Hard to believe, but my first season as a baseball analyst here at Razzball is almost at an end! For athletes, that means they’re leaving the bubble soon. Us fantasy writers? We’re all bubbled-up to protect from the dreaded Piranhavirus. Oh, you don’t know what that is? See, we’re so forward thinking here at Razzball, we’re already sequestered away for the next pandemic. You may be asking, “How does the Razzbubble work?” Well, future victims of piranhas, let me show you my notes from earlier this summer when I bubbled up.
Day 1: Arrival. That’s the movie Grey and Rudy based the Razzbubble on. They stood behind a glass wall and held up signs for me to follow. I don’t know why they brought a smoke machine. Or the lasers. Once they let me inside the bunker, I received my “Programming Guide.” It has a picture of Nixon on the cover, but not the one you’re thinking of. Grey says I should read it everyday. Like, six times a day. He sure loves reading!
Day 2: The Razzbubble is fun. We have catered lunches of spam and cheese sandwiches, the writers get together to watch Lost reruns, and Donkey Teeth leads us in yoga classes. Grey keeps talking about “sleepers,” and tells us to read the Programming Guide for more information.
Day 3: Jay left the bubble because he’s very good with “sleepers.” I saw him holding a piece of paper with the name “Matthew Berry” written on it. Sounds like a collaboration is in order! Rudy then taped off all the doors, which I thought was kind of weird. But, it was dessert night! Grey gave us each half a Ding Dong and kept saying, “Here’s your dong!”
Day 4: SAGNOF SAGNOF SAGNOF SAGNOF SAGNOF SAGNOF. The Programming Guide feels like it’s changing my brain structure. I’m suddenly very interested in Roman Quinn. Phew. I wish I could find Coolwhip to compare notes with. I went to his bunk today and there was just a note that said, “Andrew McCutchen, first round, 2021.” He must have broken his red pen while writing that because the paper was covered in wet, red ink. I left my red pen in his bunk. He’ll be so happy!
Day 5: Competition Day. Donkey Teeth said he could do the Three-Legged Race by himself. I won $150 when I beat Rudy in flag football. He’s recovering in the infirmary and I nearly got kicked out of the Razzbubble. Can’t believe I misunderstood the point of that game!
Day 6: Got invited into Grey’s dorm for the first time. The walls are covered in posters of Depeche Mode, and he’s got a small library dedicated to Earnest Hemingway novels. He’s got freeze dried boba in his room, a lot like astronaut ice cream. He said I could have some if I signed over my life possessions to something called the “Church of Razzology.” He told me I would learn the secrets of closers if I signed everything over today! Of course, I said, “SAGNOF!”
Day 7: We finished the bubble! I feel very lucky to have made it through. Did I tell you a dozen other writers disappeared? Must have walked out or got kicked out or something. They probably felt really bad about leaving. I kept hearing shouts of “No!” and “Don’t touch my keyboard!” in the middle of the night. One time I heard someone shout, “Kenley Jansen in the third round!” That writer didn’t read the Programming Guide! Did I mention I’m now legally married to Ty France? Anyway, Grey said that I’ve “matriculated” or something like that. He said it while hugging a picture of Yolmer Sanchez.
Equipped with that knowledge from the Razzbubble, I hold the reins as the internet’s 7th most-read weekly ranker of fantasy pitchers. Grey says that if I make it to the top 5, he’ll tell me where Coolwhip is!
So, Razzbubblers, let’s get on with the show!
September 14-20, 2020
In case you missed my very effective post last week — and because it was Labor Day you definitely did miss it — I gave you some advice to prep for your fantasy playoffs. I’ll recap it here quickly: 1) don’t horde insurmountable leads in categories; instead, trade or add/drop to get players who will help you in other categories; 2) if you’re in redraft, drop the dead weight to pick up the hot hand, 3) if you’re in dynasty and out of the playoffs, start trading or add/dropping to get a head start on next year’s team.
Last week, a bunch of the players I profiled did the opposite of their trends during the playing week. Zac Gallen? He went from un-hitta-ball (how do we not use that term more often?) to Robbie Ray. Gerrit Cole? He went from elite-level batting practice pitcher to his old form. That’s a good thing. It’s important to note that even great pitchers have, at best, a 60-70% success rate. There are high-paid analysts on opposing teams that study pitch sequencing and location in an effort to thwart pitcher success. Remember that fantasy sports is always a game of odds — and often times those odds are stacked against you, the player — and the best you can do is re-stack the odds in your favor. Start your stars, play matchups wisely, and don’t fret unexpected blowouts. Enjoy the game you love and stay safe from the piranhas.
News and Notes
Dylan Bundy — Bundy wiped out the Texas Rangers this week, K’ing 12 in 7.1 IP while allowing 2 ER and 1BB. A couple of weeks ago I and other internet personalities were worried about his sudden drop in velocity, down to 86MPH. As noted, there could have been external factors at play there: it was the trade deadline, and Bundy knew that several teams were courting his services from the Angels. Instead of acquiring prospects, the Angels kept their work in progress — that’s Bundy, to be clear — and his average fastball velocity was at a happy 90.8 MPH during his last outing. Start with confidence going down the stretch, although don’t make too much out of his sterling performance against the anemic Rangers’ offense.
Gerrit Cole — Cole knew all of us keyboard warriors on the internet were talking about him after his disastrous August. With a HR/9 hovering above 2, Cole settled in on 9/11 for 7IP and 9Ks against the Orioles. The Orioles learned to swing freely against Cole, having put up 5 runs (although only 1 of those earned) while striking out 10 times just a week before against Cole. Only this time, in Yankee Stadium on Patriot Day, Cole took command and looked like his old form. In terms of his pitch mixture, he’s swapped his slider and curveball in the past two outings, which has resulted in greater command, fewer home runs, and more whiffs. When people talk about ace pitchers having more than two pitches, this is what they’re referring to: sometimes a pitcher’s “stuff” just isn’t there. A 2-pitch ace has, well, no backup pitch that they can switch to. Cole has the typical four pitch repertoire, so he’s able to change up his mix when he’s in trouble. He’s gained 1MPH on his fastball in September, and Rudy’s Rest-of-Season rankings still love him, so start him with confidence and avoid stacking against him. Of course, the Yankees offense has tanked, so tamper any expectations of Wins.
Sean Manaea — OK, are you ready for a dose of “I wasn’t ready for that”? In 5 starts since August 15, Manaea has a 1.98 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, a 21:2 K/BB ratio, and has allowed 1 home run. Now, because Manaea doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, it’s this last statistic — home runs allowed — that is particularly intriguing. Although Manaea allows a rather high exit velocity of 92MPH on average — meaning hitters are smacking his pitches — his average launch angle is 7.1 degrees, tied for 17th “ground-ballsiest” among MLB SP. Batters are hitting his pitches hard into the ground or into line drives, which results in very few hits allowed against Manaea (20 hits in his last 27 IP). And, as that cherry on top, the Athletics are hitting and winning a ton of games, so Manaea has notched 4 Wins in his last 5 outings. Now, Manaea had an awful beginning to 2020, where he failed to get past the 4th inning in his first 4 starts. But we’re living in Piranhavirus 2020 time, where you’re trying to win your championship. All signs point to Manaea being a great finisher to the year, and Rudy’s Rest-of-Season-o-Nator-o-Tron has him as the 35th best SP to finish out 2020. Just don’t expect a ton of whiffs.
Deivi Garcia — I’ve had a couple questions about him, so let’s chat him up. I’ve been a Deivi fan for a while, having stashed him in all of my dynasty leagues. Now, he’s finally at the MLB level, and he’s not disappointing. Well, the Yankees are disappointing. But not Deivi. Now, when we all started bubbling up, Deivi wasn’t even old enough to legally drink the boxes of wine that got us through March and April (myself, I’m a rum fan). Now that we’re out of quarantine and letting the piranhas feast upon human flesh freely, Garcia is in the majors and making a splash. In the minors, he averaged over 4BB/9, which, my statistically-minded friends, is not great. Reminder: he was 18-20 years old at the time. Young men don’t always have command of their balls, right? HEY-O! ENYWHEY. Garcia made the MLB roster after all the other Yankees pitchers jumped off a pier into the East River because it was cleaner than the Piranhavirus-infested society, so Garcia may keep his cup of coffee fresh and warm after his recent performances. He debuted against the Mets — who are statistically the second best hitting team in baseball — and struck out six batters while walking none and giving up four hits over 6 IP. His next start against the Orioles was a bit more troubling, with 4ER over 4IP, but another 6K followed. In his last start on September 9 against the Buffalo Blue Jays in Sahlen Field, Garcia K’d another 6 batters over 7IP while allowing only 2ER in one of the more prolific run-producing parks. Most notably, Garcia has walked only 2 of the 70 batters he’s faced. Now, are we to think a guy who has 3 years of 4BB/9 performance to his name has suddenly discovered impeccable DeGrom-like command? No, that’s unreasonable. Garcia has been throwing the ball in the strike zone at a rate in line with the league leaders — nearly 45% of the time — which puts him on par with Kyle Hendricks, Andrew Heaney, and Lance Lynn. Batters have made contact with Garcia’s strike-zone pitches nearly 77% of the time, which is not great, but so far he’s managed to induce a ton of soft contact. More worrisome, he’s got a 47% fly ball rate, which is bolstered by a much-too-high 30% of balls being popped up into the infield. With batters averaging a launch angle of 23 degrees against Garcia, the odds are more likely that he’s going to have a couple teams take him yard at the end of the season. Do I like Garcia in dynasty? Yes. Would I tell you to send him to the mound in your fantasy playoffs? Eh…no. He’s been pitching well, but don’t be surprised if to see a 5IP, 4BB, 2HR, 5ER outing in the next week or two. Don’t believe me? Hobbs has a whole write-up on Deivi that you can read here. He agrees: watch out on the rest of season performance.
Zac Gallen — Well, when you throw something like 20 consecutive games without giving up more than 3ER, and then EWB writes about you, it figures that you’ll blow up in your next two games. His fastball is actually increasing in velocity over those two starts. Every pitcher goes through a tough time, and the Diamondbacks aren’t exactly the kind of team that can recover from rough first innings. Keep starting Gallen through the fantasy playoffs. What’s more important, is that unless Gallen demonstrates a complete loss of form in his final two starts, you’re probably looking at a candidate for the top 10 SP in 2021.
Dakota Hudson — Here’s my pick for a waiver wire add to get you Wins in the playoff run. Hudson has two more starts projected, against the Pirates and the Royals, both of which the Cardinals are heavy favorites (65% and nearly 75% win probabilities at the time of writing). Over his past 4 starts, Hudson has averaged 6IP with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP under 1.00. He’s added 27Ks in that period of time, although he’s still prone to the long ball. He’s owned in 60% of Yahoo leagues, so, there’s a great chance you can grab him for free on the waiver wire right now. The Cardinals offense is adequate, faring right in the middle of MLB teams for runs created.
Sonny Gray — After I originally submitted the article early on Saturday, Gray hit the IL with back spasms. The IL move is retroactive to Friday, meaning Gray could come back for a final start at the end of the year. However, the Reds are a long-shot to make the playoffs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Gray takes it easy if he comes back in the regular season. There’s absolutely no reason for the Reds to push Gray in a meaningless situation. You’re seeing him at his original rank below, but I would now put him in the major dart throws in the 80s. Also I wrote this whole paragraph with the spelling “Grey” before I caught the error, so I’m really just thinking about calling Grey “Sonny.”
Alec Mills — OK, I had to come back and edit the post for Mills. The guy threw a no-hitter! That’s a feat. Full stop. Mills had the day of his life and he should celebrate it. But! We’re a fantasy site and we gotta think about whether Mills is useful for your fantasy playoffs. The answer is a resounding: probably not. Mills started out the year surprisingly effective and then completely fell off the rails from mid-August until last week, posting a 7.66ERA and a 2.55 HR/9. I would investigate whether his fastball lost any speed but if you remember my previous analysis (which was like 20,000 words ago so of course you remember) then you would know that Mills is basically the slowest pitcher in a MLB starting rotation. His curveball sits around 66MPH and it’s not one of those “mess with your head” things that Zack Greinke does. The Brewers have been almost no-hit three times this year. Well, two almost no-hitters and one actual no-hitter. Now, the Brewers have played 44 games this year. That’s nearly 7% of their season where they’ve been almost no-hit. Quick! Who’s the best hitter on the Brewers this year? Did you answer Jedd Gyorko? Because it’s Jedd Gyorko. Again, Alec Mills had the best day of his life today. Don’t let fantasy take away from that. But, don’t start Mills in your fantasy playoff run.
Because we’re in the playoffs or right at the end of your fantasy season, I’m switching the rankings so that every column represents data from the past three weeks. This helps reveal some hotter players like Sean Manaea, who would otherwise be completely ignored because of his awful start to 2020. Basically, there’s three tiers: 1-30 are the must starts, 30-59 are probable starts, and honestly, every pitcher after 70 makes my teeth sweat. Remember when I pointed out earlier in the year that starting pitchers were going short innings and getting hit hard? Guess what? It’s misery season! Good luck!
FIP=Fielding Independent Pitching; SwSt%=Swinging Strike %; EV=Batted Ball Exit Velocity; Hard Hit%=percent in hard hit batted balls. All data represents the past three weeks. Data supplied by Fangraphs and Razzball’s Player Rater, and compiled by yours truly.
|59||Lance McCullers Jr.||5.03||0.135||89.5||23.5|
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.