I walked down a dark hallway of Razzball Headquarters, some corner I had never been before. The walls were the color of aquarium gravel. I squinted in the dim light to verify that I had the correct office. I knocked on the door and peeked my head inside, seeing the Fantasy Master Lothario himself, Grey Albright, sitting in an office chair behind a well-built desk. The image of Don Draper in a sweater-vest.
“Everywhere!” he said, wringing his hands excitedly. He put his hand out for a shake. I reached for it, but he pulled his arm back as if almost touching a hot stove. “Nah-ah!” he smiled and wagged his finger. “Not in the time of Covid!”
“But you don’t have a mask,” I started.
Grey pointed to his mouth. “Trident gum!” he said. “It cleans the teeth!”
I backed away and sat on a black leather couch on the long-edge of the room. “Isn’t this unethical?” I asked. “You’re my boss, you can’t be my therapist too.”
Grey tapped his desk a la Alex van Halen in the intro to Hot for Teacher. “Everywhere, I’ve been giving advice for ten years to people all over the inter–“. He was interrupted by a phone ringing. He held his finger to me to shush and took the call quickly and hung up. “Sounds like Coolwhip’s microwaving fish in the break room again. One moment while I manage this.” Grey wasn’t asking my approval, he was telling me.
After he left the room, I gazed upon his desk. Memories from an imaginary sports life. The Tout Wars trophy. His cover on Fantasy Baseballer Magazine. The World’s Okayest Golfer award. His fake ID that identified him as “Big Nas X” that he used to get into the most exclusive L.A. clubs.
Grey returned after a few minutes, holding a glass and sipping from it. “Donkey Teeth made lemongrass kombucha today,” he said, downing the drink and returning to his seat. I could see his pants — beige corduroy trousers — seemed slightly wet. “Now, what’s the matter, you need fantasy help? Or sarcasm?”
I sat forward on the couch, “It’s about the pitchers…” I started, only to be interrupted by the Fantrax horn emanating from Grey’s phone. It was his turn to draft.
“Alec Mills or Jazz Chisholm?” he asked me, looking up from the draft app. I had barely blurted out Jazz when Grey announced “Alec Mills it is!” He drummed again on his desk, the rhythm of Dancehall Days from Wang Chung. “Now, what can I do for you?”
I spilled it out like a vessel overflowing: “I wrote what Oaktown Steve called the Greatest Piece Ever on Razzball last week, and Rotowire did a podcast on it, and it got the Rudy retweet, and Vlad Sedler retweeted it, and only one person on Reddit yelled at me, and…”
“Oh, you mean this article about your Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2021 Fantasy Baseball?” Grey said in SEO-optimized English.
“Yes! The one that said pitchers aren’t as valuable as we perceive and that pocket aces are almost never worth it. And then I watched everybody go to the Main Event and draft pitchers in the first round and ask my permission to draft pocket aces.” I had overflowed my cup. “So I wanted to ask you boss, how do I follow that up? How do I keep writing the next 25 weeks of articles when they’re all downhill from my week 3 preseason article? Am I just shouting at clouds?”
Grey stood up, tugged on his sweater vest, and looked me in the eye. “Adbert Alzolay made the Cubs starting rotation. I don’t think you put him in your rankings, did you?” I nodded. “And John Gant, he’s a starter now. Also not in your rankings, correct?” I nodded again.
“The only certainty is change, Everywhere. If you’re going to tell people to wait on pitchers, then give them the next Corbin Burnes! Go forth and change! Change the world! Adjust the ranks young man!” Grey shouted, his arms pointing in the air triumphantly. I was vaguely sure that I was older than Grey, too.
Nevertheless, I stood, like Apollo, readying to cleanse the world through my lyrical words in blog form. But my Midwestern roots emerged at the last minute and I blurted out, “Okey dokey!”
“Before you go,” Grey said, putting his hand in his pocket in the area that seemed wet, “Take Coolwhip’s fish to the dumpster.” He threw it to me, noting the social distancing protocols Razzball fervently enforced.
“Does this mean I’m promoted to Clubbie?” I asked, a light in my eye.
Grey nodded. “Analytics and laundry, my friend.” He stripped off his sweater vest and tossed it my way. “Light starch, if you don’t mind.”
I carried the fish and laundry back to my cubicle and my own simple desk with a typewriter. I would not be visiting the dumpster or the laundromat. That afternoon, I started my own line of “trophies,” counting my victories in the fantasy sports world.
By the time you’re reading this, you’ve probably finished your draft and are salivating at the thought of watching real, live, April baseball come this Thursday. Or, maybe you’re blacked out of everything and you’ll watch it Friday morning. Thanks MLB.TV! That’s exactly the product we all wanted in 2021! ENYWHEY. You’ve got your team and you read all my draft strategy and you drafted 8 pitchers in the first 10 rounds anyway and you drafted Stephen Strasburg, Dinelson Lamet, and Kirby Yates just to spite me. Way to go, bucko! You’ve already got some FAAB-ing to do. For those who didn’t go through Fantasy Ed in 8th grade, FAAB-ing is something best done safely and a bit later than others. I’m talking about the Free Agent Acquisition Budget, come on! Now, whether you have the waiver wire or the FAAB, you’re probably going to wait on this whole process. Why? Because there’s a bunch of players on rosters in April who won’t be there come May. Don’t make this mistake of paying April prices on May waivers.
There are a couple of FAAB-worthy pitchers who got the surprise starting rotation gig that I’ll list below in my news and notes section. Otherwise, don’t go H.A.M. on players who are injury fill-ins, service-time manipulators, or, well, just bad. If you’ve got unlimited moves, sure, have at it. But if you’ve got a limited budget or limited moves, you’re probably best served by waiting a hot minute until the weather warms up and the youngsters show up.
News and Notes
Freddy Peralta: Holy flurking schnitzel go get him now. Just stop reading this and go pick him up or trade for him or start a new league and draft him there. Last year, Peralta’s K-BB% would have been 6th best in the league. His Called Strike + Whiff % would have tied Zac Gallen and been ahead of Gerrit Cole. His SIERA would have been 3rd best. So why was nobody drafting Peralta? Because he didn’t have a rotation spot and he’s never done the long-haul starter gig. But, uh, and I mean this so very nicely to everybody: Peralta actually pitched more innings from 2019-2020 than Tyler Glasnow (dodges apples from the crowd). Actually, Peralta has more IP since 2019 (including minors) than Nathan Eovaldi, Luke Weaver, and a bunch of other pitchers that you cared about last year but not this year. Could Peralta be another pitcher you don’t care about in 2021? Sure. Every pitcher has the potential for a dead arm situation. But Peralta has electric numbers and he’s now in the starting rotation. That’s 90% of the battle. Go get him.
John Gant: Speaking of pitchers you cared about last year but don’t give a crap about this year,
Ron John Gant will be taking the fifth starter role in St. Louis. Whoa Nelly! [puts a band-aid on his cheek] Gant was supposed to be in the mix for a rotation spot last year before things went sideways, and he finished 2020 with 17 appearances out of the pen for a ridiculous 2.40 ERA and a 2.19 FIP. Unlike Peralta, Gant had way more called strikes than swinging strikes, a hard hit % nearly 50%, and a walk rate that was mimicking Robbie Ray’s stat line. Gant is worth a flier in the deepest of leagues, but otherwise let him ride the pine.
Cal Quantrill: One of the trade pieces in the Mike Clevinger Escape Plan from 2020, Quantrill has amassed nearly 20 starts over the past 2 years with a sweet 4.19 FIP, a K-BB% of 14 (not half bad), and a hard hit rate in the lower 30%. Quantrill is past his rookie eligibility and looked set to take the fifth starter spot, except for the galaxy brain Cleveland coaches putting in…
Logan Allen: Allen was the consolation package when Cleveland shipped out Trevor Bauer in 2019. Last year, he walked as many batters as he struck out. He has a cumulative 1.77 WHIP from 2019-2020. And he’s actually been lucky, as his FIP is over a run better than his xFIP. So, if you get anything out of this cynical take on Logan Allen, it’s that you’ve got a week or two of stacking offenses against him before the Quantrill rumor mill starts up. Don’t roster Allen. Wait for Quantrill.
Adbert Alzolay: Grey says “Hooray!” for Alzolay! Double-A made the Cubs opening day roster and will slot into their rotation. You know, it’s odd that Grey hates Robbie Ray so much when Alzolay has stats that are so similar…[gets called back for more therapy]. Alzolay is fine for deeper leagues but there’ll be growing pains.
Alec Mills: Moves to long relief in lieu of Alzolay. With Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, and Alzolay in the rotation, it might not be long before Mills comes back. And that’s not exciting. Avoid except for the deepest of leagues.
Stephen Strasburg: The guy I’ve been avoiding like the plague tore a vestigial tendon in his leg. He’ll be back and he’ll still be working up his strength and hopefully his skills and hopefully you listened to me and drafted somebody who could feel their hands.
Randy Dobnak: Supposedly going to start in long relief but the Twins starters not named Maeda or Berrios are getting shelled in spring training. Dobnak has given the Twins every reason to let him drive the Uber rather than be the passenger, so it’s just a matter of time until the GOAT-ee gets his rotation spot.
Carlos Rodon: I’ve had a lot of questions about Rodon and I’ve answered them thusly: he’s given us every reason to not trust him. Sure, spring training looks great. Success in small sample sizes is wonderful for DFS and Best Ball formats. It’s gross for roto and head to head, which is 95% of you readers. You know who started 2020 with a 200 wRC+ and a .636 SLG? Donovan Solano. You know who has 500+ MLB innings of K-BB% of 12.7, ERA of 4.14, and a swinging strike rate of 10%? That’s our boy Carlos Rodon. Don’t confuse the Solano for the Rodon. If you want a SP with upside at that ADP, draft Freddie Peralta 100% of the time.
Tejay Antone: Made the opening day roster but will start in the bullpen. Only a matter of time until he’s in the rotation.
Josh Lindblom: Freddy Peralta’s ascension pushes Lindblom from the rotation. Lindblom’s numbers on paper actually look pretty nice, so expect him to get another shot at the rotation in the not-too-distant future. If Adrian Houser struggles or Brett Anderson remains yawnstipating, Lindblom will take a rotation spot.
Well, this is awkward. You’re probably done drafting. I, for one, have written nearly 20,000 words on pitchers and draft strategy in the past four weeks. Like, we’ve done this pitcher thing to death. Do we have anything else to learn?
Well, turns out Fangraphs added some features, and my good friend Carlos Marcano wrote up a new way to approach pitchers, so [Bernie Sanders voice] I’m again asking you to adjust the ranks. Actually I didn’t adjust anybody other than a few people at the bottom, but, ya know, imagine like I’m an 80-year-old man asking you for money. I can’t replicate for free entirely what Carlos is doing, so if you want that extra 0.5% edge in what Carlos is setting up, support him with some content shares and wish for him to beat me in our RCL. But Carlos and I came to very similar conclusions on totally different studies with totally different methodologies, so he’s my brother from another mother. I had a couple secret factors in my calculations last week that included my own home-brewed ERA estimator, so while Carlos is giving you “speX” as his project, I’ll call mine, “Space:X.” Hey Grey, we can’t possibly get in trouble with that name, right? Cool. See, mine has a colon in the title. Totally different than that other thing that explodes upon landing.
But really, IP, K-BB%, and SIERA are a super-effective way to look at pitcher production. I’m just adding in Called Strike + Whiff% — now available on FanGraphs! — to create that extra edge of pitcher performance prediction. Just to make things fun, I took the CSW% from 2019-2020, so pitchers with more innings have a bit more concrete sense of their strikeout skill. Once the season is underway, you can compare what I have — which will be recency-bias based — to what Rudy has, which will be regression-based. In other words, you get the best of both worlds, especially when they agree.
Since you’re probably done with your draft, there’s no need to put players in small tiers anymore. Saves me time on editing, too! Let me know your thoughts in the comments, keep your hate mail in your desk, and I’ll see you next week!
|Name||2021 K-BB%||2021 SIERA||’19-20 CSW%|
|Lance McCullers Jr.||16.24||3.71||32.2|
|Streamers / Dart Throws Below|
|Name||2021 K-BB%||2021 SIERA||’19-20 CSW%|
|Kwang Hyun Kim||13.08||4.09||#N/A|
Aye, you made it this far, didn’t ya. EverywhereBlair is, well, located at home right now. He’s a historian and lover of prog-metal. He enjoys a good sipping rum. When he’s not churning data and making fan fiction about Grey and Donkey Teeth, you can find him dreaming of shirtless pictures of Lance Lynn on Twitter @Everywhereblair.