In Japan, you bond with your coworkers by going to an enkai. You say it like “N-kai,” and the Kai is as in Cobra Kai, not “Kay” as in, “I’m so American I can’t envision speaking any language than N-glysh.” The enkai is usually where the office (not the TV show) gets together for some BBQ and beers. Everybody goes to the enkai, even if they don’t like beer and BBQ. Sometimes, Japanese managers conduct official office business at the enkai, which makes it somewhat awkward when they pass out documents to read while you’re navigating grilled meat. Then comes the nijikai, or “second meeting,” when the cool people leave the squares behind, and they go to a place where there’s more beer, some snacks, and some karaoke. But for the bold — and those who are truly initiated into the office — there’s the sanjikai, or the “third meeting.” This is the event where only the hardened drinkers, the Buddhist teetotalers, and those people trying to forget the horrors of 9-5 hyper-capitalism are found. You don’t talk about the sanjikai the next day, or the next week, because you’re likely not going to remember all of it. For the sanjikai, you’re out in the back alley bars not because you have to, but because you want to. Because you’re driven, by some supra-rational urge that verges on the paranormal, to see what’s hidden behind the curtain of reality. You want to suck the marrow out of life and maybe get a bone splinter in your gums. You know the world has made its mark on you, and you want to mark the world before you transit off this plane of existence into the cosmos, awaiting to be reborn on your ascent to Nirvana. You might not get home tonight if you go out to the sanjikai, but that’s OK because you’re willing to sit in the park and watch the stars until first train.

That’s what this third pre-season edition of the Top 100 Starting Pitchers is all about: You want to know what the others don’t know. You’ve probably drafted already, but you’re here to get prepped for who to pick up off the waiver wire and what to do for next year. You, my dear reader, are initiated into my office, and I invite you to the sanjikai of my weekly pitchers series.

This article is probably my greatest contribution to fantasy sports so far, and I hope you enjoy it.

We here at Razzball love making spreadsheets (see Room comma War) and sometimes we even like combining spreadsheets to make new data. Rudy created the Razzball Player Rater and has calculated the fantasy value of players historically back to 1903. Then Coolwhip (our weekly outfield writer and in-house meme creator) got the bright idea to combine the hitter/pitcher totals from the past five years to give an idea of just how valuable pitchers were in the overall scheme of things. That gave us a way of telling how valuable pitchers are compared to hitters for your typical fantasy league. Then, something fortuitous happened: the NFBC released their historical baseball ADP going back to 2003 just this week. Now we can look, with hyper-precision, at how pitchers performed relative to their ADP and the best practices for drafting them in our fantasy leagues.

And the answer is: they’re not worth it. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

I suppose I need a thesis statement. What would I have told my students to write? This is my paper about how to draft pitchers good and do other things good too. OK, I suppose that’s why I’m working in fantasy sports now instead of the ivory tower.

Or maybe, it’s time, now that I’ve been writing fantasy sports for a year instead of diving through archives, that I write my fantasy sports defense. Where I plant my stake in the ground and defend it, and maybe next year somebody submits it to the FSWA and I add another line to my CV. “Award winning guesstimator, EverywhereBlair!”

Nah, let’s just keep the punk aesthetic and DIY. Pitchers don’t matter as much as people tell you they do, and this is an article about it and I’m going to teach you how to do your own research. Nothing messes up “the man” like 7,000 words of teaching people how to achieve enlightenment on their own.

Buddha Blair has taken his seat under the tree, yet he denies the ascent into Nirvana, for he has decided to remain on this mortal plane in order to help others draft pitchers good and do other things good too. He has become a Lama. All he asks is that you consider the conditions necessary to have people perform at their optimum potential. Yes, I’m talking more than just pitchers.

Let’s put it this way: it’s March Madness right now. Did you know that there’s only a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance that you get the bracket 100% correct? And there’s only 64 teams in March Madness.

There were 252 starting pitchers who played in MLB baseball in 2020. So, even in just making a Top 100 list, there are 1×10^72 combinations that could fill out the Top 100 list. Makes this ranking thing seem kind of meaningless, right? Why do we care about accuracy of rankings anyway? Why do we care about who goes above who? I could generate a new list every second until the sun goes black and still not get the rankings perfect. I mean, who had R.A. Dickey as SP1 in 2012? He was drafted 350th overall. But it happened.

Now! That’s not to say, “punt pitchers.” No, I’m not saying that at all. Saying that actually demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what punting even is in football. Punting is just the transition from offense to defense and is a critical element in both stages of the game. What I’m saying, is to be smart about your pitcher choices for maximum return on investment.

Because last year, even I — an exiled professor hiding in the pandemic — managed to predict that Shane Bieber would be SP1. While there are countless iterations of who goes where in the rankings, there are easily predictable trends of how we can organize those players into meaningful categories based on where they could possibly land. And we can generally get a good idea of the kinds of statistics that give a player elite fantasy value. In other words, humans are pretty good at identifying the first round talent that will give you the best chance to win your fantasy league.

With one exception: pitchers. Pitching ranking and draft strategy is completely off-base. And part of the problem is because this whole “ranking” thing we do — that even I do — has become commodified behind the guise of “accuracy.” Somehow, we’ve come to venerate systems that mollify audiences with “consensus,” as if we [points to the community] can somehow agree on a specific hierarchy of pitchers when there are more than 1×10^72 possible combinations of rankings. In a community of 10 million fantasy baseball players, why are there only 50 rankers, and why do their ranks all look the same? And why are almost all of them wrong about pitchers?

In other words: ranking rankings is completely meaningless because we shouldn’t be looking at pitchers in a hierarchical manner in the first place. We should be looking at them in a probabilistic manner. And in order to do that, first we need to unlearn what the past decade of the commodification of the fantasy baseball field has taught us as “the accurate ranking.” Because what we’re being taught and sold about pitchers, isn’t accurate.

The next part is going to be a lot of data, and I won’t blame you if you want the TL;DR. Here’s the bullet point summary followed by the details:

  • There is no “safe” SP1. There is no “safe” Top 3 SP. There is no “safe” Top 5 or Top 10 SP, either. You should be thinking of pitchers more in quantum theory terms than in high school algebra terms. It’s all about probability, not hierarchical ranks.
  • You need to be prescient to pull off pocket aces successfully. When you do pull it off successfully, it is still usually less effective than drafting whatever hitter happens to be nearby in ADP.
  • A number of the top pitchers do not meet their projections due to injury. Often, these major injuries are foreshadowed by injuries in the off-season or pre-season.
  • Drafting multiple pitchers early in a draft serves only to diversify against injury at the cost of hitting. It is almost never a superior strategy to just drafting hitters.
  • Drafting pitchers early (i.e., 1st round, pocket aces, acefecta) almost always puts teams at a suboptimal position. I asked Rudy about this, and he framed it thusly: you should only be playing suboptimal if you have a specific strategy that you are nearly certain will later compensate for your suboptimal start.
  • This article is a critique of Average Draft Position (ADP), the aggregate ranking systems that replicate and reinforce ADP, and the industry that has developed around the commodification of rankings. It is my hope that this study begins your process of liberation from the constraints that ADP place upon fantasy players. I recommend using well-evidenced non-aggregate sources in order to perform better at fantasy baseball, such as the Razzball/Steamer projections, and The BAT/The BATX. ADP should be a guide only for when you can draft a player, not how valuable that player is.
  • From doing this study, I reworked my own pitcher rankings based on a simpler formula that was more rooted in probabilistic yet aggressive metrics, and these are supplied at the end of the article.

ADP vs Results Study

Methodology: 

This project was made possible by the recent appearance of two pieces of data: the first was Coolwhip synthesizing Rudy’s historical player rater, and the second was the NFBC providing historical ADP data going back to 2004. I downloaded each and compared the top 70-ish players by ADP from 2017-2020. This gave me an idea of the top 5 rounds of players going back 4 years. Want more data? Then sign up for the Razzball premium fantasy baseball tools to show support for the site and send a note to Grey that you love me and want me to do more stuff like this. :)

I’m breaking down the points from my study into a statement and the implications for fantasy managers.

1) Consensus SP1 from 2017-2020:

As ranked by ADP, the consensus SP1 in 2017-2020 never returned first round value. Clayton Kershaw came the closest in 2017, when he finished as SP2 with a second round value. Because Kershaw’s ADP was 4th overall, his actual value of 2nd round still represented 14 other players who would have been a better selection.

The consensus SP1 also has, within the confines of this study, never finished as SP1. The eventual SP1 was usually found in round 2 or 3, and one time in round 10.

This next part gets fuzzy, so let me state this for clarity: in recent history, ADP has not selected the proper SP1 in the first round and placed the proper value on them. It did happen a few times in the era prior to this study, so let’s elaborate on those circumstances for a sense of completeness.

In 2016, Max Scherzer was the consensus ADP SP1 and he finished with first round value. Except he had an ADP of round 2, so he’s a bit of an outlier to my thesis because I’m talking about pitchers in the first round. In 2015, consensus ADP SP1, Clayton Kershaw, finished with a first round value, but the actual SP1, Jake Arrieta, had an ADP of 100, and SP3 Zack Greinke had an ADP of 49. So, almost but not quite.

I found the smoking gun in 2014: Clayton Kershaw was consensus ADP SP1 AND he finished as overall #2 in fantasy baseball. So, the last time a consensus SP1 drafted in the first round AND returned first round SP1 value was: 2014. But, guess who was SP2 in 2014? Jonny Cueto, with an ADP of 171. Felix Hernandez finished SP3 with an ADP of 43. So, the point still remains: the ADP SP1 is almost never accurate, is almost never accurately valued, and is surrounded by other pitchers who return nearly the same value for dramatically reduced draft capital.

While I’m at it, I went back all the way to 2004 and found one more instance of consensus ADP SP1 being drafted in the first round and returning SP1 and first round value: Johan Santana in 2006. So, two times from 2004-2020 have “we” [points at all of us in the fantasy community] gotten the SP1 both correct in our projections and drafted at a proper value. One time in 2016, that SP1 returned surplus value.

1a) Conclusion and Implications for 2021:

Jacob deGrom is considered the consensus SP1 for 2021 fantasy baseball: he is both the SP1 by consensus ADP and by consensus rankings that use aggregate projections. If we take the historical scope of this study to be an indicator of a player’s certainty to not finish where they are expected (as opposed to their likelihood to finish), he is almost certain to not finish as SP1 and to not have first round value. We would expect deGrom to finish, at best, with a 2nd round value. Later in this article, I will point to innings pitched (IP) as a major factor in predicting a top finish for a pitcher, and deGrom was 21st in IP in 2020; he is projected for about 5% fewer innings than some other elite pitcher options in 2021. Jacob deGrom will very likely be a good pitcher, but he is unlikely to return first round value. Therefore, deGrom’s current ADP of 6 is not warranted. I would extend this to SP2, Gerrit Cole, who has a similar profile to deGrom and already has several concerning “knocks” against returning value on his draft capital, such as his known use of pine tar.

If you are insistent upon finding this year’s true SP1, you will likely find that player somewhere in round 2 or 3 based on ADP. That pitcher will likely throw a lot of innings with a reasonable K rate on a good team. I would look toward Yu Darvish, Brandon Woodruff, Jack Flaherty, or Aaron Nola.

1B) SP1 Obsessions

History tells us that we’re almost always wrong trusting consensus sentiment on the SP1. So…[travels over to a well-known site with rankings that ranks rankers] why does every ranker have Jacob deGrom as SP1? And why do almost all of them have deGrom in their top 10 overall fantasy value, with 2 rankers putting him #1 overall? Only one time in the last 20 years — Johan Santana in 2004 — has a pitcher been at the top of the fantasy charts. I mean, I did this study, ostensibly, in my free time. A bunch of those guys have full time jobs, some of them with multi-billion dollar networks and media revenue.

I can’t be the first person to recognize this. Can I? No, because Razzball’s been saying this for over a decade. Maybe they just needed a failed professor to come in and, you know, write it up like a punk Buddhist tract. Maybe I can say this because I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m not trying to make rankings into a commodity. I’m asking you to leap and unlearn what you’ve been taught. I’m asking you to be uncertain with me, to ask questions, and to leave open the possibilities that the game we play has space for messiness.

That there is no perfect rosterThere is no perfect rankingThere is no SP1.

There are just players who are more likely to wind up as “most valuable” given the 162-game span that we call a baseball season.

I would contend that it’s the increasing conformity mentality of the fantasy baseball community that’s reinforcing this notion of false pitcher value. After putting out my first set of rankings, people jumped to lambast me for my Gerrit Cole ranking. I have him ranked lowest of any ranker out there, at the equivalent of 6th overall. Because when I look at Cole’s 2020, I see a 1.73 HR/9, an FIP of nearly 4.00, a precipitous drop in K/9, a career-low BABIP, a decline in swinging strike rate, and career highs in launch angle and barrel rates. Grey wrote a whole post about pine tar and stats leading to a Gerrit Cole 2021 fantasy bust. So, is it that I’m a bad ranker that I have Cole so low, or is it that the rest of the community is so enamored with the conformity of their rankings that they don’t see the obvious warning signs?

That, sure, Gerrit Cole has the potential to be SP1, but he also has the potential to be SP20? And that the needle of probability on where Gerrit Cole finishes is wavering more toward SP10-SP20 than it is SP1? But you can’t neatly put that in an Excel sheet and number it, can you? So we put Gerrit Cole at the top of the rankings — where everybody else puts him — because if he makes it to SP1, you are all right. Not like, you’re OK. But, you’re literally all the same ranking distance away. And if he makes it to SP20, you all miss equally. You’re all equally wrong in the eyes of the aggregator.

Imagine you’re in one of those contests where you have to guess the number of jelly beans in the jar, and everybody can see each other’s guesses. And everybody willingly decides to put in a guess +1/-1 of each other, such that there’s 40 guesses that say either 1,001, 1,000, or 999 beans. When there’s actually 40 beans in the jar, does it matter that everybody was off by a mile? What if there were 1,002 beans in the jar? What if somebody told you they had the most accurate bean counting system because they were off by .1% when the competition was off by .2%? And that they came to that conclusion because they watched everybody else count beans first and then took all those answers as their own? How much more would you pay for the elite bean counting system, even if you knew the bean counting system was just as likely to overshoot the jar with 40 beans as it was to get the jar with 1,002 beans right?

Because that’s the fantasy sports industry in a nutshell now. What would you say to the prescient ranker who had R.A. Dickey as SP1 in 2012? Would you shun them, or ask them for more information?

Support the DIY guys and gals and palz who are doing the research and math to make this game we love possible. Because otherwise, you’re going to find more and more results like I demonstrate in the next section.

2) Safety of Top Pitchers by ADP: 

I see the claim that fantasy baseball players choose to draft pitchers early because they are the “safest bet to return value.” This is a false assumption that is not backed by the recent evidence.

In the table below, I demonstrate the “hit rate” of pitchers by ADP by year. I consider a “hit” to be a pitcher who performs either at or better than their draft capital, and a “miss” to be a player who performs at one round or worse than their draft capital.

Successful ROI
Year Top 3 Top 5 Top 10
2017 30% 40% 30%
2018 30% 40% 40%
2019 30% 40% 20%
2020 0% 0% 10%

As a reminder, this article is a critique of ADP and aggregate ranking systems that replicate ADP. The dismal return on investment of pitchers as supplied by “consensus thinking” — i.e., ADP — could be remedied by a proper ranking system that recognizes the failure of “groupthink” to produce successful pitcher draft picks.

However, because the recent movements to create aggregate ranking systems — which normalize outliers and actually revert aggressive rankings into passive rankings — fantasy baseball players are provided with rankings that actually recreate ADP rather than attempt to dissect and overcome the weaknesses of ADP.

I’m looking at an aggregate ranking system provided by a major provider right now, and it is identical to pitcher ADP across the major sites, with extremely minor differences (i.e. Snell and Woodruff swapped, Kershaw is the biggest deviation at 2 spots lower in ADP than in projections).

Now, far be it from me to tell you how to spend your money. Coming from an academic background, I have basically no idea how to get paid for my work, yet I love to do it. But you! Maybe you’re good at making money and you want to spend it wisely. Speaking just from my point of view, I couldn’t justify spending money on an aggregate ranking system that replicates and reinforces ADP because it normalizes “misses” instead of incentivizing properly valued “hits.” Making mistakes is fine; to err is human. No forecaster is perfect. But when the product being sold is more about normalizing misses (encompassed by the decline in pitcher prediction accuracy and simultaneous increase in pitcher ADP) instead of celebrating the outliers that provide maximum value, the consumer should question the intentions of the product that they are sold.

2a) Conclusions and Implications for 2021: 

First, don’t draft a top 3 pitcher in the first round. Second, if you really want a top pitcher, you’re most likely to find them in the consensus top 5 (albeit, you’re still better tossing a coin on other, much more “affordable” pitchers).

You’ll notice that the trajectory of starting pitcher “hits” has declined precipitously in recent years. There are likely several reasons for this: 1) pitcher ADP inflation (there will be 4 SP with a first round ADP this year, compared to 1 in 2017); 2) short-season bias in 2020; 3) starting pitchers are throwing fewer and fewer IP recently (2020 proved to be the year where starting pitchers threw the fewest cumulative innings as a cohort, although this has been a trend for over a decade).

What am I doing with this information? I’m drafting SP even later than the consensus. If you don’t have the diamond hands for that, you’re best served rolling the dice on a Top 5 consensus ADP pitcher who represents the lowest ADP. In this case, that would be Yu Darvish or Aaron Nola.

3) Pocket Aces and Pitcher-Heavy Strategies

“Pocket Aces” is defined as starting the draft with two SP, and I’m seeing other options that have three or even four SP in the first 4-5 rounds. The mentality behind this is to “corner the market” on pitching stats. However, given the “miss rate” being 60-90% on the top 10 SP over the past few years, one would need to have immaculate foresight (or sheer luck) to “hit” on these strategies. The weakness of these strategies was evidenced by several tournament studies: no team in the 2020 RazzSlam with pocket aces finished in the top 20%; similar studies of various NFBC tournaments have revealed the same. The NFBC Main Event winner has drafted a hitter in the first round 17 years in a row, which matches this study’s findings that the top 3 SP return, at best, 2nd-3rd round value.

Even if you have immaculate foresight and nail pocket aces, you’re usually better served taking the hitters nearby. Using Rudy’s end-of-season valuations, here’s the spread of outcomes of “immaculate foresight” pocket aces compared to “immaculate foresight” hitters that were nearby in ADP.

Year Max Value Pocket Aces Max Value 2 Hitters
2017 64.9 79.6
2018 60.7 83.8
2019 83.6 70.7
2020 69.1 95.5

So, in 3 out of 4 years in the study, it would have been better to take the best two hitters rather than the best two pitchers.

But what if this is the year for pocket aces, you say? It very well could be. The problem is, it is so much harder to have immaculate foresight on those pocket aces due to the extremely high miss rate on pitchers when ranked by ADP.

In the 2019 example, where Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole made up the immaculate foresight pocket aces, it would have been impossible to draft them together unless you took Verlander (ADP 22) in round 1 and Gerrit Cole (ADP 25) in round 2. Had you taken the “traditional” pocket aces at the turn of round 1/ round 2 — Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale, ranked by ADP — your valuation would have been 31.8 compared to the 83.6 that Verlander/Cole returned. In other words, you would have needed an aggressive ranking system that refuted ADP. To pull off the ideal pocket aces that year, you would have needed be very lucky or very aggressive. The other years, you would have been better to just draft hitters. Of course, one could have done the hitter/pitcher/pitcher strategy from the 1 or 2 slot, but that deviates from the “pocket aces” discussion by means of introducing the third player. Without diving deeply into the threesomes and foursome starts (hehe!), I hope you trust me when I say the numbers generally reflect the importance of hitters in the early rounds in favor of pitchers.

But if you’re just insistent on getting the ideal pocket aces, it will take roughly [loads up internet calculator] 36 fantasy baseball teams each drafting a different set of pocket aces to land the possibility of the immaculate foresight pair. So, if you’ve got that time and money, go for it. For everybody else, draft hitters.

3a) Conclusions and Insight for 2021

Due to the foreknown IP limits on so many pitchers, pocket aces are almost guaranteed to be less valuable to fantasy baseballers in 2021. I’ve seen some drafts with teams starting with 3 or 4 SP. Don’t be intimidated by this. Don’t change your draft strategy. Don’t give in to “positional scarcity” FOMO. At best, only 2 of those pitchers will “hit,” and you’re taking hitters that are — statistically — more valuable than those pitchers anyway.

Pocket aces should only be on your draft strategy radar if you’re the kind of person that enters 50ish competitions. However, you should know in order to land that single successful pocket aces pair, you’re probably going to lose your other 49 competitions. And even if you land your immaculate pocket aces, you’re probably losing that tournament as well. If that’s your thing, you do you. Everybody else: take advantage of the inefficiency in draft rooms and keep drafting hitters.

4) There are so many misses…are hitters that much better? 

In short, yes. Hitters in the first round generally return their value at a much better rate than pitchers. Again, I’m critiquing ADP here and those ranking systems that replicate ADP. There are many other ranking systems that do not aggregate and are therefore capable of “hit rates” that are much higher than the data seen below.

Here’s the outcome of how many hitters vs pitchers drafted in the first round finished in with first round value:

Year Hitters Pitchers
2017 25% 0%
2018 25% 50%
2019 50% 0%
2020 40% 0%

That sneaky pitcher in 2018 who returned first round value was Max Scherzer, who was actually SP2 by ADP behind Clayton Kershaw. Otherwise, all the other consensus first round pitchers by ADP failed to return their draft capital value.

Hitters by first round ADP have a better chance of returning their value. Even when they “miss” first round value, they generally return 3rd/4th round value.

4a) Conclusion and Insight for 2021

This synthesizes with the above points: you are better off drafting hitters early in your draft. You are more likely to “hit,” and even when you “miss,” the return on investment is generally better than when you miss on a pitcher. Historically, when you “hit” on two batters — which is much easier to do than with starting pitchers — you will have a higher return on investment than a successful pocket aces start.

5) So What Do I Do For My Draft?

My historical process that I’m conducting here is a twist on what the prognosticators like Rudy Gamble and Derek Carty are doing. Instead of forecasting into the future, I’m looking at what kinds of stats put pitchers in the top 10 for fantasy baseball.

And I took the numbers from 2017-2020 and checked them against multiple types of correlations, and the result was surprisingly simple: the top fantasy pitchers almost always have top 10 finishes in innings pitched, K-BB%, and SIERA rates. Additionally, we combine this information with incoming news about player injuries, and our rates of success on pitchers jumps dramatically.

Thankfully, Rudy’s rankings with Steamer do project SIERA. What a happy coincidence! Maybe that’s why Razzball had the best pitcher rankings in 2020? Could be!

In fact, I looked back at Grey’s 2020 pitcher performances, and if he had amended them aggressively in response to the injuries heard about in the pre-season, you’d be surprised at the outcome. Already, Grey was the top starting pitcher projector in the country last year. If he had been a bit more aggressive, his numbers would have been astounding. So, I actively cut out the pitchers that we had injury reports on — Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Mike Clevinger — and here’s the table that results. Grey’s Top 100 returned proper value or surplus on 4/5 pitchers. Also, Jack Flaherty was on the Cardinals and the Cards lost 30% of their season to Covid at one point, and they played a ton of 7-inning double-headers to catch up, so don’t blame the system on that one. If we really want to play “What If,” you can take a look at Flaherty’s K-BB% and SIERA and project him for another, say, 3 starts, which would put him at proper value. In that hypothetical scenario, Grey would have been 5/5 on proper/surplus value on the healthy SP in his 2020 Top 10 pitchers. How ’bout them apples? [smashes a sticky note with his phone number against your window]

2020 Projection 2019 IP Rank 2019 K-BB% Rank 2019 SIERA Rank 2020 Player Rater Finish
Gerrit Cole 3 1 1 SP6
Jacob deGrom 10 4 4 SP7
Jack Flaherty 19 12 12 SP74
Shane Bieber 2 5 5 SP1
Lucas Giolito 37 6 10 SP18

So, what we have are some pretty nice “hits.” But it’s important to note where Grey placed these pitchers in his overall rankings, too. Gerrit Cole was 16th overall, and deGrom was 24th. Even though they were his top pitchers, he placed them outside of first round value. And, they returned second and third round value, respectively. Of these pitchers, only Bieber returned first round value, and he was drafted in the fourth round on average. So even though Grey was more-or-less accurate as he could be given the circumstances, a player who drafted Cole in the first round hoping for “certainty” would still have been missed out on a hitter who returned a higher overall value. The ideal start to a draft last year would have been hitter/hitter/hitter/Bieber.

As Grey and I noted many times last year, Shane Bieber was likely to be the pitcher to return the most value in 2020 due to his low ADP (4th round) and high performance (indeed, scoring as well if not better than deGrom in 2019). Those who listened to us would have been on track to receive the best possible start to their fantasy draft in 2020.

Overall Study Conclusion: 

This study in pitcher valuation demonstrates that pitchers almost never return their draft value early in the draft. I recommended all fantasy baseball players — from casual to high stakes tournament players — to draft two hitters to start their draft. If you are using a trustworthy ranking system that is unconcerned with ADP, you may certainly have an effective selection of pitchers in the second or third rounds. However, the evidence does not endorse the selection of a pitcher in the first round in any circumstance. There is no historical evidence whatsoever that pocket aces should be an optimal start, and that draft methodology should only be used as a suboptimal beginning when the player is certain that they can get superior hitters later in the draft.

I’ve said it many times and I want to reiterate: this study is a critique of ADP and those ranking systems that replicate ADP and/or minimize deviations from the norm. High stakes and tournament players would likely benefit from ranking systems that deviate from the norm, because successful projection systems enable a more efficient draft that has a higher likelihood of winning against a strong field. Casual players would also benefit from this approach because it liberates them from following groupthink, thus making their drafts more individualized, customizable, and enjoyable.

The aggregate ranking systems that replicate and/or reinforce ADP may be getting traction in their “accuracy,” but my study in this article demonstrates that such systems that rely on “groupthink” for their validity are also — as time passes — becoming worse at predicting starting pitcher outcomes. Last year, you would have been better just closing your eyes and throwing darts at a board rather than following ADP or aggregate drafting systems for your top starting pitchers. Other years, you would have been just as well suited flipping a coin. The fantasy sports industry is driven by rankings. Yet, as consumers of rankings, we should not be accustomed to increasing instances of “misses” as the normalization of our game. Forecasting is indeed an art and a science and a deeply personal excursion through data, and we should not let it be replaced with aggregation and groupthink that normalizes conformity in the name of “accuracy awards.”

Of course, this whole study is “small” in scope. I looked at only 4 years of nearly 18 years of available data, and I looked at only the first five rounds of the draft. However, I think we have enough data in the sample size to begin making significant statements about the start of your fantasy baseball drafts. If you want more, well, [stares at PayPal].

Rankings

Whew! So! It’s time to put my money where my pretty little mouth is. I already gave you one set of rankings through week 1 and week 2 of the pre-season. You can find my first fantasy baseball pitcher draft strategy here, and my second fantasy baseball draft strategy here. Now, I’m giving you a completely different set of rankings based on IP, K-BB%, and SIERA, as best as I can do on my yeoman’s salary. If this works out, I’ll be reporting to you next year from the sunny beaches of Grey’s backyard, where he’ll undoubtedly have chained me up to protect me from fleeing to ESPN and becoming their new ranker.

Now, because I’m gung-ho in this punk DIY thing, I’m not going to take the easy way out and just aggregate The Bat, Steamer, and Fangraphs Depth Charts. Instead, I’m taking Rudy’s in-house rankings (developed in consultation with Steamer), where I hand-calculated the K-BB% using his stats, included his projected SIERA, and also factored my own custom ERA projection using K-BB% weights from 2021 projections and 2020 results. I used this combination because some of the 2020 results were problematic due to pitchers like Shane Bieber striking out a ridiculously high number of batters — much more in line with ratios seen by elite relievers (given the 70-80 IP in 2020) rather than the 180ish IP projected for 2021. I then factored in cumulative IP from 2019-2020 and compared to ADP. After much sorting, I had my results.

Then, because it’s basically impossible to forecast with any sense of precision the exact finish a player will have, I put everybody in a tier based on their likelihood to finish in the Top 3 / Top 5 / Top 10 / Top 20 based on their projections and their ranking in the qualities aforementioned: IP, K-BB%, and SIERA, while demoting players with known injuries or issues. I’ll say it every week: don’t look at this as hierarchical. Instead, look at it as descriptive of the pitchers who have the qualities to have the best possible outcome. When you start to view players as bearers of certain qualities of stats that are complementary, you no longer worry about sniping or “getting your guy,” because you know that there are just guys who are “more or less likely” to reach their projections and you adjust your draft strategy according to that.

So, this is a new set of rankings that I’m going to start the MLB year with because I feel it’s even better than my previous rankings. If you want my previous rankings, you can find them under my Top 100 Starting Pitchers 2021 week two article. I’ll note in the comments where major changes occur between the sets.

But wait! Didn’t I say that I was gonna teach you how to do this? Isn’t that the last part of liberation? Sure! It’s super easy. Start by scrolling way up and clicking on “Stats/Projections>Steamer/Razzball Projections>Pitchers”. Rudy offers all his projections in .csv form for free. How punk is that? Guy does all this work and just gives it to you for nothing. Then, you can calculate K% and BB% by dividing K and BB by Total Batters Faced, respectively. You calculate K-BB% by subtracting BB% from K%. Rudy provides SIERA in his rankings. If you want to do historical stuff, download past data from Fangraphs>Leaderboards. I did some of my own magic in my own rankings, but play with your results as you like. Add in weighting of categories, historical data, other SABRmetric stuff, whatever you like. Have fun, and be creative!

Tier 1: Top 5-ish

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
1A Shane Bieber 25.87 3.06
1B Jacob deGrom 27.90 2.79
1C Yu Darvish 22.99 3.24
2A Brandon Woodruff 20.22 3.66
2B Aaron Nola 18.81 3.74

Comments: If there’s one pitcher who’s most likely to finish in the Top 3, it’s Shane Bieber. He’s elite in IP, K-BB%, and SIERA. If you’re looking for a dynasty pitcher to acquire, it’s him. If you’re looking for an SP1 with the highest chance of returning first round value, it’s him. I still wouldn’t draft him in the first round. Bieber is league average in hard hit % and Cleveland is clearly jettisoning talent. Bieber is just 25 and could honestly be one of the greatest pitchers of our generation, but the Spiders are a mess internally and we could see some of that internal drama spill out on to the field with negative results.

The surprise of is bracket is probably Brandon Woodruff. I know! When we’re looking at checking all the boxes of IP, K-BB%, and SIERA, he’s right up there. As the consensus SP13, he’s already considered by many rankers to be “very good,” and I would suspect that the last category holding him back from top 10 status would be “wins.” Wins proved to be wonky in my study and not entirely descriptive of a top finish. In fact, in many circumstances, players with dismal win counts finished in the top 3 fantasy starting pitchers. Dinelson Lamet had 3 wins last year and finished as SP7. Devin Williams had more wins than Lamet. Trevor Bauer had 5 wins and was SP3. Pete Fairbanks, the nutso setup guy for the Rays, had more wins than Trevor Bauer in 2020. See? Don’t get all flustered over wins. ENYWHEY. With Woodruff going around the fourth round, I’m getting the Shane Bieber vibe I had in 2020. You could start hitter/hitter/hitter/Woodruff and that could be the maximum return on value this year. We’ll find out in October! In any case, at his current ADP and given his ceiling, Woodruff should be a target for all drafters.

Tier 2: Shinelackers

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
1A Trevor Bauer 20.07 3.63
1B Luis Castillo 20.43 3.53
2A Jack Flaherty 19.41 3.71
2B Max Scherzer 24.50 3.48
3A Walker Buehler 21.28 3.41
3B Gerrit Cole 25.59 3.33
4 Lucas Giolito 19.63 3.92

 

Comments: You know that part of the study where I talked about omitting the people who had obvious problems? We’ve got a mix of the good and the bad in here. These pitchers simply lack “the shine,” but not the Shining. Bauer gets hit hard, and he’s basically admitted to pine tar. Now that he’s got his contract, do we see a change in his performance? Same thing goes for Cole except we have even more evidence about the pine tar, and we know he went through an awful period last year of a 6+ FIP. Flaherty and Castillo are bright spots who are good but just not as good as the previous tier. Scherzer’s numbers look stunning but he’s struggled in IP recently. Buehler has had a high IP load before, and if he reaches 170/180 IP this year, he could be in the top 5. These second tier pitchers should be considered as “likely” to reach the Top 10 SP, and most likely to return a value of 2nd-4th round.

Tier 3: The Affordable Aces

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
1 Lance Lynn 17.81 4.06
1 Jose Berrios 17.26 4.09
1 Hyun-Jin Ryu 15.38 4.11
1 Clayton Kershaw 19.56 3.46
1 Zac Gallen 17.45 4.03
1 Corbin Burnes 18.33 3.94
1 Zack Wheeler 16.14 4.06
1 Zach Eflin 14.82 4.50
1 Kenta Maeda 17.45 4.13
1 Kevin Gausman 18.35 3.74
2 Kyle Hendricks 14.77 4.21
2 Andrew Heaney 17.69 4.27
2 Blake Snell 20.38 3.33
2 Tyler Glasnow 21.90 3.55
2 German Marquez 16.14 4.29
2 Sonny Gray 16.78 3.94

Comments: This tier was basically my SP1/SP2 tier from the last iteration. I could make a case for every pitcher here to make the top 10, and they’d all be equally valid. I see the likely outcomes for these pitchers to be anywhere from SP 5 to SP 40. If Corbin Burnes makes it to 170-180 IP (he came close in the minors once), you’ve got a top 10 SP. Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin’s projections are likely a bit wonky due to 2020. When you look at their peripherals, they are thrilling and you’ll want them everywhere. Obviously the steal of the draft here is Kevin Gausman, who I have ranked nearly 30 spots above consensus. He has had 180 IP seasons multiple times, and now that he’s got his craft figured out, you might be Corbin Burnes-ing him in 2022 if he gets enough innings. Meanwhile, Snell and Glasnow probably won’t see enough IP to be a top 10 threat, but their stuff is certainly worthy of this tier. They have the ability to reach elite IP but lack the track record. German Marquez checks all the boxes on the stats and I can’t ignore him simply because of his home field. Sonny Gray would be in Tier 2 based on stats alone if he wasn’t already dealing with back spasms. He’s dealt with them all his career and will probably be fine this year, meaning he could be an extraordinary value.

Tier 4: Something’s Always Wrong

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
Zack Greinke 16.24 4.16
Dylan Bundy 15.40 4.57
Charlie Morton 17.56 3.82
Chris Paddack 18.30 3.85
Tyler Mahle 16.46 4.48
Patrick Corbin 15.57 4.10
Marco Gonzales 12.74 4.55
Pablo Lopez 14.27 4.02
Joe Musgrove 16.50 3.90
Lance McCullers Jr. 16.24 3.71
Jesus Luzardo 16.57 3.84

Comments: I know this will reveal just how old and white and 90s I am, but Toad the Wet Sprocket were a really good band. “Something’s Always Wrong” will always be a banger to me, and I’m a guy that tunes his headphones to Periphery. These are the pitchers that had the stats to be a tier above, except for something’s always wrong. Again, I’m ranking by likelihood to achieve premier outcomes, so when we start seeing question marks, we pay attention to those. Greinke’s K-BB% from 2020 seems unnatural. Bundy’s SIERA is concerning. Morton and Paddack struggled with IP compared to other pitchers. Mahle lacks a track record. Gonzales’ K-BB% was stunning in 2020; but was it more noise than signal? Joe Musgrove, Lance McCullers, and Jesus Luzardo could be tier 2 players if they were more consistent. The pitchers you’re looking at in this tier have a range of SP5-SP60, making them more volatile, but nonetheless upside options who would nicely fill out your rotation. But the takeaway is this is the last tier of players who have the qualities to be in the top 10 overall; they just have some hangup that’s lacking among the other players.

Tier 5: End of Rotation and Streamers

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
1 Zach Plesac 14.47 4.75
1 Dallas Keuchel 9.21 4.44
1 Mike Minor 13.25 4.68
1 Sandy Alcantara 10.96 4.46
1 Chris Bassitt 13.45 4.40
1 Marcus Stroman 11.87 4.03
1 Max Fried 13.91 4.01
1 John Means 14.39 4.83
1 Matthew Boyd 17.01 4.43
1 Jose Quintana 13.66 4.44
1 Nathan Eovaldi 17.45 4.27
1 Jordan Montgomery 15.88 4.37
1 Ian Anderson 13.46 4.37
1 Josh Lindblom 16.84 4.46
1 Elieser Hernandez 14.90 4.64
1 Triston McKenzie 16.32 4.61
2 Drew Smyly 18.69 4.25
2 Dinelson Lamet 22.88 3.35
2 James Paxton 17.32 4.11
2 Zach Davies 9.09 4.98
2 Robbie Ray 16.80 4.58
2 Danny Duffy 12.93 4.84
2 Ryan Yarbrough 11.63 4.71
2 Jake Odorizzi 16.91 4.42
2 Yusei Kikuchi 14.30 4.28
2 Griffin Canning 14.41 4.58
2 Aaron Civale 14.12 4.58
2 Brady Singer 12.02 4.33
2 Sixto Sanchez 13.93 3.93
2 Sean Manaea 13.85 4.24
2 Eduardo Rodriguez 15.64 4.47
2 Adam Wainwright 11.15 4.46
2 J.A. Happ 13.33 4.58
2 Michael Pineda 15.55 4.43
2 Julio Urias 13.57 4.34
2 Taijuan Walker 13.17 4.59
2 Dustin May 15.86 3.66
2 Tejay Antone 13.26 4.36

Comments: Here’s where the deviations from my previous rankings become obvious. The above tiers took you to SP40 or so, which is fine because they were really aggressive and you can see a bunch of players that ADP has ranked high are down in this tier (hello Julio Urias!). These are the players you draft as SP 4-7 to fill out your standard team, and they have an outcome range of SP10-SP90. Huge, right? But that’s why we’re ranking in a different manner. You’ll notice the K-BB% of these players are markedly lower than the players in the previous tiers, and that their SIERA is markedly higher. Also there’s Dinelson Lamet, who has an elbow injury and you should just stay away from because there’s a ton of players who aren’t injured at his ADP. I like a lot of players in this tier: you know I’m here for Robbie Ray and Yusei Kikuchi. Elieser Hernandez stuns on paper and could be crucial to high stakes teams pulling out a big win. I don’t believe in Drew Smyly’s small sample size but his numbers can’t be ignored. I have no idea why people are going all in on Sandy Alcantara when his numbers are nearly identical to Dallas Keuchel and slightly better than Zach Davies. Sixto could be a small sample size casualty but unless he cranks up his K-BB% he simply has a lower ceiling than many are projecting for him. Dustin May looks nice on paper but the Dodgers rotation will constrain his IP.

Tier 6: Dart Throws

Rank Name 2021 K-BB% 2021 SIERA
Steven Matz 14.21 4.64
Tarik Skubal 16.55 4.34
Freddy Peralta 19.24 4.10
Alex Wood 13.20 4.16
Carlos Carrasco 21.66 3.52
Antonio Senzatela 6.71 5.52
Brad Keller 8.07 4.67
Kyle Gibson 10.79 4.64
Madison Bumgarner 11.32 5.22
Kyle Freeland 8.68 5.26
Stephen Strasburg 17.14 4.05
Spencer Turnbull 12.34 4.31
Johnny Cueto 11.94 4.53
Frankie Montas 14.54 4.16
Jon Gray 11.17 5.11
Alec Mills 10.63 4.89
Alex Cobb 11.51 4.54
Steven Brault 8.49 4.82
Jose Urquidy 15.35 4.49
Merrill Kelly 12.87 4.72
Corey Kluber 18.64 4.03
Mike Fiers 8.97 5.35
Anthony DeSclafani 13.96 4.37
Kwang Hyun Kim 13.08 4.09
Mike Soroka 12.09 4.27
Justus Sheffield 9.72 4.65
Jon Lester 10.91 4.96
Caleb Smith 14.11 5.17
Cristian Javier 14.05 4.95
Ross Stripling 13.19 4.67
Dylan Cease 12.71 4.58
Adrian Houser 11.41 4.39
Jake Arrieta 8.54 4.81
Michael Wacha 11.89 4.78
Dane Dunning 12.61 4.59
Luke Weaver 15.21 4.56
Chris Archer 16.85 4.35
Dean Kremer 10.40 5.09
Mitch Keller 12.65 4.38
Jameson Taillon 14.80 4.45
Brett Anderson 9.32 4.47
Logan Allen 11.83 4.80
Garrett Richards 13.00 4.82
Keegan Akin 10.91 5.20
Chad Kuhl 10.90 4.78
Cal Quantrill 12.98 4.73
David Price 16.82 3.99
Matt Shoemaker 13.67 4.61
Randy Dobnak 8.18 4.69
Rick Porcello 13.29 4.73
Nick Pivetta 12.08 5.17
Eric Lauer 12.75 4.82
David Peterson 10.67 4.40
Shohei Ohtani 13.13 4.58
Tony Gonsolin 19.24 3.74
A.J. Puk 17.04 3.90
Kohei Arihara 13.04 4.82
Spencer Howard 13.72 4.69
Framber Valdez 15.49 3.56

Comments: These guys have a range of SP20-SP150. They’re the kind of pitchers you draft in best ball, deep leagues, or tournaments. If Tony Gonsolin gets a job, roster him everywhere. If Freddy Peralta gets a job, roster him everywhere for the next decade. Alex Wood looks nice on paper but the guy’s getting spinal work done. Carlos Carrasco is injured in many ways. Stephen Strasburg isn’t healthy. Framber’s finger is busted but he’s healing like the predator (true quote from Dusty). Luke Weaver looks nice on paper and could be a comeback player if he regains form. Randy Dobnak has a new slider and people are losing their mind over him in spring training but he doesn’t have an actual roster spot. Corey Kluber could be a value but he’s got a lot of history working against him. Shohei Ohtani is nice if you combine him as a pitcher/hitter but he’s not likely to reach the IP levels needed to be an elite fantasy pitcher. He’s more floor than ceiling. Compare Ohtani’s projections to Kohei Arihara, who is going like 200 spots later. Anybody who isn’t listed above is basically a dart throw. Blame omissions on my editor, who is me.

Well, now that I’m reaching a solid 7,850 words, I’ll take my leave and say thank you to the people who made it to the end. Thanks for staying for the sankjikai. I told you that you would learn something new! I hope this post is effective for you, and if you have questions, leave them in the comments. Keep your hate mail in your desk. Support your content creators and be nice to your league mates. Have an awesome week and see you for the regular season soon!

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.

 
  1. Chris says:
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    Kenta Maeda?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Hey Chris!

      Tier 3. He needs more IP to be an elite SP, and the last time he came close to the IP needed to be “elite” was 2016. Top 5 upside if he makes it to 180 IP, but that’s a big hill to climb.

  2. Cram It says:
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    Pretty epic tome! Grey should respond with a link to this in perpetuity every time someone asks “Why are you against drafting a top pitcher early?”.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      We need to get a bit.ly going for this thing.

      bit.ly/craptasticpitchers

  3. Grey

    Grey says:
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    Wow, this *is* the Snydercut of fantasy baseball posts. My finger is sore from scrolling to the comments!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      [jots down notes]

      “Grey has sore fingers. Adjust the rankings.”

      Thanks boss!

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        Haha, sore fingers in the best of ways!

  4. HomerHWBush says:
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    Awesome work (and I’m not just saying that b/c you are completely validating my top SP-avoiding staff of Wheeler/SonnyG/Lopez/Luzardo/Eflin)

    Fantastic article!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks Homer!

      Wheeler is going to stun this year. He *could* be the pitcher we all overlooked. If he gets near 180 IP with his career norm rates this year, we’ll all be erroneously drafting him in the first round next year.

  5. Kenneth says:
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    Wow, this is a great read! Thank you!

    As for your overall strategy, this is based on redraft. Could you give me some *quick* insight into how you would draft with my keepers? 12 team, 5×5 (OPS, QS), 5 keepers, $260 budget

    Keepers – Fernando Tatis Jr, Pete Alonso, Eloy Jimenez, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker – Total of $31 for all.

    I know I lack speed. Turner, Mondesi, Acuna, and Ramirez are all being kept.

    Would you still use your first two picks on hitters in my scenario?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Hey Kenneth! Thanks for reading! Indeed, if somebody like Bichette or Robert is out there (dunno the roster size if you have MI spots), grab them to help around the board. You could use a “true” 2nd rounder for your bats. I love Eloy and Tucker but they have very wide ranges of outcomes…of course we play like they’re pure gold to keep but they’re so cheap for you, there’s no harm in finding another bat as insurance.

      Otherwise, you’re fine looking at some pitchers. Especially if you can grab some affordable aces!

    • Harry Beanebag says:
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      Wow, excellent article and the data to back it up. I think it “proves” what Grey has been saying ever since I started frequenting this site and using its knowledge.

      I consider myself a “student” of the Razzball approach to fantasy baseball. I wish this article would’ve come out last week as we just had our draft last night (3/21). BUT, being a “student” of this site allowed me to actually draft VERY closely to what this great article is suggesting. That means there’s a high level of consistency in the Razzball strategy. Case in point, my draft last night to reading this article the next day. With that, opinions on my draft results?

      SPs I drafted:
      Ryu
      Luzardo
      Morton
      Gausman
      Bassitt
      Mahle
      Means
      Odorizzi
      Lindblom
      Valdez

      My keepers coming into the draft were:
      Flaherty
      Trout
      K. Marte
      Story
      Arenado
      Grisham
      Arenado
      Alvarez

      Hitters I drafted:
      Sano
      C. Santana
      Mountcastle
      E. White
      Soler
      Pache
      Julio Rodriguez

      RPs I drafted:
      Karinchak
      Iglesias

      • everywhereblair

        everywhereblair says:
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        Hey HB!

        Sorry I missed this comment the first time through. Notifications aren’t always the best.

        I think you’re just fine! You’ve got a great end of the draft set of hitters for the future as well, definitely following the Grey playbook.

        Mimicry is the best compliment. Good work!

  6. G says:
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    Great write up. Wondering if you had thoughts on my plan for my first round pick (pick #4) considering my Keepers of Lindor, Arenado, Trea Turner, Trenth Gresham, Julio Rodriguez. Bunch of stud hitters and pitchers are gone before the draft as it is a 12 team league where we can keep 5.

    The options for my first pick will likely be Yellich/Bellinger and Cole/Bieber. I hate drafting pitchers early but in this scenario was thinking Bieber if he is there. If Bieber is taken I will go with the hitter. But if I have the option for Bieber or one of Yellich or Bellinger, wondering what your thoughts may be. Thanks in advance. Take care

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      I think Rudy has Belli at like 4th overall on his draft board, so I would absolutely take Belli there if he’s available.

      But otherwise, since you’ve got the logical 1/2/3/4 round hitters, I won’t yell at you if you take Bieber, because that would like you up for an ideal balanced start.

      Balanced starts are great for drafts. If you’re feeling nervous, take Bieber and then worry about cheap power later. If you take Belli, then take a pitcher in round 2.

      Good luck!

      • G says:
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        Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated

  7. Coolwhip says:
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    This is the part of the Razzball story where Charlton Heston comes down from Mt Sinai holding the stone tablets while everyone is worshiping the golden calf with orgies and goes apesh*t on the community.
    “Idolaters! For this, you shall drink bitter waters.”

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      BRB I’m arguing with an empty chair.

      Everybody, we couldn’t have done this without Coolwhip! Give him a hand!

      • Coolwhip says:
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        *bows*

        One thing i’ll add here from our original conversation about this, when looking at the past player rater, in order for SP to make it into first-round value it nearly always required 210+ innings, 260+ Ks, 16+ wins, an ERA below 3.00, and a WHIP below 1.00, the amount of uphill climbing required to meet all 4 of those checkpoints in this ip-limited season will be astronomical… especially the first 2 of those.

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
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          …but…but…Gerrit Cole is supposed to pitch 200 IP according to the internet!

          • longbeachyo says:
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            Wow. Very impressive you two! I love the data and analysis that went into this piece. This is definitely something you would find on fangraphs. For that reason I think both of you should be including a bitcoin/crypto wallet address, for we the readers to donate or tip you guys with!

            I just have one question… Can you encapsulate all this data for auction drafts instead of snake drafts??? No need for a 1700 word count though! lol
            If the standard auction league is $260, how much should be allocated to pitching in your opinion? My league has keepers too though, so it’s not that simple to figure out.

            But either way, this was a very well thought out article. This should be required reading for anyone new to razzball! Remove the current player lists, keep the historical data info, and pin it to the rankings page every year! Think of the residual income!!! Thanks again!

            • longbeachyo says:
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              P.S. I think you would kill it at ESPN! They need a new “get him in your lineup guy”!

              Grey! Don’t lose EWB like you lost JB! (I’m still mad)

              • Grey

                Grey says:
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                Haha

  8. dubjay says:
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    Stellar work! Your magnum opus is complete!!!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      [mic drop]

      [rushes back to pick up mic because that stuff’s expensive in this economy]

      Thanks!

  9. Doug Jacoby says:
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    Loved the info, loved the writing.

    ty!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks Doug!

  10. Kcc26 says:
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    Great stuff!
    I’m trying to decide what to do in my keeper. We can keep forever but only 6 players. It’s a snake draft so the cost is a specific round (avg of previous years draft round and current year ADP). Considering:

    Darvish (2)
    Story (3)
    Woodruff (4)
    Acuña (5)
    Albies (7)
    Alonso (10)
    Arozarena (15)
    Kelenic (21)

    I don’t want to be draft scared with regards to pitching, but starters goes really fast in this league! The top pitchers that stand to be available at my first pick are mayyyybe woodruff, Strasburg, berrios, Hendricks, greinke, wheeler, morton. So I feel like I need to keep at least one arm :/ I’m really tempted to hold kelenic though with indications that he could be up after just a few weeks.

    Thoughts on which 6?

    Thanks!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Hey Kcc!

      My home league is a 6-keeper, pitcher-intensive keep forever league as well. Are we twins?

      So I hear you. I drafted Jack Flaherty in round 3 of our reboot this year after a 2020 hiatus. There are some leagues where pitchers are just scored more valuable, or by community consent, there’s just no stopping people from drafting every pitcher on the board by round 5.

      For a keep forever, I think you start at the bottom: Kelenic and Arozarena have the highest possible outcome in the future with multiple years of potential “keeper value.” Albies and Acuna are values for *this* year. Acuna will likely be a value for years to come, as well. Woodruff and Story are the best of the remaining group. I like Darvish, but he’s at his normal value, so you could draft him there as well.

      In a nutshell, Story, Woodruff, Acuna, Albies, Arozarena, Kelenic.

      If you want to keep Darvish, I can sympathize with that, in which case you drop Kelenic.

      Good luck!

      • Kcc26 says:
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        Thanks for the super thorough response!! Yeah darvish would be a top 5 pick (I pick 12/13). I might have a shot at woodruff there but he could go too. Then a huge drop off to the next tier!

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
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          Always keep thinking about possibilities: who in that next tier has the highest potential, and has the outcomes that could be seen by Darvish and Woodruff?

          Because there are a lot of nice looking pitchers who are nearby D&W in the ranks, but with *just* a bit of shine lacking from their game.

          • Kcc26 says:
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            Sure. Thanks for the input!

  11. OaktownSteve says:
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    You. Killed. It.

    Boom.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      DYNO-MIGHT!

      Thanks!

  12. Son

    Son says:
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    You’re a freaking beast!!! Excellent work, doc.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      [insert Marshawn Lynch gif]

      Thanks Son!

  13. Son

    Son says:
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    In Korean culture, it’s:

    il cha
    ee cha
    sam cha

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Is it the same implications with ‘sam cha’ — that it’s the brazen hour that bonds employees/friends in ways they’ll never speak about in the office?

      • Son

        Son says:
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        I’ve only known it in context of partying and girls but I assume it’s the same in the business world

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
          (link)

          I think we need to requisition some corporate funds for a Razzball cultural exchange and make this our next deep dive research project: the differences between Korean and Japanese “third parties”

          • Son

            Son says:
            (link)

            For research purposes. GREY!!!!

            • everywhereblair

              everywhereblair says:
              (link)

              FANTASY BASEBALLERS NEED TO KNOW

  14. Nightpandas says:
    (link)

    Which end of rotation guys you like with

    W L Era whip K QS K/9

    Trevor Rogers
    Wainwright
    Dunning
    Caleb Smith
    Lindblom
    Either Keller

    Need 2 thanks

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      [hides in shame]

      I don’t mind Lindblom
      [emerges]

      Caleb Smith looks amazing on paper but we saw how paper gains meant nothing last year. I give him another shot in the long season and see if it works. He’s got a nice ceiling and his floor is just as low as anybody else.

      So Lindblom and Smith, and if you don’t like Smith, Keller *could* be a sleeper. Like, a sleeper for sleepers.

  15. JB says:
    (link)

    Nice write up!!!

    Dynasty Lg question for ya….. Most likely will have to cut A Rosario due to roster size, but could move him for a prospect that I can keep in a minor slot. Who do you like from the list below?

    Xavier Edwards 2B | TB
    3B Jonathan India 3B | CIN
    SS Orelvis Martinez SS | TOR
    SS Ronny Mauricio SS | NYM
    OF Jordyn Adams OF | LAA
    OF Hunter Bishop OF | SF
    OF Luis Matos

    Thanks

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey JB! With prospects, I always want return on investment…some players get hurt or flame out on their way to the majors and never *really* make their mark, or by the time they become relevant, they’re past their minors eligibility. I lost Jose Ramirez one year to this…he was playing sporadically and I simply couldn’t keep him on my roster. Next year, top 10 fantasy player.

      For that reason, I’m going to point you to Jonathan India. Looks like he’s taking the job in Cincy, and Grey and Ralph (of ProspectsLive fame) both like him. That’s pedigree and opportunity. If he takes off, you win. If he flounders, you’re in the same position you are now: empty hands.

      Good luck!

  16. BadFantasyManager says:
    (link)

    Love the list! Love the writing! I’m going to keep this close by the time I have my draft…

    And I agree with you on Woodruff, I think he is going to do better than what people think. Saddly, I am in a very pitcher-focus draft and I won’t be able to draft him unless I pick him with the 2nd pick of the 3rd round.

    Anyways, excellent article. Hope the guys from my fantasy don’t see this.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks BFM!

      I’m a big fan of treating players like “equivalencies.” When you look at the Player Rater year after year, the differences between most of the players are pretty minor (except for like, the top 1-2-3 players overall). If you miss out on Woodruff, Max Scherzer is looking real nice on paper. Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn check all the boxes for Top 10 SP. Hyun-jin Ryu is right there as well. Although I see Woodruff with the highest ceiling, those other pitchers will be close behind.

      Good luck!

  17. Earl says:
    (link)

    what do people make of Robbie Ray’s amazing start to spring and year thus far?

    Is it for real or just a mirage of some sort?

    Thanks

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      You’ve come to the right place! Here’s my bold prediction from the off-season: https://razzball.com/bold-predictions-for-2021-starting-pitchers/

      “Ray certainly has the potential to land on the negative value of the bell curve. His 2020 was disastrous. However, the potential to land on the positive side of the bell curve comes with good arguments: over the past 3 years, Ray is 13th in total Ks and has more starts than Shane Bieber, and has the 12th best swinging strike rate over the past two years (which includes his disastrous 2020 campaign). As I noted in my Robbie Ray article above, he possesses a sinker in his arsenal that is plus value and batters simply can’t do anything with it. The problem is, he just doesn’t throw it very much because it’s not in his idiom (to quote Monty Python) of striking people out. If Robbie Ray pulled a Corbin Burnes and ditched his fastball for a sinker, we could see dramatic improvements in Ray’s outcomes. Burnes had an even worse 2019 than Ray’s 2020, and Burnes changed his pitch mix to finish 2020 as the 9th best starting pitcher for fantasy baseball”

      • Jolt In Flow says:
        (link)

        Hey Earl, this is the reason I have some Robbie Ray shares. EWB’s bold prediction. Still only ST, but EWB wasn’t basing his story on ST.

        Ewb’s been good to me so far, so my fingers are still crossed that he’s spot on with his prediction. And even if he’s not, the reason behind his RR outcome is sound. So I’ll run with it.

        Jolt
        PS. EWB, the cherry at the end of your quote would be the good old Grey, “And that’s me quoting me” line.

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
          (link)

          [rushes in breathless]

          andthatsmequotingme

          [gasps for air]

          Did I make it in time? Whew.

  18. Bas Hoedemakers says:
    (link)

    Hey everywhereblair!

    This is Bas from Holland

    Great article!, I made it to the end;-)

    I just had my draft in my 5×5 12 team keeper league andI have this staf (it is a keeper league):

    Gray, Bundy, Gausman, Montas, T Walker and Montgomery.

    I can trade mu Judge for his Scherzer.

    This will leave me with these outfielders:
    Tildaddy, Conforto, Reyes, Dozier, Hicks, Renfroe and Riley.

    At first I thought a no brainer but after reading your article (and knowing how Razzballers feel about pitching) I have some doubts.

    What do you think?

    Thanks,
    Bas from Holland

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Bas!

      I think you take Scherzer there. Judge always has trouble staying healthy, and *even* if he is healthy, Scherzer is *still* more valuable that Judge in that format.

      You have a *huge* upside with Acuna/Conforto/Franimal as your OF core. If Scherzer “hits” this year, your team is easily set for a top 3 finish if not the championship.

      Good luck!

  19. RobMacIII says:
    (link)

    No reply required. Just to say that I am here for this!

    I follow Grey to a T…

    Also, I am a scientist and love this ‘under the hood’ explanation of the thought process of not overvaluing pitching. As I was reading your post it all made sense – what Grey has been telling us all along and the data (in more detail) backing it up. Thanks!

    I hope we are here in October – and I think we will be – referencing this post as a prophecy.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Rob!

      Statistically, there will come the year where pitchers *do* pay off. And those that ride that pitcher coattails will hail it — the victory of the contrarian approach!

      But we’re looking at a situation where 97% of the time, hitters hold the most value in fantasy baseball. It’s a magnitude easier to pick two or even three hitters who will “hit” compared to pitchers that will “hit” on value.

      And it’s our job [points to the Razzball community] to keep up the momentum that the best practices for drafting a fantasy baseball team are: hitters first, pitchers later, SAGNOF. Stay balanced, stay wise.

      Thanks for checking in!

  20. Henry says:
    (link)

    Killer article.

    My league is 18 keeper (35 roster spots), keep forever at no cost. Would this thinking still apply when the top of the draft is players in the round 8-10 range? For example, top available players in my mind are:

    Arozarena
    Castellanos
    Torkelson
    Pham
    Bundy

    Still prioritize hitting when I’m already keeping 10 top-70 hitters with Ryu, Anderson, Paddack, and Lopez as my arms?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Henry! When it comes down to roster composition, you’re best served with a hitter/pitcher ratio somewhere around 65/35. This can of course be 60/40 or 70/30. But, roughly that kind of mentality for draft capital. So, if you’re keeping 10 hitters that would be 10 hitters within the first 6 rounds. Looks good so far, right? Surplus value! So what you’ll need are, of course, 5 more pitchers to keep you roughly at your balance: 10 hitters to 5 pitchers is 66/33, or close to your goal. So, Bundy keeps you balanced.

      That said, it’s a keep forever. Randy and Tork are huge values in that format. If you keep only 3-4 pitchers, I’m absolutely cool with that. At the end of the draft, you just take more upside arms like Elieser Hernandez to balance out the team as you need. Good luck!

      • Henry says:
        (link)

        Thanks, Captain of Outer Space! New favorite writer

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
          (link)

          Outer space ain’t gonna lead itself! Thanks!

  21. Trowy says:
    (link)

    Need a little keeper help…Choose 5 of 6
    Bieber ($20)
    Luzardo ($6)
    Haynes ($3)
    Tucker ($11)
    Lewis ($6)
    Alonso ($8)

    I’m going to keep Beiber and Alonso for sure. Leaning toward Lewis, Haynes and Luzardo as my other three…but flip flopping Tucker in for Haynes. Thoughts?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Trowy!

      I think you’re talking Hayes, as in Ke’Bryan? Right?

      Both myself and a lot of the Razzball crew are pretty down on Tucker, so I think you’ve got it right off the bat.

      Hope this helps!

  22. Jolt In Flow says:
    (link)

    EWB, you’re the man. Like Cram noted above, if anyone questions pitcher drafting theory, this needs to be linked. So that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Just sending people a link to this whenever they question why they shouldn’t be taking pitchers in the first or second round.

    Will take time to fully let this marinate. But already love what I’ve read.

    Thanks for all this EWB! Very very much appreciated.

    Jolt

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Jolt!

      Just put some beer and garlic in the marinade and let it work. Enlightenment isn’t a weekend retreat!

  23. hot corner says:
    (link)

    Where were you yesterday before my RCL draft? I took Degrom in the 1st (pick 7) and 5 pitchers in the 1st 10 rounds plus Realmuto.

    Just kidding, I did it on purpose to see what would happen. Without getting a power/speed guy in the 1st round, it is really difficult to catch up on speed without reaching for someone with no power. In my case, it is Myles Straw.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      When Truss starts writing up the leagues, watch out for the Writer’s League. I started deGrom/Nola/Realmuto/Tucker/Hendriks.

      I called it the “Everything Grey Hates” team.

      • hot corner says:
        (link)

        Damn. My RCL was Truss’ league.

        I wasn’t that extreme.

        Degrom / Freeman / Robert / Castillo / Bregman / Realmuto

        I was actually pretty psyched to get Realmuto in the 6th.

        • hot corner says:
          (link)

          Oh, and Grey is a two-bit hack. Just don’t tell him that I said that. He doesn’t see this, does he?

          • everywhereblair

            everywhereblair says:
            (link)

            Nah Grey never comes into my comments, say whatever you want and make sure you attach your name, phone number, user name, credit card number, mother’s maiden name, and a copy of a utility bill to your comment.

  24. OaktownSteve says:
    (link)

    I just read this a second time. What you say is deep in my marrow, not through real analysis as much as just having played this stupid game since 1987.

    As far as the conclusions you reached: agree, agree, agree. I could have written this myself if:

    1. I were smarter
    2. Better at researching
    3. Not a terrible writer

    As David Letterman used to say to Paul Schaffer, “Paul, you’ve crystalized my thoughts.” Probably one of the best contributor pieces, if not the best, that this site has ever produced.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Grey, Grey, Grey…PUT THIS ON A FRAME AND HANG IT IN THE HALL OF FAME NEXT TO THE PICTURE OF GURU GETTING SMASHED AT THE FOOTBALL DRAFTS.

      Thank you, Steve. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  25. craig says:
    (link)

    Thanks for this. Extremely insightful. Keep it up

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks so much Craig!

  26. Prawn Lord says:
    (link)

    This was an awesome analysis and super interesting! Felt like I was reading an academic article! Looking forward to reading more of your work throughout the season!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Prawn Lord!

  27. Oppo Taco says:
    (link)

    From a grad student to a former prof, this is an amazing article. Great read all the way through, from the data diving to the write up.

    I find it so interesting that the ‘sharps’ with the most skin in the game in NFBC push up the pitching like crazy. It’s more understandable in a 15 teamer with weekly FAAB, no $0 bids or trading but the way a lot of them opine about the “efficiency one pitcher can have in stats while taking up 1/9 slots as opposed to 1/15 (off the top of my head but you get the point) hitter slots” is such a tired argument for me. It seems like the ultimate fools errand of ‘most bang for your buck’. Just viewed a few Main Events on Twitter and Cody Bellinger slipped twice to the end of round 2 which is bonkers (or free money to the team to get him).

    As for your ranks themselves, is Giolito lower than the others due to his K-BB%? Him and darvish seem like the two helium guys routinely going in round 1 of NFBC formats and while I wouldn’t take either in round 1 I think I’d gamble on giolito over darvish because injury risk. The park sucks for Gio and the DH is never optimal for AL guys but I like him as SP4 (after the big 3).

    Again, great article mate. Cheers.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      What’s up Oppo Taco?

      The thing about gambling — and make no mistake, NFBC is gambling — is that people talk themselves into taking positions that they *know* are contrarian or suboptimal. They do this because, of course, the big wins often do come from some sort of non-optimal play which defeat the “norms” and then they have a story to tell.

      But that’s not the story of proper bankroll management, right? If one is going to establish a proper methodology for winning, you don’t want to norm the contrarian. While the contrarian might win one big pot on rare moons, the person who follows the data will win more often in more significant ways over a longer period of time.

      Thus, Grey and Rudy being in the top 15% of industry fantasy baseballers. They let data drive their decisions, let their method do the talking, and over time, wins and high placements became the norm.

      But that’s just not as cool as, “Pocket aces, got deGrom and Darvish, DOUBLE D’s YO! CAN’T BEAT ME IN PITCHING!” They shout to Twitter as they go scrounging for a 5-tool bat.

      But yeah, Darvish. Darvish actually has more IP than Gio over the past two years, which knocked him up (hehe) in the data rankings. I also have a few extra columns in my personal rankings which I didn’t show, and my estimated ERA on Giolito was 3.46, which was enough that I actually couldn’t decide which tier he should be in. He had one of the higher estimated ERAs of Tier 2, but the K-BB% of a Tier 1 pitcher. When all was added up, Gio made more sense in Tier 2. In the first draft of this article, I originally had him as a target for a top 5 SP, and I wouldn’t be against that, but Brandon Woodruff’s numbers matched the data more precisely.

      Thanks for checking in!

  28. YO says:
    (link)

    So, I read this like 2 hours before my draft tonight and like any logical person, tossed any other strategy/research I had done and hastily thought of a new one based solely on my immediate takeaways of this.

    I basically ended up with lots of hitting early and starters from tiers 3, 4, 5.

    My starters are:

    Kyle Hendricks
    Lance McCullers
    Tyler Mahle
    Zach Eflin
    Matthew Boyd
    Yusei Kikuchi
    Mike Minor
    Jose Quintana
    Dinelson Lamet

    If a couple of those guys end up in the top 20 starters combined with the early hitters I took I think i’m ok? I’m not really sure

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Yo! HEYO. Yeah!

      You’re fine and on the right track. Less K than I prefer, but you’ve got a good base. I ran it through the War Room and you’re more or less fine in W/ERA/WHIP and lacking in Ks, but cheap Ks can be provided by relievers and waiver wire breakouts. Last year, players like Triston McKenzie and Tarik Skubal had over 10K/9 right off the waiver wire. There will be a couple guys like that who pop up..if Freddy Peralta gets a rotation spot, absolutely nab him.

      It’s not always about the one draft, but the many drafts ahead of you. Best of luck!

  29. Big Magoo

    Big Magoo says:
    (link)

    Great post, EWB. Or Blair, if you prefer. EWB has a certain ring to it though.

    It is crazy how pitching flies off the board in NFBC formats. I get it to some degree. A guy like deGrom gives you a huge leg up in an overall competition if you’re able to hit on your bats in the subsequent rounds. Same with a player like Realmuto if he produces a typical season of his. Just gives you such an edge at that position, though it lowers your margin for error elsewhere due to the opportunity cost of taking those players in premium draft slots.

    I prefer to draft based on the current player pool rather than any predisposed inclination towards or against a particular position. In 15 teamers this year, I’m not terribly high on any pitchers in the round 5-7 range outside of Ryu, so I’ve been targeting a couple of SPs early (like Scherzer and Woodruff, great call there) and grabbing players like Yordan/JDM in the 6th and Blackmon/Rizzo/Goldschmidt in the 7th. It’s not necessarily a matter of preferring early pitching, but having the hitters rated more highly in those early-mid rounds. It’s more about optimal team construction than the values of individual players in a vacuum.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post and appreciate the thought and work that went into it. And don’t worry about any backlash (if any) that you receive from the fantasy community. I remember that Larry Schechter and a few other “experts” were critical of my “Finding the Next Corey Kluber” series on this site a few years back, but I don’t recall hearing anything about my recommendations of guys like Arrieta, Carrasco, and deGrom the next offseason.

    And don’t forget to press Grey for an upgrade from Domino’s coupons to Papa John’s. You deserve it!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Magoo!

      Coming from academia, I’ve had bigger, more important fish yell at me than people who play imaginary baseball manager. Pushback from only one big name so far, but I always remember that those “big” people are incentivized to protect their sphere of influence. They have the job, they have the social capital, they are the gatekeepers. If they were to just shrug and give up, it weakens their stance and leaves them open to, well, losing their position.

      Of course, I looked up Mr. Pushback (because it’s always a Mr.) on The Tindoor’s Industry Overall Rankings chart, and he’s well, well below Grey and Rudy in performance.

      When I’ve got the Grey and Rudy seal of approval (including the rare Rudy re-tweet), that’s all that matters to me from an “elitist” standpoint.

      But if there’s one thing I wish more people would take away from the article, it’s that the common everyday Joe and Jane and Johanex can make their own rankings and make their own edge.

      So often I see the first question that a new fantasy baseballer asks is, “What’s the best ranking system.” And immediately people respond with the accuracy ranks.

      When really, the first question should be more like designing one’s home: “I’ve got a proverbial room where I can fit 23 things into it. What things should I put in my room?”

      ENYWHEY. Thanks for the comment, and I’m always thinking of the next Corey Kluber!

      • Wake Up says:
        (link)

        “I prefer to draft based on the current player pool rather than any predisposed inclination towards or against a particular position. In 15 teamers this year, I’m not terribly high on any pitchers in the round 5-7 range outside of Ryu, so I’ve been targeting a couple of SPs early (like Scherzer and Woodruff, great call there) and grabbing players like Yordan/JDM in the 6th and Blackmon/Rizzo/Goldschmidt in the 7th. It’s not necessarily a matter of preferring early pitching, but having the hitters rated more highly in those early-mid rounds. It’s more about optimal team construction than the values of individual players in a vacuum.”

        The great and powerful Magoo. With a great point that was missed.

        As I been saying on an island for a decade… In the great battle between Pitchers and Hitters… literally the only thing that matters is that you “get your guys.”

        There is no Most Value Award.

        There is only Most Stats.

        That’s called the winner.

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
          (link)

          Love this!

  30. Shallow League Decisions says:
    (link)

    Awesome read.

    I’m in a 6 team friends league – 5×5 using QS instead of W..

    C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 2 IF, 4 OF, 2 UTIL

    4 SP, 2 P, 2 RP

    4 Bench

    I have first pick. What round would you take your first SP in my size league? Most the managers draft closely to Yahoo rankings. I was thinking round 6 or 7 (pick 36, 37).

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey SLD!

      Yeah, the QS makes it a bit tougher. Honestly, you’re closer to a DFS-style roster in a 6-team league than anything. In a DFS format, you’re better served increasing your pitching by a notch, because the “hits” — especially with QS — are bigger than the “misses.”

      So I think you start with your preferred choice of Acuna/Tatis/Betts/Soto at 1.1, and at 2.12/3.13, you grab somebody like Darvish/Giolito/Woodruff. The elite hitters are *still* necessary in that format though, so I wouldn’t recommend more than 1 SP at the 2/3 turn. Nonetheless, it’s your team, and have fun with it!

      Good luck!

      • Shallow League Decisions says:
        (link)

        Thanks. I believe Castillo and Woodruff will be available for me in this size league for my 36 and 37 pick.

        What about this?

        R1 Acuna

        R2/3 turn – something like a Lindor/Bellinger combo

        R4/5 turn – Castillo/Woodruff or one of them and wait to grab another SP at R 5/6 turn

        • everywhereblair

          everywhereblair says:
          (link)

          Oh yeah, you know your league best. If you think pitchers of that quality will be around in 4/5, go for it.

          Acuna/Lindor/Belli is a nice start.

  31. Fister Furbush says:
    (link)

    Wow! What a write up. Seriously, wonderfully done mate.

    Wassup man. I asked Grey this earlier, but I figured I should ask the pitching guy!

    I drafted a team that was mostly influenced off of Grey’s pre-season rankings. 10 team H2H points. CBS. Thoughts?

    C- Austin Nola
    1st- Freddie Freeman
    2nd- Keston Hiura
    3rd- Yoan Moncada
    SS- Bo Bichette
    OF: Bryce Harper/Luis Robert & Judge(I couldn’t help it)
    UTIL- Pete Alonso

    SP: Brandon Woodruff/Dylan Bundy/Charlie Morton/Jesus Luzardo/ Lance McCullers

    RP: Josh Hader/Raisel Iglesias

    Bench: Aldeberto Mondesi/ Teoscar Hernandez/Chris Paddack/Jameson Taillon/Framber Valdez

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      [stares at Mondesi on the bench]

      Yeah, other than Nola being out, you’re fielding an all-star team there.

      Pitching is totally fine, wouldn’t worry about it whatsoever.

      Make some space above the mantle because you’re the favorite to take home the trophy this year.

      Good luck!

  32. malamoney

    malamoney says:
    (link)

    Great content!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Malamoney! [hug gif]

  33. Foxman says:
    (link)

    Blaire
    Great stuff man
    This is just in time for me. Drafted tonight and took Efflin in round 19. I wasn’t a fan, but price seemed right and you seemed high on him. I didn’t take a pitcher until rd 8, and my staff is fine. Ryu/Wheeler/Gausman/Pablo/McCullers/Efflin
    I have been trying to pair May and Gonsonlin together if I can get them late. Both go after pick 200 in ESPN leagues
    I figure the combo gives me one really good starter and best case scenario is both guys get a chance in the rotation.
    Thanks for putting in all the hard work. Appreciate ya!
    Fox

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Fox!

      Gonsolin was one of my brazen picks earlier in the year. His numbers are ridiculous and Price/Urias on the Dodgers simply can’t be trusted for big innings. May is one of the youngest pitchers in the league. The odds that the Dodgers *don’t* give Gonsolin 10 starts, or trade him, are just so small. Gonsolin would be an SP1/SP2 on so many teams. Guy would be the face of the franchise on the Pirates.

      Eflin is so under the radar. He looks studly on paper and just needs to turn the final corner to get proper recognition among the community.

      Thanks for checking in!

  34. Fabs says:
    (link)

    I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical when you said that this article is probably your greatest contribution to fantasy sports so far…. Well, you definitely proved me wrong. What a great article, and I am saying this because I am sucker for good quantitative research and I love how you used your academic background for this analysis. Well done and thank you!!!!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Thanks Fabs! [jumping high five gif]

  35. Cable says:
    (link)

    This just might be the GOAT for me of articles I’ve read for fantasy baseball SPers . But I don’t know if this will work for me in a 12 team h/h points league where W’s are worth 10 pts deGrom & Cole probably head to top of rankings

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Cable!

      Thanks for the early GOAT vote! Rock the GOAT!

      I touched on points leagues briefly last week, some 11,000 words ago by now. Because wins are so arbitrary, I still don’t project them too highly. Marco Gonzales finished with 7 wins to Shane Bieber’s 8 last year. In 2019, deGrom was SP4 with 11 wins, ahead of Zack Greinke at SP5 with 18 wins. deGrom had 11 wins in 2018 as well. Chris Sale, 2018, SP8 with 12 wins.

      So, wins are wonky. There are so many arbitrary factors that I wouldn’t push the top pitchers up too much based on that scoring. I would do that for QS this year though. But with starters going an average of 4.8 IP in 2020, I’m still pushing SP down the ranks, and I wouldn’t worry too much about the 10pt W in your league. If it’s keeping you up at night, I’d feel totally fine stocking up on Dodgers and Padre pitchers. :)

      Good luck!

  36. 4 keeper 6×6 OBP – 2b&3b – QS – Net Wins

    i have Tucker Tatis Ryu.

    I will offer Y Alvarez and Luzardo and Urias LAD for Darvish
    do it?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Yeah, I think you do that. I like Luzardo next year, but the ceiling on Darvish is higher this year.

      Big injury risk on Alvarez and Urias.

      So, if you want to win this year, I think you try for Darvish. If you want to win next year, keep your players.

      Good luck!

  37. Darrell Lester says:
    (link)

    Very interesting article. Kudos! I consider myself a disciplined drafter relying on Rudy’s projections and using ADP only to guide when to draft a target, but every draft I have trouble pulling the trigger on Marquez when he rises to the top of the list. Can you you help getting me over this psychological road block!

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
      (link)

      Hey Darrell!

      Yeah I’ve got the same roadblock so when you find that support group, gimme the meeting details!

      Thing is, the numbers show he has all the pre-requisites to be a top pitcher. Rudy, of course, factors in things like park factors. I didn’t do that in my projections because A) Rudy already does that, and B) I just wanted to show the possibilities based on stats.

      So, of course, if Marquez gets the trade, we salivate. If he stays in Coors with the Clubbies (revealed in yesterday’s Athletic article), then he’s pretty bleh.

      But the numbers, the numbers!

  38. carbontacos says:
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    I’m thrilled to see Zach Eflin (ADP 191) and Andrew Heaney (ADP 200) in your third, “Affordable Aces” tier, but of Heaney, Grey said he’d push, as “…nice peripherals and five dollars doesn’t walk the dog…” and has even less to say about Eflin. In what rounds would you target them in a 12-team’er?

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Hey CT!

      You wouldn’t believe the internal chatter we have at Razzball sometimes…I would say the biggest critic of the War Room is Grey himself! The great thing about Razzball is that the writers all have their own say in how to rank players. Sometimes we do it well, and sometimes we do it poorly. But as long as we’re using reason, that’s all that matters.

      Heaney produces, but the Angels are probably 6-man rotationing this year. Blerg. IP limit means cap on SP value. That said, I’d rather roll with great stats and IP limit than wait for what’s below Heaney. Nobody seems to care that Glasnow has thrown like 60 IP the past couple years, right?

      So, in 12-teamers, I’m fine anywhere from round 12 onward. ADP is just a sign of when other people order players, so if you’re targeting them in your pitcher mix, that’s a fine spot to start considering them.

  39. 1. First off, this is great. Dig all the stuff on groupthink, gatekeepers, not wanting to stand out too much on a limb in order to not get mocked even when it turns out that you ended up being right, the only thing that gets remembered is you were the one unwilling to step in line so get to getting ostracized…it’s basically how twitter works. You know the thing everyone else is saying makes no sense but do I stand up and say something or just keep my head down and hope they have me on the pod…

    2. The stuff on ADP is very good. I agree on how you go about doing your own research in order to identify your targets. What I would call prep. But then for some reason you mock “getting your guys.” That’s exactly what the draft prep is illuminating. “Your guys” are in fact the thing that sets you apart from the herd. You’ll hear a lot of “REACH!” That’s good you’ll want to hear that. That means you are drafting with slaves. You don’t want to be adjusting your draft strategy after you get “sniped.” You want to be adjusting your draft strategy beforehand in order to “get your guys.”

    3. This is a good start. It would carry more weight if drafts were say 5 rounds long though… You unfortunately cannot draw significant conclusions from a study of 5 rounds for a draft of 30 rounds. Sample size as the kids say…

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Wake up!

      Yeah, small sample size indeed. Even with that sample size limit, there were a number of things I couldn’t fit into an 8,000 word article. Particularly, the gravity of pitcher misses. I briefly touched on it here, but the “misses” seen in the pitchers in the early rounds often returned little to no value. Hitters just “struggled” and returned reduced value the majority of the time. For the follow-up, it’s definitely worthwhile to tally up per pick value averages, because that would be an even bigger smoking gun that what I’ve provided.

      I think the “getting your guys” part might have been some sloppy writing on my part. I think I was trying to convey that as a synonym of “sniping” when really it’s not. I’ve always viewed the lament of the “snipe” as people who didn’t draft correctly, or had overly-weighted their roster on the acquisition of one player. As you say, hearing “snipe” means people are revealing a vulnerability. If anything, they just showed the card in their hand to you, and now you know what they were targeting.

      In football, the equivalent is people announcing or, very noticeably, going “Zero RB.” Because the roster is so much smaller in football, when it is very noticeable that somebody *isn’t* drafting a running back, you *know* their targets in rounds 5-8. You *know* who they’re going after. You *know* who they *can’t* target (because they’re running unbalanced, they *need* to make those choices in those rounds). And nothing thrills me more than taking a balanced draft approach and grabbing those RB for my own team. Because anytime I can make *both* a positive for me and a negative for somebody else, that’s even better.

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned from hanging online with Rudy, it’s the value of being flexible and keeping a balanced team through the draft. And “getting your guy” is a component of that. But what I think I’m trying to convey, is that a draft isn’t ruined if you *don’t* get your guy, but rather the manager remains open to the possibilities of getting other guys who could have similar outcomes.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  40. Pine Tar Incident says:
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    Impressive article

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks PTI!
      [goes to watch ESPN}

  41. Huffin Gas says:
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    I’m late to comment, and I never comment this late, but this is execellent. Thank you. Razzball overlords- give this guy a name tag and a cubical at HQ.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks Huffin!

      Grey let me have some coffee today. It was a nice break from chicory he usually serves.

      • Huffin Gas says:
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        Are you planning on doing any sort of regular updates to your rankings/tiers as the season progresses? Might take a while to dig in deep and see how pitchers are progressing. The sample size issue is a tricky one.

  42. Evan Wilson says:
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    fkn epic

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks Evan!

  43. HoosierGuy says:
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    Wonderful read. Very nice work. Took me awhile to read it all – my head hurts when I think too much. Your jellybean mention reminded me of a docuseries I recently watched on Netflix – The Code (2011) hosted by Marcus du Sautoy. (Not the Australian TV show.) Interesting stuff and worth a watch. Thanks for the article @ewb. And thanks to @Grey. I’ve enjoyed Razzball since 2010 – my first year playing fantasy baseball.

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Thanks HoosierGuy!

      I’ll take a look at the series! Always looking for something new.

      I was a 2009-er for Razzball and hid in the shadows for over a decade before finally revealing myself. Best decision I ever made.

      Cheers!

  44. BelmarPhil says:
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    Andrew Heaney – yuck

    • everywhereblair

      everywhereblair says:
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      Grey and I politely disagree on Heaney.

      I think “polite” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.

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