Welcome folx and family! We awake into a brilliant new year of MLB baseball where theft is common, the per-hour wages have increased nearly 10%, and random young minds are usurping the services of the veterans. It’s complete anarchy! And who better to guide you through the mean streets of MLB than your one and only host, EverywhereBlair. I’ve been doing this pitcher thing at Razzball for over three years now. I understand that you have a choice in which anonymous internet face you go to for fantasy baseball advice, and I’m proud to be your anonymous face. Whether you’re joining for the first time or have been there since my first Jake Odorizzi sleeper that had two subtitles, I’m happy to have you along.
Now, let’s dive immediately into the fray and explain a whole bunch of stuff I’m not doing for the next few weeks.
First lesson: grab a towel, chug a beer, and maybe put some pants on. In that order, if you’re classy. Whereas every other talking head is going to shove an “updated pitcher list” at you this week, I’m not doing that. I talk about this every year, and every year I get pushback. That’s fine. Resistance is normal. Your job is to become one with The Force and understand that three games of MLB play means nothing. There is no meaning to anything that’s happened so far. We’re basically in the hot dog hands universe of Everything Everywhere All At Once and you’re in love with your enemy.
Let’s break down what early season stats mean:
- Even the bestest pitchers will have upwards of 1/3 of their season be “negative” value for fantasy players. Sometimes it’s staggered, like 2 good games followed by 1 bad game. Sometimes it comes all at once, like “a streak.” You can’t tell the micro-trend on the macro level: this is literally what SABRmetrics has demonstrated for nearly 30 years, but people resist it anyway. Was the first start bad weather? Bad player? Unlucky? We don’t know. Brad Pitt died to bring us this information. Let’s honor his memory.
- We can’t control the weather. Weather is somewhat a predictable factor in pitching performance: wind, temperature, and humidity all play a role in pitcher performance. And did you see the weather news this past week? I seriously got a foot of snow up in good ol’ Minneap, and my friends down south are battling killer tornadoes. Pitching universally gets better in May, so don’t worry about the first outings of your favorite hurler.
- 6-man rotations and innings limits. MLB clubs know the above, so they often start the year with de facto or realized 6-man rotations or innings caps. In short, clubs understand that their valuable assets often struggle in April, so they bring along more SP or long relievers to compensate for that. Sometimes, the first two weeks of the season are treated like extended spring training, and we can’t really measure anything meaningfully from that.
- It takes 3 outings to make a trend. Simple as that. The world loves a good pitcher GIF right now. That’s one pitch, or maybe at most, one at bat worth of information. However, nothing is really meaningful for fantasy unless you’re seeing it repeated over the course of 15IP or so. You know how long it takes for SIERA to become predictable? Nearly 400 IP. The most we can do is give pitchers a few outings to sort themselves out.
So, hang tight and don’t panic.
What we can do at this point is judge our impressions of pitchers. Let’s see if we can harvest some meaningful information from early performances:
Dustin May: 7IP, 4 K, 3H, 0ER…against the Diamondbacks. OK, playa (say that like you’re going to the beach). May is a wildcard for 2023 because he’s coming off of Tommy John surgery recovery. Everybody loves to shout from the rafters about May, but the guy’s wheelhouse is around 8-8.5 K/9, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy. He’s your SP5 on teams with lower SP leverage (meaning, you drafted like me and didn’t take an SP until round 72 of the draft).
Justin Steele: Fanned 8 Brewers with a 15% swinging strike rate. We saw the same thing last year from Steele, but like I noted in bulletpoint 1 above, pitchers come and go in waves. Is the true Justin Steele the one who finished the year with a 12+ K/9 in his last outings? Or the mid-year pitcher who had a 4+ ERA/ FIP and a 7 K/9 and 4 BB/9? We’ll find out in a month! Steele has demonstrated himself as a streamer so far, and I’d be hesitant to start him in 12-team leagues in April.
Hunter Gaddis: OK who tf is this guy? Barely 200 MiLB innings to his name, 7 MLB IP worth of work, and he’s starting for the Guardians on opening week? Sure, Tristan McKenzie is injured, but what about the litany of other starters the Guardians have on their roster? Zach Plesac couldn’t show up early to injure his arm while doing flips on a unicycle? ENYWHEY. Gaddis has a spotty MiLB ERA/FIP record and impressive K/9 stats. Which justifies his nearly 10 K/9 and 10 ERA on the year. Like I said, April sucks for pitchers. Don’t worry about rookie streamers unless you’re in DFS and trying to create those ultimate contrarian builds.
Hunter Greene: Yin and Yang against the Pirates: 8Ks in 3.1 IP, and 3ER on 5 H in the same frames. So, 21 K/9 and a 9.00 ERA. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of! Unfortunately, blazing fastballs aren’t well correlated with fantasy success. Greene remains a fine speculative streamer or SP5, but how many Wins are you expecting from the Reds this year? I like his peripherals, but we’re probably looking at Greene needing another year or two to become your fantasy stalwart SP.
Shintaro Fujinami: I love April stats: 15 K/9, 12 BB/9, and 30+ ERA to start the year for Fujinami. These things happen. Fujinami was never going to be on your 12-team roster unless he was starting against the Diamondbacks on a Sunday.
Aaron Civale: Every year, I mention how important Ks are to fantasy pitcher success. Civale notched 7IP, but with 3Ks on the day. That means 20 batters made contact with the ball, and his BABIP of .105 indicates extreme success in limiting damage. Last time I checked, Ks were crucial to your fantasy success, and if he continues at this sub-4 K/9 rate, he’ll finish the year with 200 IP and 90Ks. Is this my softball statline that you’re chasing?
Spencer Turnbull: What’s it like to have a .727 BABIP? Usually, pitchers allow something like 27% of batted balls to enter play. Now let’s imagine inverting that and allowing 72% of balls to land in play. Yeeesh. Some of that is batter talent, sure, but when you’re inducing 54% ground balls and those grounders are getting everybody in their grandma on base? You must be playing the Rays! Turnbull will be a volatile pitcher this year as he returns from Tommy John surgery, but his profile is a prototypical fantasy starter. Keep an eye on him in May.
Jack Flaherty: So, uh, 5IP, 7BB, 4K, 0ER…on 0 hits. Imagine allowing 15 batters to make contact and none of them get a hit. Much like a Biazarro Turnbull, Flaherty’s .000 BABIP demonstrates the inverse luck of hitters. I predicted Flaherty would be a fantasy-useful pitcher down the stretch, but for April, you should keep avoiding. He’s got a ton of rust to shake off and it’s clear his control is nowhere near fantasy useful at this point.
I’m back from Japan, friends! That means I’ll be responding to comments again. To maintain a better work/life/fantasy balance in 2023, I won’t be responding to comments after Tuesday afternoons this year. So, if you have a comment/question, please submit it on Monday or Tuesday — that gives you 36 hours, which is plenty of time to respond. I love y’all and the support you’ve shown over the years, but there are 30ish writers here on Razzball and it’s time for me to share the comment love, rather than me refreshing the comment feed on Friday nights.
To be clear, there will be no SP ranks until at least week 3 this year. This is the same as last year, and the same as the year before. Rudy has the Streamonator available in the Razzball Premium Tools.
Best of luck in 2023!