In the highly lucrative industry that is imaginary sports team management, we here at Razzball are always looking to give you readers the sharpest edge of advantage. I mean, how do we keep up with a provider like Pitching Ninja, whose name literally invokes the finely-honed edges of a ninja star slicing through bats before landing softly in the supple leather of a catchers mitt? Fear not, fearful reader! I have been to cram school, and I have been to Austria, and I have been in dungeons, and I combined all of my knowledge of those places and completely threw it out the window. See, to be sharper than sharp, you gotta think outside the box. When the competition goes sharp, you go — that’s right! — blocky. I present to you, followers of the Top 100 Starting Pitcher series, the latest in pitching analysis: 8-bit graphics.
Let’s apply this newfangled technology to our top starting pitchers and see what we can do to help you to fantasy glory!
September 7-13, 2020
If you’re in roto, points, or best ball leagues, you’ve got a great idea of how your starters are already performing and whether you should keep them or dump them out like the rye chips in a bag of Gardetto’s. If you’re H2H, you’re starting your elite pitchers every time and hunting matchups like mad for the next month. I’m hearing from some readers that they’re already in the playoffs, which means you gotta get your pitchers figured out now [puts finger down on desk menacingly like a personal injury lawyer in a TV commercial]. Here are a couple tips to help you out in redraft:
- If you are overpowering in one category, it’s OK to do an unbalanced trade to bolster a weaker category. Did you overdraft SP and you’ve got untouchable piles of W and K while you’re sitting in last place in saves? Trade Shane Bieber for Brad Hand, sure. What are you, a dragon that viciously protects your Win category? Nobody catching up to that horde now. Get some saves and win the league. Don’t forget to tithe me 10% of your winnings.
- Don’t be afraid of dropping dead weight. Redraft means you’re not keeping players, right? Make sure you’re not rostering “potential” while missing out on “actual.” Is there a chance Justin Verlander returns this year? Sure. Is stashing him on the IL preventing you from picking up Ian Anderson? If so, I’m taking Anderson out for his cup of coffee and seeing if the date goes anywhere. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t have a commitment to Anderson after September, do I? I feel like that metaphor opened a bunch of your minds as to why you’re always drinking coffee alone in the winter, too.
And, of course, if you’re in dynasty, you’re just at another level of awkward imaginary sports team manager and you should just either try to win now or just start rebuilding for next year. Trade off those wonky 2020 all-stars like Alec Mills, Daniel Norris, and Adam Wainwright to teams trying to win the championship and revel in the prospects you got in return. Or just trade for Shin-Shoo Choo because we all like nostalgia, right?
News and Notes
Zach Davies — I wrote the Friday Night Fights article on [checks calendar] Friday, and to be honest, I was too tired to stay up for the Padres game. Here’s the secret to Grey’s prowess as a fantasy writer: he’s a left-coaster! For a midwest guy like me, the Padres are playing at midnight, and after homeschooling 3 kids, I just don’t have the verbs to keep going at midnight when the Friars are still in the 6th inning. Grey, meanwhile, he’s got bulgogi pizza and kimchi nachos going strong at 10PM, his fingers just tippity-tapping away. ENYWHEY. Davies had a 2.48 ERA in August and [double-checks notes, wipes sweat from brow] a 32:9 K/BB ratio. Devoted followers of the Top 100 SP (what’s up all two of you!) probably noticed Davies snuck up (sneaked up?) to #55 last week. What’s stunning about Davies is that his velocity is about 87MPH. Now, there are a couple of pitchers hanging out in that territory that you like: Zack Greinke, Dylan Bundy, and the Rockies’ new closer Drew Butera. There’s also a pitcher in that speed range that you don’t like: Madison Bumgarner. So, I watched a lot of Davies tape and figured out his secret weapon is the “Hyperstrike,” which I’ve captured on high-res 8-bit graphics below. Shhh! Don’t tell Pitching Ninja!
Andrew Heaney — Alright, I’m taking a victory lap on this one. Grey, get out your Adidas and RunDMC head band and start speed walking on this one, too. Over the past two weeks, Heaney’s notched 2W, hasn’t given up a homer, has a WHIP of 0.75, and has struck out 16 batters in 14 IP. His position on the Rest-of-Season-O-Nator-O-Tron remains around 26, so keep starting him and dream of all your league mates patting you on the back before you shudder away and wonder why everybody’s touching you in his pandemic economy.
Zac Gallen — WHY HAVE I NOT BLURBED ABOUT GALLEN BEFORE? Also, how is “blurbed” recognized as correct by auto-correct? Young readers, there are still mysteries to be solved in this world! But Gallen’s excellence has never been a mystery. See, Razzball had Gallen ranked up in the 20s for SP this year, and Gallen sat around #23 for basically the whole covid-season until last week. I never wrote him up because like most of the top-25, he seemed pretty self-explanatory. Twitter tells me otherwise. If Twitter is to be trusted — and yes, I do believe in the words of Johnny05158154 — basically all of the fantasy baseball manager-verse has been sleeping on Gallen. In his past three starts, Gallen has a 0.90ERA, has an 18:7 K/BB ratio, and has a 0.80WHIP. Now that’s pretty cool. Thing is, he’s been doing that kind of stuff since he was called up last year. In fact, he hasn’t given up more than 3ER in a single start yet in his career. His curveball is basically un-hittable, with one hit on it over 131 instances. If you’re in redraft, enjoy the ride. If you’re in dynasty, Gallen’s the answer to the question, “Which pitcher that nobody knows will be a top 10 fantasy pitcher in 2021?” Take a look at our hi-tech recreation of Gallen’s nasty knuckle-curve below:
Justin Dunn — OK, who let all the Mariners on the list? First Kikuchi is charging up the list like he’s got a general admission ticket to a BTS concert, and Justus Sheffield is sitting happily down at the bottom ready to throw either a shutout or a blowout on any given day. Then, Justin Dunn sneaks in and has himself a strong end to August, going 12IP for 12K, 5BB, and 0ER. That’s pretty awesome. Take a look at streaming Dunn down the stretch.
Kwang-hyun Kim — Dude was gonna be a starter, then he got sent to the pen, then the Cardinals got Covid and had to make up time, and then he’s back in the rotation, and then he went to the hospital on Saturday with a blocked kidney. I don’t know if that’s athlete-speak for, “kidney stone,” but, whatever, I’m not that kind of doctor. If you thought Dunn’s line above was good, well, Kim went 3 starts for 17IP and 3W to finish August. He struck out only 10 but he had a 0.71 WHIP, which is rockin’ for a guy who might have been stoned. Get it? Kidney stones? Rocks? HA, wait, kidney stones are no laughing matter. Seriously, Razzball sends our best wishes to Kim for a quick recovery, and we hope to see him on the mound again for the fantasy championships.
Matthew Boyd — I went over him in Friday’s post as well, but it’s worth pointing out that Boyd went from your last SP at the start of the season, to absolute garbaggio in the middle of August, and now he’s on a tear for 20:1 K/BB over his last 17IP, with 2 out of his last 3 appearances resulting in a quality start. He’s also allowed three dong-a-long-a-longers in that time, but he’s kept the hits against him fairly low in that time frame. Are you, like Kenny Rodgers, the gambler? If so, Boyd might be that pitcher that you just can’t explain why things are working, but if the trajectory continues, he’s giving you elite K, WHIP, and W ratios. Roll the dice on Boyd for your team, but just don’t be surprised if Boyd turns Blech in a hurry.
Hyun-jin Ryu — Let’s finish up with a few for Ryu. Ryu has quietly been putting together an ace season for the Blue Jays, which is pretty remarkable given that their home ballpark, Sahlen Field, has quickly become one of the top hitter ballparks on the east coast. Ranking in the top 8 ballparks for both runs created and homes, Sahlen Field is not an ideal site to be basing your fantasy championship pitching from, but you can’t get a homer if you don’t hit the ball, right? Ryu hasn’t given up more than 1ER in his past 6 starts (2 at Sahlen), has allowed only 1 HR total in that time, and has a sparkling 39:8 K/BB ratio. Combine that with his 0.88 WHIP and 1.06 since the start of August, and you’re looking at a top 20 pitching candidate for 2021. For 2020, though, start Ryu in all situations.
Merrill Kelly — Blood clot in his shoulder means he’s done for the season. No need to pursue him in any format unless you need some roster filler starters in next year’s dynasty.
Gerrit Cole — Well, I haven’t said much about him because it’s hard to go a day in normal life without hearing about the consensus #1 fantasy starting pitcher for 2020. He’s missing bats, but he’s getting hit hard right now, to the tune of season-average of 91MPH exit velocity and a hard hit rate over the last two weeks of 56%. He’s dropped out of the top 10, and I would love to have him down in the 20s if it didn’t mean complete exile from the fantasy analysis community. I saved our highest-resolution graphic to show you this monster bomb:
Dane Dunning — OK, this one’s my bad, and you can victory lap around me all you like. A first round draft pick in 2016, Dunning had never pitched above AA before this year. At 23 years old, he was pretty dominant against AA hitters, but in 2019 he had Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch in a game situation until this August. As analysts, we shouldn’t really expect Dunning’s August numbers to be representative of him as a player, but he’s getting huge results and was the subject of pickup discussions by JKJ (here) and Joey Bart (here). I’m probably putting him too high to debut on the top 100 but everything after player 60 is basically streaming dart throws anyway.
We’re already into a word count that’s so big it’s facing IRS scrutiny, so I’ll make it short and sweet: there’s a whole bunch of movement in the top 30. Compare to last week’s list and see if you can find who moved the most! Let me know in the comments! As always, data is current up to Saturday of this week, and is sourced from Fangraphs and Razzball’s Player Rater.
FIP=Fielding Independent Pitching; SwSt%=Swinging Strike %; EV=Batted Ball Exit Velocity; Hard Hit%=percent change in hard hit batted balls over the past two weeks compared to season stats; ROS=Razzball’s Player Rater rest-of-season rank. Green=Top 10% of performance in that category. Red=Bottom 10% of performance in that category.
|49||Lance McCullers Jr.||4.51||10.7||89.7||-12.9||36|