Welcome to my new column in Razzball: The Magazine! Every week I’ll be responding to letters from fans who are in a fantasy crisis. Let’s jump right in and see our first question:
I drafted Sixto Sanchez in the first round. I know! I’m a sucker for alliteration. I even named my team, “Sexy Sixto Stacks Stampede.” You told me ADP was a trap and I could draft whomever I want whenever I want!
Suxto See Sixto Sick
Well, we’ve got ourselves a humdinger for the first mailbag question! Did you hear that Sixto has a sore arm? You really don’t need to be taking pitchers in the first round. But it’s your team, you do you. You can fix your team by drafting Jacob Stallings, and renaming it the Sticky Stallings Smashers. Onwards, to the main event!
Small Sample Size
After watching all the elite starters get smashed on Opening Day and Matt Boyd look like a comparable ace, I could just put in my “Don’t draft pitchers early” mantra and be done with it. Nay, I wouldn’t do that to you. Instead I’m gonna walk you off the proverbial ledge: Now is not the time to over react and get rid of your pitchers. In fact, you’ll need to be a bit patient and probably wait three-ish weeks before making drastic moves. But wait, you say — that’s nearly 10% of the season! Well, we need more than just 1-2 pieces of data to see a trend. If you were reactionary to just a few outings at the beginning of the season in 2020, here’s the staff you would have ended up with last year:
Antonio Senzatela: 3 GS, 17 IP, 14K/5BB, 2.65 ERA (finished SP57)
Randy Dobnak: 3 GS, 15 IP, 8K/4BB, 0.60 ERA (finished SP75)
Alec Mills: 3 GS, 19 IP, 14K/6BB, 2.84 ERA (finished SP61)
Jon Gray: 3 GS, 16 IP, 7K/4BB, 3.31 ERA (finished SP213)
Rich Hill: 3 GS, 13 IP, 8K/6BB, 3.55 ERA (finished SP87)
And meanwhile, Yu Darvish and Aaron Nola started 2020 each with a 6.75 ERA in their first 2020 outing. So, just chill. Don’t make any big changes (unless you’re trying to trade for an ace that had a rough start, then try to grab them of course).
In fact, I wanna make a new name for these pitchers who are only useful in best ball / DFS settings: STaRs. Or, Starters as Relievers. These starters look great in small spurts but also have longer periods of sheer blahdom. You’ll talk about them as the next big thing and ogle their Pitching Ninja highlights. But when push comes to glove, they have a couple nice starts and then settle into their happy lives of MLB mediocrity.
All of this is to say: I’m giving you news and updates this week. The rankings aren’t really changing until we get a bit more data, because otherwise I’m just as likely to tell you to grab Randy Dobnak and ruin your team. If you feel like there’s a pitcher you want, absolutely take a flier on them. I threw a couple bucks at Chris Flexen, Logan Webb, and Jon Gray. But — and this is a Blair’s been writing too much about pitchers-sized but — don’t give up on your aces. It might take them until May to start rolling. Corbin Burnes — a top 10 SP from 2020 — didn’t even get a starting job on the Brewers until a month into the 2020 season. Shane Bieber started the first month of last season with a 50% hard hit rate and a 10% barrel rate. He finished as SP1. A bunch of people said Clayton Kershaw’s career was donezo after he gave up 3 homers against the Giants in his second game of 2020. He finished as SP8 on the year. In Zach Davies’ first two games of 2020, he had a K/9 under 7 and an ERA of 4.50. He finished as SP12. For real, you’ll be fine. Go learn how to mix a mojito or something, and then while you’re drinking it, don’t touch any healthy pitcher that you consider to be in the top 5 of your rotation. And especially don’t overpay in FAAB for the Randy Dobnak’s of the world.
News and Notes
Trevor Bauer: NEVER MIND START OVERTHINKING YOUR PITCHERS IMMEDIATELY. TB27 led off the Dodgers with 6IP of no hit ball against the Rockies and then it all fell apart after he ran out of pine tar on his hat. 10Ks, 2BB, but 4ER once the Rockies decided to hit the ball. I told you in the pre-season that I was low on Bauer, and the Statcast numbers don’t lie. He faced 25 Rocky batters (that’s their preferred singular pronoun, bee-tee-dubs), and had 13 batted ball events. 7 of those qualified as hard hit and 1 was a barrel. In other words, 53% hard hit rate and 7.7% barrel rate. Yuck! And you ask yourself, “how did I end up in this large automobile…and there was barrel on the bat on only one of those BBEs! Let the days go by!” Still, FIP of 5.47 and an 84% contact rate on pitches in the zone should make you retweet his agent Rachel Luba’s question whether TB27 could get grandfathered into the pine tar spin club (that really happened, I’m not being sarcastic). Bauer-lovers will keep shouting “If you know, you know,” and that’s fine. Ignorance is bliss in my case.
Tanner Houck: Made everybody excited when he got an April start and struck out 8 over 5IP. However, reports say that he’s not going to be on the big league roster for long. He’s got a little bit more service time to mangle, so the Red Sox have every incentive to keep him down until somebody gets hurt. Roster Houck if you want, but don’t consider him a permanent fix for glaring holes in your rotation.
Yusei Kikuchi: 6IP, 10K, 3ER. Whew! You know I’m on the Kukuchi shinkansen, but let’s tell both sides of the story: he was hit just as hard as Bauer above. But, you know, Kikuchi came 25 rounds later in your draft. FAAB him hard if he’s on the wire in your league.
Zack Wheeler: Dude hung out in my “Your SP1” tier in the pre-season and you got rewarded with 7IP and 10Ks, 0BB and 0ER. If you’re in roto, that’s a wet dream. If you’re in a points league, that’s your [thinks of a synonym for “wet dream”] moist fantasy! Bois and 3 lady readers and 1 enby reader, Zack Wheeler is my moist fantasy.
Corbin Burnes: 6.1 IP, 11K, 1ER. I love how we start the no-hitter watches in the 5th inning now. Like, there’s 40% of the game left to play, and MLB starts dishing out the “no-hitter watch!” alerts to my phone like the NASA is about to shoot a nuclear warhead into Mt. Olympus. NASA is charge of that stuff, right? ENYWHEY. I wrote up Burnes in the pre-season and gave him a recommendation as a pitcher but not quite at his ADP. I know a lot of you ended up with him as your SP1/SP2, and you’re absolutely dancing right now. If he keeps up at even a modicum of this rate, you’ve got a top 10 SP for a drastically reduced ADP cost. Fingers crossed!
Jose Berrios: The other half of that “dualing no-hitter,” Berrios finished with 6IP, 12K, and naughts across the rest of the board. Of the 6 batted ball events against him, only 1 resulted in a barrel/hard hit. I ended up with Berrios as my SP1 on my industry teams and most people thought I was crazy. Sure, I’m non-normative. But I’m also on top of the pitcher rankings with Berrios right now. Come, take my throne from me.
Zach Plesac: Zach Attack was a favorite of some high-stakes players and sparked non-stop internet discussion this winter. For cereal: take a lesson from Cinnamon Toast Crunch and know that every delicious thing can come with some spiced shrimp tails once in a while. You know I’m not a fan of Plesac or his bleached hair, and it’s worth pointing out that his xFIP of 5.86 from his first start is, and I say this with italics, alarming. 20 batted ball events, max EV of 110.6, average launch angle of 21.3 (which is basically the home run sweet spot), and 40% hard hit rate. Only one of those hits landed on the barrel. With Plesac only taking 4 batters out by means of the strikeout, he made his defense do a ton of work, and it was more luck than anything that landed him with only 2 ER over 6IP. Fun fact: if you pro-rate Plesac’s first start into three starts, his stat line is basically Randy Dobnak’s first three games from last year. Are you glad you drafted Plesac in the 6th round now? ENYWHEY. Plesac should do better than 2020 Dobnak, and perhaps his bleached hair will drive a Lyft down Santa Monica Blvd on his way to the beach to violate team Covid protocols.
Jack Flaherty and Luis Castillo: You’re all shouting right now, “EWB YOU TOLD ME TO DRAFT FLAHERTY!” Actually, I told you to draft Brandon Woodruff and Jose Berrios. But yes, Flaherty was a sweet option too. And Flaherty and Castillo rewarded you by each getting blown out for a combined 14 runs. Yuck. Also, ya’know what I’ve been saying about Bauer and Plesac managing to avoid barrels on their hard hit balls? Well, Flaherty and Castillo each finished with a 30% hard hit rate and way more barrels. In other words, baseball is a game of inches. You’re off by an inch, you get a hard hit. You’re on by an inch, you barrel a home run. Flaherty and Castillo are just on the unlucky side of that inch right now, and Bauer and Plesac are on the lucky side. This is why we don’t make drastic moves after 1 start. Remember my pre-season rant about Gerrit Cole having a month in 2020 where his FIP was 6.00 and he was giving up 3 HR/9? That’s basically what you’re seeing from Flaherty and Castillo right now. Hold the fort, and if you see a manager trying to trade these players, snag them.
Shane Bieber: There was a really dumb April 1 joke on the Tweeters about how Bieber’s velocity was way down in his first start. He pitched in a freaking snow storm. He struck out 12 batters in a level of snowfall that that would send me inside to watch horror movies, and I grew up and live in Minnesota/Wisconsin. He’ll be fine.
Elieser Hernandez: Left his game with biceps inflammation and an 85MPH fastball. Nope, there is nothing good about that. Sometimes injuries are just injuries. But over the last ten years, that injury has taken about 30-50 days to mitigate. So, this armchair prognosticator is telling you that Hernandez could miss 10-20% of the season. If you hear other reports, go with those. But pitchers who come back too early from this type of injury and have severely reduced velocity do not fare well.
Taylor Widener: Wider, wider…too wide! I really hope he’s a good dude in real life because his name sounds like a tool. Deep leaguers can go throw some FAAB at the fill-in for Zac Gallen. Dude K’d 5 Padres and gave up 3 hits and nary a run over 6IP. His run may not be long and his control is pretty lousy, but if you’re in one of those NL-Only leagues or 700 MLB player leagues, you’re looking at a guy who led the Diamondbacks to a victory against the Padres. Nice.
FAAB God, Millionaire
We all came here just to FAAB! I’m adding a new section for your FAAB targets. Now, I usually write my articles geared toward your average 12-team fantasy baseballer, but I know that I also get significant traction from those NFBC degenerates looking for every last drop of edge they can milk from the system. So, here’s what I got. I’m not going to add a FAAB $ because honestly, everything’s relative. If you’re in a desperate situation, spend what you need. If you’re good, don’t spend. It’s not like you’re winning an award for most or least FAAB spent.
Jose De Leon: Two starter this week.
Alex Cobb: 22% K-BB% and a BABIP of .412. Could be nice this year.
Tanner Houck: See above
Adrian Morejon: 5th Padre starter? Who remembers the Hodgepadres?
Logan Webb: Yeah, sure, try it out.
I, uh, told ya already that I’m not moving anybody until next week at the earliest. I mean, we literally had pitchers throwing in snow storms this week. If you want the moving rankings, Rudy has that in his rest of season calculator if you click up at the top of the page. But me? I’m not going to let Taylor Widener set the pace for your fantasy season. Stay calm and FAAB the hot hitters like Yermin Mercedes and Kyle Isbel if you’re in regular leagues.
|Name||2021 K-BB%||2021 SIERA||’19-20 CSW%|
|Lance McCullers Jr.||16.24||3.71||32.2|
|Streamers / Dart Throws Below|
|Name||2021 K-BB%||2021 SIERA||’19-20 CSW%|
|Kwang Hyun Kim||13.08||4.09||#N/A|
Aye, you made it this far, didn’t ya. EverywhereBlair is, well, located at home right now. He’s a historian and lover of prog-metal. He enjoys a good sipping rum. When he’s not churning data and making fan fiction about Grey and Donkey Teeth, you can find him dreaming of shirtless pictures of Lance Lynn on Twitter @Everywhereblair.