It’s second-half baseball! Nothing more exciting than watching the race for the bottom. [thinks of headline to submit to TMZ] ENYWHEY. Enough about the Athletics. We’ve got one of these great years for the AL Central. The Minnesota Twins would be in 4th place in the AL East, but are somehow atop the leaderboard in the flyover division. The Twins wouldn’t be in first place in any other division in baseball except for our beloved AL Central, home to the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. Remember when those teams were threats, and Miggy and Beltran and Greinke and Scherzer and Verlander were all just little spuds waiting to be big potatoes? No, you don’t remember them because you were born in this century and only stumbled upon my article because some TikTok star made fun of it? Welcome, junior! Let’s win you a fantasy league.
It’s the second half of the MLB season, so much like like our pants after seconds at the 4th of July picnic, we need to adjust.
Second Half Adjustments
Permit me to plagiarize from some Twitter threads and call the work my own:
- Definition: “The tendency for unpredictable events to drive towards their expected outcome.” (Source: Wikipedia, probably after I edited it)
- Example: “After a stunning first season, the TV Show Lost would regress to standard pseudo-philosophical primetime drivel and remain pedestrian for the duration of its run before collapsing into nonsense in the finale.”
- Fantasy sports observation: Regression often comes “all at once.” You just don’t know when it will come, how long it will last, or to what degree. [Thinks of headline to sell to…nevermind]
- Practical Fantasy Example: Steamer projected Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen for 49 RBI in the 2022 season. Coming into July 22, 2022 [Numerology!], Jansen had 13 RBI and was massively behind pace to reach this prediction of 49 RBI by the end of the season. However, the Blue Jays must have eaten their beans in Boston, and Jansen racked up 6 RBIs, putting him at 19 on the season and on pace to reach his RBI projection from The BAT (42) by the end of the year. Another outlier game would result in reaching his aggressive Steamer projection.
Fantasy Sports Regression is Time-Limited
Crap. So just as my kids suddenly grew up from sweet, floor-crawling babies to full-grown, self-transporting organisms that occasionally shout obscenities at me, your fantasy leagues have reached maturation. I just hope your league mates aren’t asking you for $20 so they can go to Arby’s with their friend Clyde.
OK, you’ve got like 8 to 11 fantasy baseball weeks left in the season. Sheeeeets. Depending on your league, the fantasy baseball playoffs are close. Some of you in 16-teamer or larger leagues have, like, four non-playoff matchups left (at least that’s the case in my home league). So, let’s crunch some numbers to figure out what you need to do right now in order to avoid finishing last in your league:
Calculate IP Remaining: Razzball Commenter Leagues are notorious for IP caps. Are you about to run out of IP? You’ll need to do the following:
- Play smart matchups. Aces are generally immune to matchups, so if you’ve got a top 20/30 SP, just start them. Stop overthinking — start them. But all those other SPs you’ve been hoarding? You’re sitting them against the Yankees, sitting them in hot and humid conditions, and you’re doing your best to start them against the Tigers or teams that are fighting for 2023 draft position. These are simple strategy decisions: play the odds, win the game.
- Stock up on Roleless Robs. Who were the top K/9 pitchers in the second half of 2021? Liam Hendricks, Paul Sewald, and Michael Kopech. Sewald and Kopech were Roleless Robs. From July 23 until the end of the season — excluding Sewald’s last appearance where he got smacked around — Sewald went 4-1 with 8 saves, 53 K in 35 IP, and had a 2.78 ERA. Kopech got blown up in 3 separate games, but in-between blowups, he was elite. Kopech finished the fantasy playoff stretch with 15 IP, 26K, and a 1.76 ERA. Roleless Robs give you ratios without the IP.
Avoid Obvious Mismatches: Sure I said this above but nobody complained when Charles Dickens repeated content every week. The top hitting teams in MLB are the: Yankees, Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Astros. Surprise! Don’t start non-ace pitchers against these teams.
Trade?: Some of y’all really like trading. I remember in simpler times when you could just walk up to any rookie in the league and say, “I’ll trade you future Hall of Famer and Home Run Derby Second-Rounder Albert Pujols for Spencer Strider” and the other manager would smash accept and then post about it on MySpace. Nowadays in this world that is worth fighting for, we’ve got hyper-analytics. For every trade question I answer, there’s another equally qualified analyst out there on the internets giving the opposition manager another opinion. Now I don’t want to tell you how to spend your time, but sitting in your fantasy league conjuring up ridiculous acquisitions instead of looking at matchups…I mean, you do you. I can tell you that the touts are looking at matchups because most tout leagues don’t allow trading. But let’s be fair, half of the trade offers floating around at this point in the season look like the below image:
Stream SP: Modern MLB knows more than ever that pitchers’ arms fall off at regular intervals and need to be healed by the ghost of Tommy John. One of the ways that MLB teams prepare for the real-life playoffs is by resting their aces down the stretch. Come the playoffs, guys like Gerrit Cole will pitch every 3-4 games and ideally go 7+ IP. For your fantasy team, however, you’re suddenly without your top SP during the most crucial time of the year. The solution? Stream starters. First and foremost, there’s the Razzball Streamonator, and if you’re trying to win your league, you should consult that tool. Second and secondmost, there’s your gut. Even the best aces have like a 40% chance of a fantasy-great outcome on a given day, and like a 50-60% chance of being completely mundane. Completely mundane is fine — y’all went wild over Sandy Alcantara and his 5.75 K/9 as long as he kept racking up IP. There are going to be completely random SPs that show up in the next month, and your job is to keep streaming — don’t worry about player names, worry about stats.
News and Notes
EWB’s note: You don’t need me to walk you through all the good pitchers right now. I’ve been doing that for months. Instead, here is a big list of speculative adds for the 2022 season (and a eulogy for Michael King, who fell victim to regicide).
Michael King: The RCL Cheat Code fell victim to the Red Wedding after the All-Star Break. Broken elbone, out for season, the rest of us crying softly into our horchata while trying to write our great American novels. As a fantasy baseball eulogy, King had more wins as a Roleless Rob than most of his teammates. So, there goes our hope of seeing King back in a starter role, and what’s wonkier (Grammarly tells me “wonkier” is better than “more wonky”), is that the Yankees will almost undoubtedly need to acquire a ton of bullpen help to recover from King’s absence, thus having downstream fantasy implications for multiple positions and teams. RIP King. FWIW, he is not a keeper and you can let him go in all formats. Roleless Robs who remain roleless are like beautiful summer nights: you enjoy them while you’re present for them, and let them go when they’re gone.
Chris Sale: OK, one more injury recap. Sale broke his pinky, got surgery, and has an uncertain timetable to return. Flash backward to 2021 when Framber Valdez did a similar thing was supposed to miss anywhere from two weeks to the entire season. The Red Sox are in trouble — they’re almost certainly not winning the AL East, and they’re struggling in the Wild Card race. Sale has a player option on his contract after this year. Remember that Sale threw a hissy fit in AAA and remains unvaccinated — he’s not exactly the poster child for “Boston Strong.” It’s within reason to imagine the Red Sox trade Sale to a team he wants to play for. It’s within reason the Sox put Sale in the bullpen, like they did Tanner Houck. But for most fantasy managers, there’s just not a lot of value for Sale in 2022. You can stash him on the IL and hope he returns quickly, but I’m OK letting him go if your roster is limited in space.
Dustin May: Second-half target, available in 90% of ESPN leagues at the time of writing. Sure the Dodgers’ rotation is stacked but it’s not your job to worry about that. May is a top talent, which is a double-edged sword for fantasy managers: if he progresses in a healthy manner, he’ll play! But if there’s even a slight setback, the Dodgers will likely shelve him for the year and let him ramp up slowly, like the Yankees did with Luis Severino in 2021. Go add May, stash him on the IL.
Tyler Glasnow: His chance of pitching meaningful fantasy innings in 2022 is extremely low. But! Glasnow started his social media hype train last month when he posted footage of his rehab on the mound, and Rays manager Kevin Cash hasn’t ruled out Glasnow returning in 2022. Speculative add in the deepest of leagues.
Luis Patino: Great K upside but massive 22-year-old pitcher downside. Called up to the majors, is a speculative add for deep leagues. Been incredibly blah in his last two appearances.
Grayson Rodriguez: Pro: did everything he needed to get an MLB promotion. Con: has a lat strain. Pro: Orioles ain’t making the playoffs so there’s extra time to heal in the off-season. Con: a criminal, which is what you’ll be if you’re not at least adding Rodriguez to your watch list. Today’s list is massive speculation, but G&R could be playing “November Rain(ing Fantasy Money)” for you if he gets the call for a cup of coffee. Probably the best potential outcome of any pitcher on this list; the question is whether he’ll play, and that’s something only Rodriguez, his agent, and his dog know.
Sixto Sanchez: Throwing bullpens, could be back for September? Recommending a long-injured Marlins SP is basically throwing my fantasy sports analyst career in the dumpster. If you roster Sixto, be ready for a wild ride.
Kenta Maeda: Could see MLB action in 2022, with MLB.com reporting that he could serve in a relief role. Well, it’s not like he’s going to be the Twins’ closer. That would make Maeda…a Roleless Rob. [points to Michael Kopech’s 2021 stats at the start of this article]. You know, Maeda being a high-leverage reliever might actually be the best thing for his career. ENYHEY. Otsukare, Maeda-san. Thanks for putting in the work, and welcome back. Watch list or add.
Danny Duffy: Another clog in the Dodger’s rotation, media sources report that Duffy could return in 2022. That said, we know the Dodgers tend to be very active at the trade deadline — are the Dodgers confident enough in their pitching staff that they’re not buying, or [shudder] selling? Add him to the watch list.
Spencer Turnbull: Probably not throwing meaningful fantasy IP in 2022, but just like 2021 Jack Flaherty came back to chuck a couple outings, we might see a few similar late-summer stretches for Turnbull in 2022. Add to watch list, but don’t expect anything because the Tigers are awful.
Tucker Davidson: Small sample sizes abound but Davidson has posted great K/9 numbers in his brief stints in the majors. In 70 IP in AAA this year, Davidson has whiffed batters at an astounding 11.3 K/9 rate while keeping his BB/9 under 3. Recent trade speculations have pointed to Davidson being packaged for everybody from Luis Castillo to Juan Soto, so Davidson could find himself in a spot with a job to win very soon.
David Peterson: I saved this listing for later in the list to reward my attentive readers who made it this far. Peterson was pretty bad to start the year and went through a period where he couldn’t make it past 4 IP. But since June 20? Peterson has an insane 13.6 K/9, 2.78 ERA, and yeah, way more walks than we like. The change stems from a 20% drop in fastballs and a corresponding increase to sliders and changeups. Here’s the list of pitchers surrounding him on the K/9 leaderboard: Shohei Ohtani, Spencer Strider, Christian Javier, Carlos Rodon, Robbie Ray. Oh, and…
Blake Snell: Time to wake and Blake! He’s walking even more batters than Peterson — which is redonk for a veteran pitcher who won a Cy Young — but Snell had a brief period where he topped 50% K rate. Like, that’s insane. Snell is doing the Robbie Ray thing and cranking fastballs and getting rid of his changeup. You’ll notice Snell cracked into the top tier, and that’s because his K% is, quite frankly, worth the ERA risk — we’re talking about a threshold of K% that few pitchers are capable of reaching. And even with the bad start, Snell has still managed a 3.20 ERA and FIP over that time period — this is real, folks. Feel free to worry about the BB/9 issues, but Snell’s current performance streak is giving you shades of the one and only…
Jacob deGrom: Pitched in a simulated game. Still working through shoulder soreness. Me too, Jacob, me too. When/if deGrom comes back, you’re starting him in all formats and being grateful for whatever IP load he provides.
I’m cutting the table in half this week. There’s no longer an immense amount of time to wait for regression from the 300th ranked player. You should only worry about the top pitchers at this point. The current ROS Games cutoff is 6 games per Rudy’s projections, so any player with less than 6 appearances projected by Rudy is downgraded in rankings.