I suppose if we’re being alphabetical, this is week Y. If you’re a Rush fan, consider it like YYZ. I mean, I think airports are chaotic polyrhythms too.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: It’s not the stimulus, but the response. You can’t control everything. What you can control, is your response to stimulus. Maybe you’re in a chaotic airport — how do you keep your cool and have a fun flight when a bar tab costs $90? Or maybe you’re listening to a track in 5/4 — what do you do with that extra information?
Or maybe — just maybe — you’re in the championship week of your fantasy baseball league. I hope you are.
You think you got to the championship through the meticulous control of your team. You thought about every matchup and played the odds. You stayed up until 2 AM to make a waiver claim. You checked on your team every day, much to the displeasure of your elderly dad who simply wanted a call one time a month.
The truth is, is that you managed 25 (give or take) players at any given time on your team. In MLB, there are some 750 active players migrating through the league on any given week. You managed, like, 3% of those players. Some of them had great stretches, and some of them had slumps. And your opponent in the championships manages another 3% of the league. So, 6% of the universe of MLB players are matched up in your fantasy baseball championship this week. 94% of baseball performance is meaningless for you this week.
Congratulations, you are an insignificant speck in the cosmos.
Whatever happens in the championship, just enjoy it. You can’t control how the players perform. I mean, they’re tired and torn and some of them are literally arranging off-season jobs and lodging right now because work ain’t guaranteed next year. What you can control is your reaction as a manager.
For those of you that drive, you probably know what an over-correction is. You’re driving along in the rain, and then you hydroplane. You’ve lost control of your car. Do you slam on the brakes, or turn the wheel in a frantic effort to regain traction? No. You take your foot off the accelerator and don’t turn the wheel.
You can’t control what happens in the fantasy baseball championships. Your players are trying their best. But maybe your 3% of MLB is just performing worse than your opponent’s 3% of the league. It’ll be OK. You made it this far champ, and I’m still proud of you. If you encounter a hardship this week, just take your foot off the accelerator. Whatever you do, don’t turn the wheel frantically. And with your newfound clarity, maybe give somebody a call and see if there’s anything you can do to help them out this week.
The Rest of This Article
I’ll quickly give you a list of streamers if you’re desperate for starters, followed by my annual recap.
Suffice to say, if you have stud SPs, you’re starting them this week. If you’re not starting them now, then drop them for somebody who you would start.
The Streamonator loves Reese Olson at the Royals and Guardians this week. Beware — Olson’s FIP/xFIP is over twice his ERA. He’s got less than 7 K/9 in his recent appearances, making him a risky streamer. But if you need Wins and maybe some ERA luck, you might snag it from Olson, who’s available in 30% of leagues.
Bailey Ober is available in 30% of leagues and slots against the Athletics this week. The Twins claimed the AL Central and will want to rest their bullpen as much as possible so that they can finally claim a playoff Win, giving Ober a ton of upside for a Win and ratio help.
Shane Bieber is back! He had a rough first outing against the Orioles but has a more favorable matchup against the Reds this week. I’m surprised the Guardians let him go 5 IP last week, but that just means that he’s ready to be Win eligible this week. Bieber’s available in 60% of leagues.
Triston McKenzie looks like he’ll slot against the Tigers to finish out the year. Another risky play, but it’s a favorable matchup. If the Guardians were willing to give Bieber 5IP, then the logic stands that McKenzie could get enough play to be the pitcher of record and be a useful streamer.
Thanks to the Razzball team for a great 2023 season! I appreciate the platform and ability to take a non-traditional approach to writing about fantasy sports.
In terms of league performance, I had probably the worst year of my fantasy career. Much of this performance anxiety was driven by external reasons that I won’t go into detail about here. Suffice to say, I prefer finishing on top or on the bottom (hehe!), and never in the middle. Finishing in the middle means you didn’t take enough risk. Finishing on the bottom usually means you took enough risk, and it just didn’t work out.
I learned this top/bottom preference (hehe!) back when I studied a ton of best ball leagues and wrote my RazzSlam/RazzBowl guides. Consensus thoughts say that “bad” teams are at the bottom. This can be true of individual leagues with newbie owners. Sometimes, teams are just poorly constructed and poorly played. However, many bottom-feeder teams are victims not of poor construction, but of bad luck.
Imagine drafting a pitching staff composed of Shane McClanahan, Jacob deGrom, Robbie Ray, Tyler Mahle, and German Marquez. Every tout would have congratulated you for this rotation — a clear ace in SMC, a value pick in JDG, a K/9 and Wins maven in RR, and QS/W/IP mavens to finish out the top 5. Unfortunately, they all ended up needing Tommy John surgery. If you drafted this rotation, your team was probably dead in the water. There’s only so much magic we can do on the waiver wire.
Maybe your draft went like this: Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Shane McClanahan, Emmanuel Clase, Jacob deGrom…you get the idea. Out of the gate, that league looked like it was yours for the taking. Only, it took you for a ride.
Fantasy sports is not morally good or bad. I don’t know why people think it’s OK to shame players for finishing at the bottom of a league. There are extremely famous full-time fantasy analysts who have less industry tournament victories than me. I’m not better than them, and they’re not better than me. We are who we are.
There are optimal and suboptimal ways to construct a roster and manage a team. That much is true. But in an age where so many paid touts are playing in the same big money tournaments where they derive income and where they are giving their competition advice…it really makes you wonder who’s playing who.
This is the long way of saying: I do my work based on data. Fantasy analysts can’t truly predict anything. This is why casinos and DFS makers rake in billions of dollars annually. But fantasy analysts can have groupings of data-based insights to say, “XYZ should happen, if/when the conditions are right.”
My pre-season SP1, Aaron Nola, seems on track to finish as overall SP30 or so. If he had Chris Bassitt’s win luck, he’d be near the top 20. That’s well within projection range, especially for a guy who was going in the 5th round or later.
Somewhere back in the archives, I advocated for Jose Berrios to be your last pick out of your draft. He’s SP25 on the year right now. You’re welcome.
At the All-Star Break, I laughed at Nathan Eovaldi‘s success. At the time, he was Vegas’ second-best odds to win the AL Cy Young award, and some ranker over at FantasyPros seemed to be validated in selecting him as the overall SP12 on the year. Eovaldi will finish in the top 30 SP, which is really something for a guy who’s second half featured more walks than strikeouts and ERAs/FIPs near 6.00. Sometimes it’s not about the individual player performance, but just about keeping your head above water when the entire league is struggling.
Which is to speak more broadly about the wildness of offense in MLB this year. 80 billion stolen bases. Ronald Acuna Jr. going 40/70 — and who knows, maybe 40/80 by the end of the week — and still having less offensive wRC+ than Shohei Ohtani. Matt Olson gave us a year that reminded us of the steroid era numbers. You young folks haven’t seen a year like this in your life.
It’s tough to remember that we’re fresh off the post-Covid year where the MLB record for no-hitters in a season was tied before the All-Star break. Then the sticky stuff substance ban and the pants and hats came off and yatta yatta. Stimulus and response. Baseball has many eras of differing performance. There’s the dead ball era. There’s the steroids era. For the 2010s, MLB was largely in a pitcher-dominant era, and that pitcher-dominant era continued until last year. What era are we in now? We may not know.
People forget that MLB changed all the balls — sometimes using multiple different kinds of balls depending on various factors that included whether the game was televised during prime time — and expanded the bases. We’ve got more offense than ever now. A year like 2023 has simply never happened before in baseball.
Yet the old methods still gave us some good pitcher performances. My Whiffonator hailed Mitch Keller as early as week 2, and he finished as SP26 on the year. Kodai Senga kept appearing in Tier 1 despite having control problems. He finished the year as SP17. My system was one of the most aggressive on Kevin Gausman, putting him at the top of the rankings multiple times early in the year. The Gasman is SP9 at the time of writing. When Freddy Peralta was still available in 20% of leagues, my system shoved him up into Tier 1. He’s SP11 to finish the year. Back in the early part of the year, I told y’all not to worry about Chris Bassitt‘s struggles. He finished SP19.
Anybody who follows me knows I don’t like the hype surrounding Sandy Alcantara. He was picked in the first round in many leagues this year, and will finish the year around SP66. Put another way, he was unusable in 12-team leagues. Just saying.
I also warned legions of people away from Jacob deGrom due to the injury history, and the type of injury. For whatever reason, analysts kept saying that they had no fear over his numerous arm injuries, all of which pointed to tears in his UCL and mismanagement of his healing process. JdG underwent Tommy John surgery, and we’ll see him in 2025.
I warned Shohei Ohtani managers that he should be shut down — the Angels were playing meaningless baseball and he had shown signs of fatigue. The next week he was pulled from a game and subsequent analysis showed he tore his UCL. At the same time, I warned playoff managers of Max Scherzer‘s impending shutdown — he went one more start before being shut down for the rest of the year. Data can’t tell you this kind of stuff — sometimes, you just need to feel it out.
I’m not perfect. Nobody is. The most we can do is show up, and follow best practices.
Let’s call this a wrap on the 2023 season. Thanks for the well wishes, and thanks for the read. Thanks to Grey and Rudy for the platform, and thanks to Truss/DonkeyTeeth for editing over the years. Thanks to Coolwhip and JKJ for being my sounding board. Thanks to Son for being a nice guy (he really is the nicest). Shout out to the fantasy analysts out there whose careers I started. It’d be nice to hear from you one day about how you’re doing now.
To close this story properly: He lived happily ever after, until the end of his days.