I was gonna write a big intro with fanfare and fireworks and 19 different synonyms for “Rocktoberfest” but I’m staring at a 3,000-word article and I know y’all have spring fever. I really hope it’s not Covid. ENYWHEY. Let’s forgo the comedic intro and get deep into the pitcher landscape, which is rocky and tumultuous as if a meteor landed and blew everything up. Also, I talk about Robbie Ray’s tight pants. Come, meet me after the jump!
News and Notes
Carlos Rodon: BEING THE PITCHING GUY IS GREAT, I GET TO TALK ABOUT NO-HITTERS EVERY WEEK! Whew! Well, now that we’re on pace for nearly 30 no-hitters this year and a couple of perfect games, I suppose I better revamp my rankings to predict who goes the distance. Lemme look at last year’s no-hitter…ah, yes, Alec Mills. Where is he now? Oh, the bullpen on the Cubs, sitting in favor of aces like Jake Arrieta. So here’s the deal with Rodon: the guy’s barely returned from Tommy John surgery, and he was basically out of a job until this winter when Bob Nightengale reported that the White Sox had re-signed their closer, Carlos Rodon. Nightengale’s error must have really peeved Rodon, who blasted his way into spring training and then began destroying MLB batters. Like, we have a lot of data on Carlos Rodon. He’s got 550IP of pretty blah numbers, and the best fantasy performance he’s given came in 2016, when he finished as SP67. In other words, Rodon’s been in the majors for nearly six years and has never been good enough to roster on a 12-team lineup…until now. Throw me some hate mail if you want, but I didn’t believe Rodon’s spring training re-invention, and I’m still — still! — pretty hesitant about recommending him. But the data all agree: Rodon is now — at least for the moment — a top-tier pitcher. Is his arm strong enough to hold out? Will his changes last? Will I ever stop writing about Robbie Ray in his tight pants? Oh, hey, ya know what? Rodon’s still available in 25% of leagues. Go get him and welcome to the 2021 version of Corbin Burnes.
While I’m at it, I’ve seen some commentary that the 2 no-no’s to start 2021 is a statement about the lack of offense on the field, helping justify MLB’s proposition to move the pitcher’s mound back a foot. Honestly, Rodon’s no-no had only 7 strikeouts, meaning the other 20 batters all put the ball in play. When you think about it, even a team batting .100 should have eeked out 2 hits. Yes, no-hitters are a skill and should be celebrated, but to a degree, we have to recognize the role of arbitrariness. Sure, if Rodon had K’d 15 people, the discussion would be different. But 20 balls in play and no hits means a lot of defensive work and a fair amount of luck. I say let the players play, and don’t start messing with the mound distance. Onwards!
Corbin Burnes: Speaking of historical starts, Corbin Burnes has 30K:0BB, 4 hits in 18IP, giving him a WHIP of 0.10…and he’s still 16th on the player rater. Like, the guy has nearly thrown three no-hitters in a row with 10K a piece and he’s still below Ryan McMahon and Mitch Haniger. So! Don’t draft pitchers early. Uh, this is awkward, so lemme quote Blink-182 and move on: I’m feeling this.
Wade Miley: Lemme remember back, not fondly whatsoever, to 2020, when lil’ Blair started writing for Razzball. [wavy lines and whooshing noises] Also the not fond part is because of the pandemic, not because I didn’t like writing for Razzball [wavy lines finish] Whoa man, it’s week 3 of 2020, and Randy Dobnak and Alec Mills are in the top 10 on the Player Rater! Now, I can either dump my savings into short-selling Dobnak, or Bitcoin and Dogecoin…what should I do? SHORT SELL DOBNAK! [wavy lines] OK, back in 2021, and I’m still as poor as in 2020, but I’m slightly smarter on pitchers. Wade Miley is a top 10 SP on the Player Rater. He has a career BABIP of over .300, and his current BABIP is .143. He has a career Left on Base percentage (LOB%) of about 73%; this year, it’s 100%. His career K-BB% is 10%, and this year it’s 17%…you get the point. Sometimes pitchers get lucky, and maybe Miley is going to have that late-career renaissance that Rich Hill had. His fastball is worse than his career averages, and he’s throwing his changeup more. So, uh, it’s not like we’re seeing a massive re-discovery of Miley. He might be worth rostering in deep leagues as a dart throw, but I would treat him more like Alec Mills from 2020 — starting in the top 10 pitchers and plummeting down off of rosters by the end of the year.
Danny Duffy: What is this, hipster pitcher list? Yeah, I mean, I could just be like “Yu Darvish good” but that doesn’t help the managers who don’t have Yu Darvish rostered, right? So here’s where I check the percent of players rostered in the RCLs, and where I report some value might be found. Caveat the first: RCLs cater to streaming. Caveat the second: like Wade Miley above, being high on the Player Rater early in the year isn’t necessarily a sign of enduring success. But when we’ve got an 11% rostered player who is SP21, we might want to take a look at them, right? Danny Duffy is bizarro-Wade Miley: they’re both playing way beyond their fantasy pay grade, except Duffy seems to be showing early signs of legitimate improvement. Now at 32 years old, Duffy’s fastball is back to its highest velocity since 2016, and his peripherals are all in line with career norms. He’s throwing his slider more than ever, and Ripley (believe it or not!), he’s actually getting a bit unlucky on his called strikes. Everything else is in line with career norms…which is to say, “bleh,” but if you’re looking for a streamer or an SP5, Duffy’s got the early lead on your gig work opportunity.
Luke Weaver: Same familiar story as the other pitchers. Weaver was a top 40 SP on Grey’s rating going into 2020, and then 2020 happened and everything fell apart. Thing is, 2020 was in itself a small sample size, even if the year lasted 900 days and is still going. Weaver actually had K-BB% and SIERA rate in 2020 that would have put him fringe top 60, if it wasn’t for the outrageous .364 BABIP. Everything else was more or less in line with his career norms, but the lucky extra people getting on base were driven home by his normal proclivity to give up homers. Now it’s 2021 and 50% of us have some Moderna in our arms and fresh haircuts, and Luke Weaver has 12 innings of pretty adequate pitching. There are a couple of things to pay attention to with Weaver, the first being his .064 BABIP. Sometimes you roll a seven, other times seven rolls you. The other thing is that he’s completely abandoned his curveball. OK, we’re only a couple of starts into the season and sometimes pitchers don’t throw their entire repertoire. But, Weaver is effectively going fastball/changeup so far, and that’s it. And it’s working. But you know, I was a fastball changeup pitcher in high school and that got me sent out to right field when my slider never took hold. Weaver’s profile looks more like a reliever right now, and if he doesn’t bring in a breaking ball soon, he’ll be back to the pitching trenches in short order.
Huascar Ynoa: Now we’re throwing with fire! Full disclosure: I spent nearly all of my RazzSlam FAAB on Huascar. Why did I spend nearly all my FAAB on a guy who has 2 starts and no clear rotation spot? Because if Ynoa catches on, he’s going to be 2020 Corbin Burnes in 2021. But not 2021 Corbin Burnes because that’s cleanliness which is next to godliness. So, if I said, 30.2% K-BB%, 2.29 SIERA, and 32.9% CSW%, you’d find those numbers in my S-Tier (no, don’t go looking for that on my body). OK, the 92% zone contact rate is horrifying but the 14% swinging strike rate is thrilling. His slider is one of the best in the league, most of his contact is medium-hard (hehe!) and hitters are basically driving the ball into the ground when he’s standing 60’6″ inches away. Manfred wants another foot though. If I had another foot, you’d be calling me a Martian. ENYWHEY. IFF (the philosophical kind) Ynoa keeps up his current rates, he’s a top 20 pitcher with top 10 upside. But he also has the ability to finish as SP60 or in the bullpen. No pain, no gain, right? I’m not sitting on the sidelines for Ynoa, and you know a good pitcher when you see them. He has the highest upside of any pitcher that started in the “streamers” tier this year, and that’s all you need to worry about. If you capture that upside, your team just landed another SP1. If he flops, oh well, Danny Duffy is still out there. Yeah, his Saturday start was crizzap. His CSW% was 33%. His xFIP was 3.55. His swinging strike rate was 12%. Even the best pitchers are studs only 75% of the time and throw duds the other 25%. If Ynoa throws like this he did to start the season 60% of the time, he’s still a top 30 pitcher. Roll the dice!
Michael Fulmer: When you’ve got Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning gunning for your job, you do your best to improve, right? Fulmer entered into a crowded rotation in Detroit, where everything is up for grabs as A.J. Hinch tries to rekindle his career with the MLB equivalent of the Bad News Bears. Fulmer had 10 starts last year and 27 innings pitched. I mean, SP were down to 4.8 innings per start last year, but Fulmer was basically an opener. With an 8,78 ERA and a 6.91 FIP, Fulmer invited the young studs in the Tigers’ farm system to take his job. Then, to open 2021, Fulmer threw 7 innings in relief, tallying up a 12 K/9 with no walks and an ERA around 2.57. Pitching Twitter lit up with Fulmer’s first start, where he threw 5 innings, allowing 2 runs and 3 hits while striking out 2 against Houston. Fulmer’s fastball is up 2MPH from 2020, but none of his pitches are really valuing off-the-charts. Whereas Ynoa’s slider is more or less the third-best slider in MLB right now, Fulmer has some negative value pitches and his slider is rating in the top 10. The last time Fulmer’s pitches rated “exceptional” — in my esteemed Zagat’s Guide to Pitch Ratings — was 2017. So, we can keep an eye on Fulmer, but I wouldn’t expect too much change from him compared to previous years.
Stephen Strasburg: 4IP, 8R (7ER), 5BB this week, cumulative 6.93 FIP and 5.19 SIERA. Told y’all to temper expectations. He just hit the IL with [checks notes] shoulder inflammation. Seriously y’all, that’s not good. The guy who couldn’t feel his hand last year and destroyed a vestigial tendon in his leg this year is now out with an injury that is super-debilitating for pitchers. Hopefully, you took my advice to stay away from him, and if you didn’t, well, go get Ynoa if you can.
Jack Flaherty: 5IP, 1ER, 6K, 0BB. Despite his rough start he’s sitting in the top 40 on the pitcher player rater. Think of him like Dogecoin: pretty cheap now but about to blow up (in a good way).
Lance Lynn: To the IL with a trap strain. That’s also what I call my unique genre of dance music that makes you sore.
Patrick Corbin: The hell is going on with Pappy Co? I mean, I’ve been writing about guys with 21.00 ERA for a few weeks now and telling you not to worry, and bois and 3 girls and 1 enby reader, I’m here to tell you: worry. Tee-bee-H, I’m seeing flashes of Luke Weaver in 2020. OK, that’s not re-assuring whatsoever. But PaCo’s velocity is down, which affects his slider, which is now clocked at 78 MPH, or not even worth pulling over on most interstates. Thing is, he’s still grinding a swinging strike rate about 10%, his CSW% is acceptable at 27%, and most of his zone contact numbers are on average for his career. And his BABIP is .381. Of course, it doesn’t help he’s walking more batters than he’s striking out. So, fingers crossed, PaCo pulls a Luke Weaver…or dare I say…Joe Musgrove, and shakes the rust off after a few starts to unleash a strong 2021 finish.
Robbie Ray: Sigh. I mean, I’m friends with Eno Sarris on Twitter. I know super-serial MLB bigwigs read this website. And nobody passed my article to Robbie Ray? The reformation of Robbie Ray was simple: be like Corbin Burnes and get rid of the fastball and replace it with his sinker. 2021 comes and what’s Robbie Ray doing? He’s throwing his fastball more than ever and he’s nearly abandoned his elite slider for his mediocre curveball. Guy walked six batters in 5IP on Sunday. Like, I know I was bold to say, “Robbie Ray will finish in the top 50,” but it came premised on a very simple change that just reinvented Corbin Burnes’ career. See that blurb about Burnes 2000 words ago? 30K and 0BB? That’s all ya had to do Robbie: get rid of your awful fastball, not throw it more! ENYWHEY. Guess what pitch RoRa has basically abandoned in 2021? His sinker. His fastball is faster but the spin rate is down, and he’s back to doing his old gig of random burst of control and wildness. Sorry, everybody. If Ray continues following this trend of pitch selection, he’s not going to be roster-able in 12-team formats. At least we still have his tight pants.
JT Brubaker: Believe it or not, Brubaker is only two years younger than Ray. So, uh, we’re looking at a “slow starter” by MLB standards. And, well, his swinging strike and CSW% are pretty comparable to Patrick Corbin right now. Look at me hedge! Whereas I saw Ynoa’s numbers and got really excited, I’m looking at Brubaker’s stats and seeing SP30-50 upside. That’s not bad at all considering he’s a waiver wire darling. I’m not a huge strength of schedule truther, but Brubaker’s last two starts — where he had a 1.59 ERA and nearly an 8:1 K/BB — were against the Brewers and the Cubs, who are #28 and #29 in the league in wRC+. The Cubs have a team batting average of .184, and the Brewers have a team batting average of .210. So, I’m not selling the farm for Brubaker, but he’s definitely worth an add in all formats to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Dane Dunning: Let’s finish the wrapup with Dane Dunning, who has 15IP, a 0.60 ERA, and a 24.1% K-BB%. Guess which two of those aren’t within his career norms? Dunning isn’t walking anybody, which gives him elite upside, but the last time he showed this kind of K/BB dominance was when he was in high-A ball. I’m not saying to avoid Dunning, but he’s less daring and more dulling.
FAAB God, Millionaire
Here are some lesser-rostered players in NFBC leagues that I’d consider FAAB’ing. I should note that in my Sunday night FAAB run, all of these guys were taken, so…good luck?
- Alex Cobb: He’s sitting on the cusp of tier 2 and he’s available in half of NFBC leagues. This could be the last cheap weak to snag him.
- Jakob Junis: Playing well, could always end up in long relief.
- Michael Wacha: Looks like he’s reinvented himself on the Rays. Don’t expect him to get quality starts tho…
- Danny Duffy: See blurb above.
- Huascar Ynoa: Still available in 56% of NFBC leagues…who are surprisingly less competitive than Razzball’s Commenter Leagues [thinking face emoji]
Well now! Hopefully you’ve read my spiels for the past 2 months and I’ll blast through this part: I rank in tiers, and the players near the top of the tiers represent a touch more certainty than the players in the bottom of the tiers. I fixed my organization this week, and this should cover just about every pitcher who has started a game so far. Pitchers who haven’t started a game (like Chris Sale, etc.) are not included.
- S-Tier: Players have the qualities of pitchers most likely to finish in the Top 10.
- A-Tier: Players have the qualities of pitchers most likely to finish SP5-40.
- B-Tier: Players have the qualities of pitchers most likely to finish SP10-60.
- C-Tier: Streamers and deep league pitchers
- D-Tier: Contrarian matchup plays and injured pitchers.
Here are some notable player movements:
- Shohei Ohtani: Our writer Torres mentioned in group chat that Ohtani is #2 on the streamonator this week. Obviously, I’m in disagreement with that and in the full-season run. Please keep in mind, my rankings are based on season-to-date information, and Rudy combines recent and regressed info. Long story short: he’s a big gamble with big upside this week.
- Tyler Glasnow: Joins the S-Tier. He’s always had S-Tier stuff, but he’s also got D-Tier durability. One of these years he’ll last the whole season and return top 10 value, and fingers crossed that this is the year.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu: Joins the S-Tier as well. Toldya.
- Freddy Peralta: Makes the A-Tier. Toldya to add him in the last week of the pre-season.
- Huascar Ynoa: Even after the bad outing, his numbers still indicate a potential for A-Tier finishes. Risky as heck but he’s this year’s Corbin Burnes if he holds his rotation spot and continues to produce like this. Yes, I know, two pitches. WHATEVER.
- A-Tier in General: You see how all those pitchers in the A-Tier have very similar stats? And how some of them are names like Jordan Montgomery, Steven Matz, and Michael Pineda? That’s why you don’t draft pitchers early. If you need starters, there are a bunch of A-Tier all-stars who are still available on the waiver wire in most leagues.
- Alex Cobb: Numbers are A-Tier quality, but he’s coming off major injuries. Take the gamble.
If you have questions, drop them down in the comments. Keep your hate mail in your desk, and have an awesome week!
|Jose De Leon||9.1||28.90%||2.83||35.90%|
|Lance McCullers Jr.||13.2||11.70%||4.47||33.00%|
|Chi Chi Gonzalez||10||0.00%||5.85||22.70%|
|Daniel Ponce de Leon||6.1||-5.70%||7.76||18.60%|
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.