your league does keepers and Glasnow is on the wire, he’s absolutely worth the stash. I’d keep 2023 Glasnow over 90% of the chaff that’s out there.

Max Scherzer: Removed himself from Saturday’s game with a “fatigued” oblique. Somewhere, Jordan Peterson is writing a missive about how Sparta would have never survived if the 300 had fatigued obliques. Say goodbye to Western society! Given the history of the Mets training staff, every fantasy manager should be white-knuckling their chair and hoping Scherzer can work his own way through the injury. Fingers crossed that he doesn’t miss any time; David Peterson (see below) would likely remain in the rotation if so.

Sonny Gray: Left his last start with hamstring tightness. Typical Gray stuff…and I don’t mean Grey stuff. Or gray matter. New podcast idea: Grey Matter! Where Grey talks about neurology and phrenology. ENYWHEY. Gray made a big deal about wanting to pitch deeper into games, and now he’s injured. It’s like when I hit the gym, and I tell my coach that I’m gonna run a 5-minute mile for 10 miles and then I crash to the floor after 3 minutes, huffing and puffing and missing out on vital TV with Kelly and Ryan Live! Gray’s fantasy utility came from his preternatural ability to cause whiffs, but he’s got none of that this year. Drop Gray and don’t bother with him the rest of the year — too many red flags to stream.

Tyler Mahle: Speaking of ineffective former Reds pitchers now playing for the Twins, Tyler Mahle came off the 15-day IL this Saturday and didn’t make it into the third inning. Yeesh. Before his injury and after his trade (look at me trying to be literary!), Mahle put up average fantasy numbers and notched 2/4 quality starts. Sometimes, pitchers take their injuries to the IL, like Mahle did. Sometimes, pitchers work through their injuries and wind up on the ineffective list, like Gray. Either way, the Twins look like they’re desperate for help at this point, and the Guardians are taking the lead in the non-competitive AL Central.

Zach Plesac: Been a while since we mentioned this guy, right? Broke a finger while punching the mound. You’d think he woulda learned after he hurt himself while removing his shirt! Remember Huascar Ynoa, who had a 20% whiff rate prior to fighting the dugout bench in 2021? See Plesac in Ynoa…except for the whiffs. Plesac shouldn’t have been on your fantasy team anyway, but now he’s really off the radar.

Spencer Strider: In August, Strider K’d 40% of batters while walking only 5%. He’s allowed 3 homers in the past 67 IP. Those stats approach Jacob deGrom 2021-levels of legendary. Strider has become a top keeper option for 2023, and he’s looking like a top 10 starter for 2023. I’d hazard to say Strider is a top 5 starter for 2023, although the clickbait sites won’t admit it until April 2023.

Dean Kremer: He’s on a hot streak, but all evidence points to major regression soon. Coolwhip says he’s writing up Kremer this week, so I won’t go too in-depth here. Kremer is K’ing less than 7 per 9, his swinging strike rate is below 10%, and 23% of contact against him is a line drive. None of these are good things. What’s troublesome, is that Kremer has succeeded against Houston, Boston, and Toronto — all of these teams are filled with capable if not exceptional hitters. Nothing in Kremer’s stat line suggests “hidden gem” and he’ll blow up pretty soon, so it’s up to you if you want to test his current “soft contact” trend. After a tough matchup against the Jays, Kremer is scheduled to face the Nationals and the Tigers during the fantasy playoff. If you’re OK with some risk, those are stellar matchups for a low-K, soft contact pitcher to gain some IP. Baltimore has a nightmare schedule after that, facing the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays to finish out the year, and I wouldn’t touch Kremer against those teams.

Mike Clevinger: We talked earlier about how Clevy is probably gonna tire out to finish the season, and I think we’ve seen enough evidence to call it. Over his last five starts, Clevinger has a 4.70 ERA and a 6.20 FIP/xFIP. His 5.00 K/9 barely outpaces his 4.0 BB/9. His fastball has precipitously declined in velocity and is nearing 1.5 MPH below his mid-season prime. If you’re rostering Clevinger, it’s time to move on — the tank is empty here and it’s not worth the risk for your fantasy team.

Miles Mikolas: Faced 26 batters on Sunday, managing only 3 of them himself and allowing 23 instances of contact. Somehow, only 2 of those instances of contact resulted in a hit. BABIP of .091 in the game. Yeesh. Mikolas has been all over the place recently — he’s been blown out in 2 games while also reaching the 8th inning in 3 games. Let the fates decide your fantasy season! With a K/9 under 6, nearly 2 HR/9 over his past 5 outings, and a swinging strike rate that has never climbed above 9% in the past month, you’re playing with fire every time you start Mikolas. That said, Mikolas faces off against the Reds and twice against the Pirates to end the year, which is absolute magic for fantasy playoff managers. Start Mikolas in those favorable matchups, but don’t be surprised if he gets chased in the third inning by a 120 MPH blast off an Oneil Cruz barrel.

Jack Flaherty: Maybe he’s back? Flaherty’s been on the mend for about 20 years now, and he hasn’t pitched a fantasy-relevant number of innings since late August 2021. Take care of your body, kids! It’s really a no-brainer for the Cards to go super-easy on Flaherty and have him act like an opener for the rest of the year. First, Flaherty’s been injured and basically hasn’t played for 12 months. Second, he’s under team control until 2024. Third, keeping his innings low in 2022 will suppress his arbitration salary case this winter. I’d avoid Flaherty in all redraft formats, but feel free to line up a few of those contrarian DFS lineups to see if he reaches 6IP.

Ross Stripling: Way back on June 27, I asked fantasy managers to give Ross Stripling a shot. From July onwards, Stripling has an 8.6 K/9 with an astounding 3 walks. That’s 3 walks total. That 2.33 ERA goes perfectly with his 2.53 FIP, like pairing a fine red wine with nachos. Stripling is available in about 10% of leagues, so grab him if he’s available and keep starting him if he’s on your roster.

Dylan Cease: Remember when all of us analysts were kind of worried about Tony Gonsolin’s luck rate? I was worried about Cease’s health a few weeks ago, and then the guy goes out and nearly no-hits the Twins. I didn’t watch it — I was too busy thinking about Super Mario Bros. speed runs. But Cease’s last 7 starts? BABIP of .146, FIP of 3.94 and xFIP of 4.26. These are worrying numbers for a guy that’s supposed to be an “ace.” Sure, Cease has 5 out of 7 quality starts in his recent history, but four of those quality starts came against the Athletics, Rangers, Royals, and Diamondbacks. His games against Houston and Baltimore? 7 earned runs and 8 strikeouts in 10 IP. His fastball velocity is still decreasing and it’s now nearly 2 MPH below his mid-season high. There are a lot of red flags. You’re starting Cease no matter what, but don’t be surprised if he pumpkins on you during the championship.

Michael Wacha: One of those streaky pitchers who’s on a hot streak — nearly 9.5 K/9 and 4 wins over his last 4 starts to go with a 2.19 ERA and 3.32 FIP. Available in 25% of leagues and could be a fill-in for managers looking for an injury replacement.

David Peterson: Still available in 70% of leagues and all he’s done in August is give fantasy managers a 10+ K/9 and a 2.53 ERA to go with a 1.86 FIP. He could stay in the rotation now that Scherzer has oblique fatigue. At worst, Peterson remains a Roleless Rob that could leech W and churn K/9 while barely costing any IP for those managers in an RCL.

OK players! Tell me what’s going on for your teams and let’s see if we can win a championship!