[Chapter 1 of my upcoming novel, FML Grey]
Grey Albright, Fantasy Master Lothario, wakes in a haze. Last night was hard, but not in the way Cougs would have preferred it. After watching Chris Paddack get shelled by the Dodgers, Grey collapsed on the couch, crumpled boba containers at his feet. “Draft pitchers late,” he muttered, falling into a fitful sleep with images of Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander haunting him.
Now awake, Grey runs to the bathroom and grabs the Barbasol. “5.54 FIP!” he spits into the sink. “Paddack has a negative value fastball!” Grey lathers his lip sweater, and grabs his razor. The man in the mirror is manic. “You’re no lothario!” Grey shouts at himself, his Schick stick in hand. “You don’t deserve this anymore!” With short, rapid strokes, Grey shaves off his mustache. The commotion wakes Cougs, who enters the bathroom. Grey looks up, wiping his now-naked philtrum, “Dylan Bundy’s the top pitcher on the player rater,” he says. “I need a boba.”
Grey orders an Uber to take him to his favorite boba place and quickly receives the notification text: “FML Grey, your driver Randall has arrived.” Grey runs outside, enters the ride, and says his destination. Randall puts the destination into the GPS. Before pulling into traffic, Randall looks back, revealing the most marvelous mouth-warmer of a beard. “You can call me Randy,” he says, the last words coming out like a 90MPH sinker. Awestruck, Grey whips through his mental encyclopedia of beard styles. A modified hulihee beard, Grey thinks. I know this man!
The drive finished, Randy pulls to the curb to let Grey out of the car. “Sorry I won’t be able to wait for the drive back,” Randy says, adjusting his thick Smith-and-Wesson style protective glasses, “I’ve got to get to the ballpark to pitch tonight.” I know, Grey thinks, you’re Randy Dobnak of the Minnesota Twins, number ten on the player rater right now. Grey snaps to attention and steps out of the Uber. Pulling out his phone, he confirms payment for the trip. In the ‘Tip’ section, Fantasy Master Lothario Grey writes, “I’m going to stream you so hard Randy. I’ll stream you twice some weeks.”
The day was bright. The boba, beautiful. “Gimme one of them protein bars, too,” Grey told the cashier. “I’ve got some facial hair to grow.”
[orders for the book, FML Grey, will be taken in the comments]
August 17-23, 2020
If you went through the intro or have been following this series this year, I think you get the point: there are a ton of pitchers who are still on waiver wires that are performing so well, you’d go up and hug them if it wasn’t breaking the bubble. Wait. Players are doing that anyway! You’d imagine if you were making at least a few hundred thousand bucks for 60 days of work, and that your colleagues were making the same amount if not millions more, you could stay away from the club or the casino for a bit. Nope! At the time of writing, the Cardinals were hitting the field again, but the Reds now had a case of coronavirus, so keep an eye on how those teams progress.
News and Notes
Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger — I’m nearing 40 now and I have three kids to socialize into this wild world, so I’ve taught them a very useful phrase: “I’m sorry, I made a mistake. How can I help fix the problem I made?” Recap: Last week, Zach Plesac had a solid start and then went outside of the “bubble” to celebrate, inviting his teammate Clevinger along for the party, violating the terms of the MLBPA collective bargaining agreement for 2020. When Cleveland execs found out, they asked the players to quarantine. Plesac instead hopped into his car, drove around without a seatbelt on, and made a video while driving. Can’t imagine his insurance policy is valid anymore. The bleach in Plesac’s hair seemed to be seeping into his veins. Cleveland execs responded by sending Plesac and Clevinger to the alternate training site. There’s a chance that Plesac’s service time will be affected by this move, thus giving Cleveland extended control over his arbitration schedule. That dinner out could cost Plesac half a million dollars, and it certainly angered his teammates, the MLBPA, and some random insurance underwriter. Although Cleveland pitching has been elite this year, but the hitting has been dismal. Cleveland has an 11-9 record right now, so there’s no reason to keep Plesac down for extended punishment, and he’ll likely be back before the end of August. Clevinger will likely miss a start.
Stephen Strasburg — Well, he made it 2/3 of an inning before heading to the IL with carpal tunnel neuritis. To quote Strasburg, “This season is kind of a mess to begin with, so I got to think big picture here, and it’s my career.” In theory, Strasburg is coming back in two weeks. According to some preliminary research, carpal tunnel generally needs surgery to resolve in a long-term positive manner. Given that Strasburg has been dealing with the nerve pain for most of the summer, I project he’s probably going to throw another poor inning in 2 weeks before finding a surgeon and starting prep for 2021. If you own him in redraft, try to trade him to an unwitting manager. If that fails, drop him.
Mitch Keller — He’s made it two starts into the year but an oblique injury sidelined him a bit ago, and he’s still not throwing. He’s a top-50 prospect, although for those 50IP dynasty rookie limits, well, he just passed that. He’s looked awful this year, so a definite drop in redraft and probably a sell-low in dynasty unless you have room to roster him until 2021.
Kwang-hyun Kim — Kim joins the Cardinals’ starting rotation in their marathon stretch of baseball for the rest of the season. Kim was supposed to be in the rotation to begin with and began the year as #100 on the list, so, back he goes!
Freddy Peralta — Not currently a starter but probably will be soon. The Brewers are a mess and in his role as a long-reliever, Peralta has already racked up more innings than several starters that you’re probably hoarding (looking at you, Spencer Howard). Peralta is ranked 60th on the rest-of-season ranker, and he’s owned in a scant 32% of leagues, so go grab him and stash him before he becomes an official starter.
Alec Mills — Who has an 8% swinging strike rate, a .163 BABIP, and is still in the top 25 on the player rater? That’s right! Alec Mills. OK, I really don’t want to put him on the top 100, but Mills pitches so soft, batters have not been able to make solid contact. The Cubs finish the year playing several series against the Indians, the Brewers, and the Pirates, so, Mills might be that sleeper that you stream to fantasy glory. The Cubs’ offense is great, so a soft-tossing, ground-ball inducing innings eater will get those wins. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though. Seriously, you’d pass this curveball driving down the highway:
Spencer Howard — Howard’s got some blisters and has been absolutely shelled in his first two starts. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: I don’t know why MLB teams are bringing up their prized prospects right now. Injuries are through the roof, covid has produced massive delays, and Average Joes like Randy Dobnak are leading the Cy Young race. Whole buncha Reddit savants are dropping everyday players so they can be the first person to roster Casey Mize or Mackenzie Gore. I won’t say to give up your dreams of rostering an elite prospect for your fantasy playoff run, but I will say that you can get Zach Davies, Brandon Bielak, and David Peterson in just about every league right now, and that’s three pitchers in the top 50 of player rater.
Jack Flaherty — Cardinals are back in action…hopefully…and they’re playing an average of 11 innings per day for the rest of the season. This means it’s Cardinals starter SZN. Except a whole bunch of the starters are injured. So, you better expect Jack Flaherty to get mega innings. Or, he pulls a Strasburg and gets hurt, leaving Adam Wainwright to throw 120IP in 30 days. Take note in the small sample size on the pitcher table below: he’s the only pitcher in the top 10% of all categories. Flaherty SZN is here!
Jose Berrios — Berrios was my writer’s choice for AL Cy Young. I knew the Twins were going to hit and win a lot of games, and Berrios was going to be the workhorse for that team. What’s interesting is that Berrios is one of the examples where an increase in pitch velocity doesn’t necessarily equate to better performance. Berrios has gained 1MPH on his fastball–up to 94MPH–and he’s missing more bats than ever before in his career. However! He’s throwing out of the zone more often, and batters just aren’t swinging at that. They’re waiting for his pitches *in* the zone, and when they make contact, they are cranking the ball. Berrios has both the track record and the peripherals for a positive regression, and maybe we’ll see some strong performances from Berrios against the White Sox and Indians.
Bunch of dart throws to keep your team alive: Brandon Bielak (62% owned, 3.90FIP), Touki Toussaint (29% owned, 14.2% swinging strike rate, 4.10FIP), Ryan Castellani (3.70 FIP) Joe Musgrove (good track record, maybe recovers?), Elieser Hernandez (9% owned, 3.64FIP), Jake Arrieta (64% owned, 3.37 FIP), Patrick Sandoval (4.66FIP), Logan Webb (17% owned, 3.81 FIP)
OK! A quick primer. Followers of the Top 100 pitching rankings will notice…everything’s different now. That’s right. Ya boi Blair has been learning. Which is really ridiculous because as a Doctorb (the B is for Blair!), you’d think I would be rolling in cash and hanging out with the creator of R. Actually, Creator of R is my death metal side project, thank you very much. ENYWHEY. What you’re seeing below is the new and improved rankings system, which is basically your all-in-one stop for pitcher rankings.
On the left, my rank. Second column, pitcher name. We good? Now let’s level up. FIP is “fielding independent pitching,” which is a metric that normalizes pitcher performance if they have league-average results on balls in play. It’s a good short hand to estimate how much a pitcher is responsible for their own ERA, rather than great defense or lucky batters. The center column is swinging strike percentage, which is how often a batter swings and whiffs on a pitchers’ pitch. This metric helps us understand how much a pitcher is missing bats entirely; batters can’t get a hit if they can’t make contact. Exit Velocity is the average velocity a ball leaves a batter’s bat after making contact with a pitch. Harder hit balls tend to lead to more line drives and home runs. Lastly, in the right column, you’ve got the Razzball Rest-of-Season rater from the Player Rater. This column will show you how Rudy’s algorithms project the pitcher over the rest of the year. It lets you know how aggressive or defensive I’m being in my ranking (or, conversely, Rudy’s aggressiveness/defensiveness). All data are based on 2020 year-to-date stats, and the data are current as of writing on Saturday night; late Saturday games and Sunday games are not included in the data (particularly, Odorizzi and Buehler are highly affected by this). Lastly, green numbers mean the player is in the top 10% of performances among the Top 100 pitchers, and the red numbers indicate the bottom 10% of performances among the Top 100 pitchers.
Whew. Most of you know a lot of that terminology, but I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page. In short, you can glance at the table and it will tell you just about everything you need to know for making decisions about pitchers.
|Rank||Name||FIP||SwingStrike%||ExitVel||Rest of SZN|
|67||Lance McCullers Jr.||4.71||0.1||88.9||26|