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Friends and family and enemies who read this for the schadenfreude — we’re 10% into the 2023 MLB season! The Twins and the Rays are the best teams in baseball, and Kyle Freeland is your Cy Young frontrunner. Let’s Freeland GO!

For longtime Razzball readers, you know the motto is still: Don’t Panic. Three games started. 10% of the season. How many of y’all quit one episode into a Netflix series? Maybe that’s why the icon for Squid Game is that robot girl. Or maybe Netflix thinks the prime demographic for the show are fans of cybernetic giantess fantasies. It’s probably both, to be fair. I, for one, would love to see The Terminator throw 120 MPH with his right arm while simultaneously blasting T-1000s with a gun in his left hand. But until we see Ahnold blasting his way to the mound, we’ve got our human pitchers and they’ve got their flaws. 10% of the season is still a drop of non-GMO motor oil in the sea.

Starting Strategies

Everybody loves a good rookie. The Itch is one of the most popular writers here and all he does is write about prospects and rookies. Boys want to be him. Dogs want to marry him. But even The Itch will tell you — being a good prospect doesn’t mean rookie magic right away. We can’t all be Ken Griffey Jr.

There are 20 “starters” who are rookies right now. Five of them have ERAs under 4.00. Of those five, two of them have pitched only four innings. Another is Kodai Senga, who’s not actually a rookie. So…that’s not great, Bob.

Yeah, Spencer Strider was a rookie in 2022. But…actually he first appeared in 2021, and then he spent 1/3 of the 2022 MLB season as a Roleless Rob to start his career. Y’all remember when Corbin Burnes had an 8+ ERA as he crossed his rookie threshold? Short memories, eh?

I’d still avoid rookies. Should you add Drey Jameson? I mean, you do you. But Grayson Rodriguez is a much more touted prospect, and he’s crashing into fantasy walls right now. There are plenty of veterans out there who are returning surplus value and are probably on your waiver wire: Kyle Gibson, German Marquez, Anthony DeSclafani, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman, and Nathan Eovaldi for example. Are these the kind of pitchers that will anchor your fantasy team in June and July? Probably not. But will they prevent you from getting Gray-bombed to the tune of a 9 ERA? Probably.

News and Notes

Jeffrey SpringsSic transit gloria. The Rays protect their pitchers because, well, this happens. Springs will miss at least two months with an elbow condition that wasn’t fully defined at the time I wrote this. What that means, is that doctors probably saw a sprain in his elbow and they want to see how it looks once the inflammation goes down. Either way, this is both dreaded and expected — so many pitchers with new approaches and extended workloads fall victim to elbow injures. Usually the pitcher and team get together to decide whether Tommy John surgery is the right option, and we’ve seen the Rays choose that option for Tyler Glasnow. Springs is best suited for your IL at this point, and if he goes under the knife, he’ll be done for the season. We’ll check in soon, but I don’t have high hopes.

Alek ManoahIs it time to panik? No, Joe, we’ve still got some time. We can be concerned, though. It’s not like any of the Blue Jays staff is doing all that swell right now (looks away from Gausman). Manoah’s probably the one you care about most because, well, we love the guy. Now his K/9 matches his BB/9 and the only good thing we can about that is “at least it’s under 7.” Surprisingly, the best aspect of his fantasy game is his ERA, which is way over 5.00 and leads his true skill stats by nearly 2-3 runs per 9. Yeesh. I know we’re still in small sample size territory, but check out this gem of a comparison I did in Week 5 of 2022:

Name Player Rater Barrels/% CSW% FIP ERA
Player A SP1 3/3.9% 27.3% 3.16 1.45
Player B SP183 3/3.8% 27.2% 3.21 7.01

Don’t you love a good anonymous comparison? Player A was 2022 Alek Manoah, and Player B was 2022 Tyler Mahle. Mahle got traded and then injured shortly afterward, so we never got a chance to see the true skill stats stabilize. But for Manoah, we watched him finish 2022 with some nice Win luck (16 Wins), an ERA that was 1.1-1.5 points better than his true skill stats, and a paltry .244 BABIP. Throughout early 2022, I asked you whether Mahle was more Manoah or whether Manoah was more Mahle. I think we are closer to an answer now. Manoah’s 2022 CSW% was mundane at best (27.5%) and his 2023 number is pathetic (25%). Compared to the predictability of the true skill stats FIP and SIERA, CSW% locks in pretty quickly — you’re either throwing strikes or you’re not. Easy peasy. Pitchers who don’t throw strikes walk a ton of batters, and pitchers who don’t miss bats put a lot of balls in play. QED. And, even if you have a Samson-like skill of limiting damage, if your opponents are hitting everything you throw, you’re going to give up runs. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. You know what’s kind of scary for Manoah? His 2023 BABIP is only .256. He’s still luckier than most pitchers out there. So what happens if that luck turns and he hasn’t figured out his control or whiff issues? Well, you’re out of luck. The signs for Manoah don’t bode well — if you can get value in an early season trade, I’d recommend that. Otherwise, be strategic with starts for the time being — he’s got the Yankees coming up in a matchup vs Gerrit Cole (avoid), and more favorable matchup against the Mariners vs Luis Castillo (start).

Joe MusgrovePossibly returning at the end of the week? Musgrove got slightly delayed in his rehab starts after doing a Cirque du Soleil tryout while trying to field a ground ball. Managers report that his toe isn’t the problem anymore — it’s the fact he crashed onto his shoulder while trying to field a ground ball. Take some CBD and chill, Joe. My fantasy teams need you!

Adam Wainwright: Speaking of Ironmen gone rusty, Wainwright is also working his way back this week — maybe for late week start if we’re lucky, but more likely next week. Wainwright is about as blah as they come for 12-team fantasy, but his repertoire leads to low ERA and high Win counts, which every team needs after starting Alek Manoah four times this year.

Kyle Gibson3-0, K/9 under 6, BABIP near .300, true skill stats saying he’s a 5.00 ERA pitcher. Gibson’s about as well-known a quantity as there is out there — and that quantity is “Blah” —  and you’ll want to avoid him once the weather warms.

Hunter GreeneHe’ll be starting against the Rays the same day this article posts. Will I be psychic or will the internet ridicule me? Will the internet ridicule me because I’m psychic? It’s a no-win situation! So let’s play prognosticator premier anyway: Greene’s  14.8 K/9 is unbelievable, and his 5.14 ERA is similarly “not happening.” When Greene doesn’t miss a bat, the hit balls soar into the air and he’s got an unreasonable 30+% line drive rate. Line drives tend to be hard to catch and land disproportionately for hits. Guys with 14+% swinging strike rates tend to end up on the good side of hard hit damage, and we can wait patiently for Greene’s stats to align. Don’t give up if you’re worried, and acquire if you’re bold. The Reds don’t have a ton of upside for Wins, but a 0-0 pitcher with a 5+ ERA might be easy to acquire this early in the season.

Grayson RodriguezWhat did I tell you about rookie pitchers? There’s going to be a glut of them on the waiver wire come May, but you had to go get Gray-Rod early, dinnit cha? Well, enjoy the nearly 9.00 ERA, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Brady SingerLooking rough right now, but control is spot on and HR/FB% is…33%. Yeesh. xFIP and SIERA are indicating he’s a 3.70ish ERA pitcher, which is exactly where we expect him. His CSW% is 32%, which is wildly good and y’all just gonna have to wait until the stats normalize.

Shohei OhtaniHe’s getting lucky on both sides of the field. Wait, don’t Google that phrase. What I mean is that Ohtani’s walking a battalion load of batters and somehow none of them are scoring. How can he be so good on both sides of the field and not have any scoring? Beats me. If you have to lock Ohtani in as a hitter or pitcher on Mondays (looking at you NFBC weirdos), I’m voting for hitter for the time being. Everybody else just keep doing your thing and get as many two-way days as you can to maximize your scoring.

Patrick SandovalThe RazzFam wonders whether to start him or avoid him. The true skill stats are all over 4+ and nearly 3 points higher than his ERA. That spells “blowout in the making.” [shudders while remembering being a new father] Sandoval’s K/9 is low and his BB/9 is high. I wonder if I should adjust the metrics so we have walks per 8 innings…BB-8 would do way better in the SEO rankings. Much like Star Wars, Sandoval is a Streamer right now, but could be a hit soon.

Jack FlahertyHow the Flaherty does anybody allow more BB-8…I mean BB/9 than K/9 and somehow have a sub-2.00 ERA? Flaherty’s dangerous right now and I’d avoid until he finds the strike zone.

Josiah Gray: Still not getting why people are fawning over this guy for fantasy. ERA and true skill stats all over 4.00. Plays for the Nationals and has an 0-3 record to start. A K/9 rate lower than Jack Flaherty — and Jack Flaherty is walking a batter per inning. Are we supposed to celebrate that Gray has lowered his barrel rate to a lean 9%? Like, great. Love that for you, dude. Hope you make a couple million and have a stellar career. But for your fantasy teams, this is blah as it gets right now.

Rankings?

You might have noticed that there are some infrastructure changes here at Razzball. Because my personal algorithm utilizes that data, the ongoing changes are messing with my data outputs. Hopefully everything lines up next week. I know you all love tables and scrolling!

See you down in the comments!