With all the accuracy of genetically modified water, my rankings are here in full form! Imagine it like an early Cinco de Mayo present. Or if you don’t observe Cinco de Mayo, then at least it’s a May the Fourth (be with you) surprise. Like Rey finding Luke’s lightsaber, I hope that you find hope and light by knowing the hierarchical ordering of pitchers for your imaginary sports team. Now, concentrate really hard, and will your team to first place!
News and Notes
Jacob deGrom: I hate being both right and wrong. It reminds me so much of every conversation with my kids. Dad, McNuggets are the greatest! Yeah kids, you’re right. They’re the greatest at feeding you for $7 with two free large fries on the mobile app. I can get chickens hatched, grown, killed, butchered, blenderized, formed into odd shapes, cooked, transported across the world, reheated, and served to me in my car with two large fries and corporate profit for half the price of a stick of fancy deodorant. What a world! But did you come here to listen to me talk about the fragrance of my pits or Jacob deGrom? Probably the latter (and shout out to those here for the former). ENYWHEY. DeGrom left his start early in the week with wrist soreness and played on Sunday. You know how his last one-year absence from baseball began? You’re right! He played through an injury. We’re early in the season and pitchers of all stripes miss innings for all sorts of reasons. But for deGrom, the injury signal rings just a bit louder given that fantasy managers have missed consecutive half-seasons from their expected star. We’re projecting deGrom for his usual gamut of games started, so he takes his usual place atop my Confidence Score rankings this week. Much like a roller coaster at Six Flags, I love the stuff and hate the injury risk.
Max Scherzer: Suspended for 10 games for using [checks notes] rosin. Here’s what the master lothario said about that:
— Razzball (@Razzball) April 20, 2023
I’m old enough to remember spider tack and the various other sticky substances that existed in the fabled year of 20 and 21. Reportedly, MLB officials watched Scherzer wash his hands in-between innings.
Hahahaha. What an absolute shit show these foreign substance checks are. Scherzer almost dropped his pants. pic.twitter.com/HS0uszz2b6
— ACL-Sports.com®–Sports Investor (@TheRealMrACL) June 23, 2021
Matt Strahm: As I noted 400 words ago, I don’t mind eating bird carcasses. Now, whether they’re chicken or crow, that’s a matter for a different blurb. The worst thing would be if I lied to y’all. I have never, ever lied in my role as a cartoon avatar ambassador for pitching for imaginary sports managers. When I ran my Whiffonator algorithm, it spat out Matt Strahm at the top of the list. Other list-toppers have included Spencer Strider. OK, Whiffonator, I’m listening. The historic numbers don’t make sense. The guy’s been in MLB for 8 years, has 300+ IP as a Roleless Rob, and is allowing an 11% barrel rate. Imagine spending 8 years of your life doing something and claiming three wins to show for it. What is this, my resume from grad school? What the Whiffonator loves about Strahm is his elite 32%+ CSW rate and cool 2.88 SIERA. The problems? His BABIP is .229 and 12% of his flyballs are leaving the park. Still, the potential is enormous. If you don’t mind the risk, Strahm is available in 60% of leagues at the time of writing, so go grab him. Just don’t throw a fit a month from now if he turns into a pumpkin with 4 bad starts in a row.
Sandy Alcantara: Your favorite third round pick has an ERA near 5.50 and missed a start with biceps tendinitis. The worst thing there is the biceps thing. Ever wonder if some X-Men power is Uniceps? Like, they have one really big arm muscle instead of two? ENYWEHY. For pitchers, biceps tendinitis is not great. It’s a precursor to pitchers changing their form and then hurting the other side of the arm, namely the elbow. Remember in the pre-season when I wrote that Alcantara with 180IP looks exactly like Kyle Wright? Now imagine Alcantara with 150IP because he’s limited to 5IP each outing to prevent arm damage. You probably missed the trade window with saavy players — no Tout is going to take biceps tendinitis on their team for fair value — but if you’ve got Jaime from Accounting who has no idea what baseball is and just put $10 into the office pot to make friends, why not try trading for, I dunno, Matt Strahm? Also, Jaime’s really bad at fantasy baseball and drafted Matt Strahm out of the gate.
Kyle Gibson: As a fan of the team that drafted Kyle Gibson ahead of Mike Trout, I reserve the right to talk about our pal Gibby every week. 4-0 on the season with 5.42 xERA and 4.50 FIP. Don’t forget about the 7.2 K/9! Marco Gonzales and Kenta Maeda have done this kind of performance on their way to Top 10 Fantasy SP finishes (gotta capitalize it so we keep that trademark). So if you like rostering Gonzales and Maeda, then Gibson’s your guy. They’re great for points leagues — massive IP, big Wins, and all that jazz. Just don’t be surprised when the regression towards that 5+xERA hits.
Nathan Eovaldi: Rostered him everywhere last year. Was doing great (in true skill stats) until he got injured and missed the rest of the season. That’s the thing about “trusting the process.” It’s like investing. Moderna saved our asses with an effective vaccine against Covid-19 and their stock soared to $460+ per share. Made shareholders rich, performed really well, yatta yatta. But what happened when government-supported purchasing of their vaccines ended? What happened when their vaccine helped end the formal pandemic. What was Moderna going to sell? Widgets? Korean fried chicken? No, they’re a company that works with mRNA technology. Their stock has dropped nearly 70% from its peak, with nothing changing about the company itself. The only thing that changed was the public perception of performance. That’s Nathan Eovaldi in a nutshell (probably pistachio). Eovaldi continues his elite K-BB% performance with a great 2.30 FIP…and a 5.40 ERA. That ERA is buffeted by a .422 BABIP, meaning the few points of contact he’s allowing are all landing for hits. Eovaldi is almost always due for a stint on the IL — he’s been in MLB over 10 years and has only two years where he’s pitched a full-season. But if you’re ready to risk it for the biscuit, Eovaldi is a buy-low opportunity. If he stays healthy like he did in 2020-2021, you’re getting a great return on investment. If he gets injured like he did in 2022, then at least you made a decision based on data.
Johan Oviedo: Tossed this name out in the comments a few times last week. If you want to talk about track records not matching up with performance, Oviedo’s your guy! All Oviedo has done this season is go three consecutive quality starts with a 21/4 K/BB ratio in 19 innings. ERA is 0.92 and FIP is 1.83 over that time. Oh, he’s available in half of leagues still. Does he stick in the rotation? I mean, it’s the Pirates. Somehow the Pirates are good this year? [stares at rotation] Oviedo faces off against the Dodgers (you do you) and the Nationals (go!) coming up, so take a chance on this young whiffer.
Kutter Crawford: Roleless Rob love! Hasn’t given up a run in his last 8 IP and has a 1.10 ERA over his previous 16 IP. Sure there was a blowout game to start the season, but that stuff happens. Brayan Bello hasn’t exactly staked his claim to the Red Sox rotation, so Crawford could be a speculative add in deeper leagues. For those in Games Started limited leagues, Crawford could be useful — the Red Sox have given him starter-level innings while working him mostly out of the bullpen.
It’s the part you’ve been waiting for: A listicle! For those new to my column, here’s the quick rundown:
- I rank based on Confidence per Inning Pitched, multiplied by projected games remaining. In short, the Confidence Score is a quantitative measurement incorporating leading predictive stats and league-wide weighting of stats. No, I will not tell you the formula because that’s my own secret sauce. If you want to make your own system, here’s the process.
- The projected games remaining is based on Rudy’s projections. If you disagree with that, bring it up with him.
- You shouldn’t care about players within 5-10 spots of each other. You don’t need to think of player’s hierarchically; you need to think of them probabilistically.
- I include Roleless Robs in the rankings. This is because 1) RCL league players have to watch their IP limit, and 2) many pitchers who have uncertain job prospects at this point in the season might blossom into a starter. Notable recent Roleless Robs-turned-fantasy superstar include: Spencer Strider, Freddy Peralta, Drew Rasmussen, and Nestor Cortes.
- But my favorite pitcher isn’t on the list!? Sure, it’s early in the season. I say it every article: there’s tons of noise in the data. Every year like clockwork, Gerrit Cole has 4-6 starts where he’s completely unrosterable. What we can’t tell at this point is whether your favorite pitcher is in their “down” phase, or whether they’re truly droppable. My system skews towards figuring this out quickly, but no system is perfect. If I was perfect, I’d be making millions while employed for the Yankees or MGM Grand. This system is “pretty dang good.”
- Tiers: 1=Must Start/Roster, 2=Rosterable SP, 3=Streamers, 4=Watch Out
- Confidence: Higher is better. There is no “top” score; the scores are relative to each other. The difference between Strider and Cease is notable. The difference between Strider and Lopez is insignificant.
- Own %: Percentage of leagues where the player is rostered.
- L30$/G: The Razzball dollars that the player has earned (or lost) over the last 30 games.
- Stats are current as of 4.22.23.
|4||Mark Leiter Jr.||CHC||1.347||1||-2.1|