Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2022: Week 1

It’s time to straight-up John McClain this article: We’ve had three days of professional baseball in 2022 and that don’t mean Donkey Teeth. If any tout is out there telling you to sell the farm and trade Juan Soto for Starty McStarter-Pants (two last names, how modern!), just mute them right now. It takes at least three outings to make a trend. Ugh. 10% of the season? OK, OK, lemme rephrase that: It takes at least 10% of the season to make a trend. Crap, that just says the same thing but I put the italics somewhere else…ENYWHEY. There’s a freaking reason you put your effort into drafting an awesome team, and unless you went Jacob deGrom/Lance Lynn to start, your job right now is to hold the line.

Robbie Ray, last year’s Cy Young Award winner and consensus top 10 fantasy starter — you know what his first month was? Sub-8 K/9 and a 5.00 FIP. Max Scherzer’s first start in 2021? He allowed 4 HR. Julio Urias? Allowed 8 ER in 18 IP with a 7.2 K/9. All these guys saved your fantasy team in 2021. You know who had a higher K/9 than Robbie Ray or Julio Urias to start the year? Kyle Gibson, Wade Miley, and Kyle Hendricks.

Like, if you chose your 2021 pitchers based on their first three performances of the year, you would have gone into battle with the eventual SP48, SP52, and SP79 instead of the eventual SP1, SP3, and SP7.

Hold. The. Line. [LOVE ISN’T ALWAYS ON TIME] Or HODL, if you’re into that. Really shoulda sold my DogeCoin tho…

I mean, there are actual industry experts out there making big coin working for venture capital sites (and some of you are reading this…) who freaking know that Kyle Hendricks’ Opening Day performance — with his 86 MPH fastball and curveball that drives like grandpa on the freeway — will not be sustainable. Yet, they’re saying “ADD HIM EVERYWHURR” and getting traction from literally every Alphabet broadcaster you can find. You know the last time Kyle Hendricks struck out more than 7 batters? He struck out 8 in May 15, 2021. That’s it. You know how many times he struck out less than 7 batters in 2021? 28 times. Like, this data’s out there for free. I’m not Nostradamus here, telling you that Kyle Hendricks is going to be a goose for the rest of the season. I’m merely the guy telling you, “Hey Jared (you look like a Jared), half the fantasy sports industry is an MLM that just wants to take your money. The other half just know how to read an Excel table.”

No! Don’t’ freaking add Kyle Hendricks right now. Stop it. He struck out 7 Milwaukee Brewers on a freaking cold day. 50% of the balls batted were considered “hard hit.” That’s not great, Billy (sorry to the Jared-i out there). Quite literally you or I (I’m envisioning us both as fit and 25-years-old with small pores) could go to the batting cage and set it to “Kyle Hendricks” and we’d be able to get a hit. If there’s one trick answer to the dumb social media question “Could you get a homer off a MLB pitcher?”, I’d ask, “Is it Kyle Hendricks’ 85 MPH fastball?” If so, the answer would still be “no,” but I’d at least take a long pause to think about it.

If you see obvious signs of pitcher problems, act fast. Obvious problems include: starting their performance with a fastball that is 4-5 MPH slower than their career average. ACKSHUALLY, that’s it. If a pitcher is throwing a sub 10% swinging-strike rate, that’s concerning, but not indicative of future results. If a pitcher starts 0-3, that means absolutely zillch. Corbin Burnes (NL Cy Young) started out 1-1 in his first 3 games. Robbie Ray (AL Cy Young) was 0-1 in the same period. Brandon Woodruff — the eventual SP12 in 2021 — started the first 9 games of the season with a 2-2 record (and eventually got out-Winned by Brewers reliever Bruce Suter). Unless “no decisions” are a problem for your fantasy league, don’t care about these kinds of starts.

Lesson is: There are many ways to cook your chicken dinner. Only one way will make you a winner winner: being patient and smart. Or you can just toss your spices in the oil and see what happens to your chicken wings, your call.

ENYWHEY. Let’s jump into the fray and see what happened in the first couple days of baseball.

Kyle Hendricks: 7 K in 5.1 IP on opening day and he’s a veritable MLM: the first taste is so yummy that you sign up whole-heartedly and then go broke. I wonder what he looks like in tight pants, tho…

Corbin Burns: 4K, 3BB, 3ER in 5IP on Opening Day. See what I did there? I capitalized this Opening Day because Corbin Burnes was writing his movie script: slow burn intro, then fire outro with guns blazing! So, thing is, you can drop Corbin Burnes and pick up Kyle Hendricks according to social media GIF masters. Those guys need your engagement. They need you to click and share. Kyle Hendricks knee-buckling changeup and SWORD. Is Kyle Hendricks the King of the North or something? Whatever. Read the previous 500 words where I showed you how the top 10 pitchers started 2021 compared to a buncha guys that you wouldn’t roster on a 14-team league. Hold the line.

Shane Bieber: Are you worried about Shane Bieber’s velocity the engagement hounds ask social media. Do you ever take nine months off of doing something full speed, and then the day you go back to doing that thang, do you do it full speed? Bieber’s 2021 fastball velocity: 92.9 average velocity. Bieber’s first game fastball velocity: 90.6 MPH. OK nerds, pull out the pocket calculator or ask Siri or just do the math in your head: that’s a 2.3 MPH difference, or about 2.5% for you statisticians. If your arm was the key to $300 million dollars in two years, would you be chucking fastballs full speed when it’s 40 degrees outside and you’re playing the Kansas City Royals? If I’m wrong, sure, throw me in the fantasy trash bin. But I think we’ll see faster…fastballs…come May.

Triston McKenzie: Y’all know I love Sticks McKenzie, but he got exactly 1 swinging strike in 47 pitches. Against the Guardians. You know who’s starting for the Guardians and not named Jose Ramirez? Now that’s something to worry about. McKenzie was supposed to be the fifth starter on the Guardians going into the season but it looks like they’ll keep him in long relief through April. I’d keep him off your radar for now.

Robbie Ray: Almost went 100 pitches on his way to 7 strikeouts and a Win over my beloved Minnesota Twins. Mariners fans, welcome to your Ray-naissance.

Sandy Alcantara: 5 walks to 4 strikeouts and an “I told you so.” But like I’ve said 90 bajillion times so far, the first week doesn’t really count. Still, more walks than strikeouts…and more walks than hits allowed…that’s not a great sign. Also 4 swinging strikes in 83 pitches, that ain’t it either.

Lucas Giolito: OK I guess we got to the worrying part of the article. Giolito left his first start with a twinge in his side, which is never good for a pitcher. Y’all know how pitchers get their velocity, right? You’re right: Nitro boosts. And when those run out, it’s their core muscles. What’s more concerning was the ol’ Tony LaRussa telling reporters, “That boy ain’t right.” Gio’s supposed to miss two games, according to TLR. I’d prefer TRL if you get my drift.

Carlos Rodon: 12 Ks and I’m dancing in the street. Those Ks also came against the Marlins, who were also struggling with some internal dissent when Jazz Chisholm went public with his dissatisfaction with being benched in favor of Jon Berti. ENYWHEY, Rodon put on a Matt Caine-like effort, ending up with the loss after decimating the Marlines…wait, Rodon on the Giants? Cain on the Giants…the curse continues! Also, Rodon’s velocity was 97 MPH, so take that “He’s broken” crowd. Enjoy your Chester Bennington mixtapes.

Brandon Woodruff: Yeah there were like 17 strikes in 80 pitches and 7 earnies…that’s a really messed up stat line. Read 1,000 words ago to see what I think about pitchers with track records struggling early in the season.

Justin Verlander: He’s back! Fastball averaged 94 and he made it 5 IP, which is plenty fine for the rest of us. 7 Ks but only 7 whiffs, which meant the other strikes came from batters almost hitting the ball, which is probably to be expected. Verlander should have a usable fantasy year but just don’t expect miracles based on where he was being drafted at the end of spring.

Kyle Gibson: OK, 10 K and nearly as many whiffs as Carlos Rodon, but Gibson was facing the [checks notes] Oakland Athletics. Hmmmm. OK, Gibby’s not the worst fantasy pitcher out there but he’s struck out 10 or more batters only 2 times in his last 60 starts. He’s 34 years old and was picked ahead of Mike Trout, so let’s not pretend like he’s an unknown quantity. The sinker/changeup combo helped him to a ridiculous 55% CSW combined on those pitches. So…y’all want me to put together my in-season rankings right now and tell you to add Kyle Gibson?

Kyle Wright: Here’s a guy I won’t hate you for dart-throwing at. 50% strikes, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits allowed. Available everywhere.

Bailey Ober: He’s probably on every RazzReader’s team because, well, he was a cheap upside arm. Then the Twins went and traded for Chris Paddack, which put Ober and Paddack into an informal battle for the 5th starter spot that will likely shake out by the end of April. The Twins say they’re going with 6 SP for now, but they were also talking up the 3 years of arbitration control on Paddack, which doesn’t bode well for Ober, who is just crossing that cup of coffee threshold. After Ober gave up 4 runs on Sunday, our favorite late-round arm (that’s Ober bee-tee-dubya) might not get many more chances before winding up in AAA-hell.

Anderson: 2 IP, 5BB, 1K. I suppose we just give up on top starters, right? Suppose we should go pick up Erick Fedde after he went 5 IP with 5K and 2ER? Sounds like I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

All right, I’m very serious about this: the Top 100 Starters Big List isn’t gonna hit shelves until Week 4. I mean, Julio Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Giancarlo Stanton, Nick Castellanos, Cedric Mullins, and Spencer Torkelson are all above 50% K rates — is this the time to start ranking hitters? Newsflash: Top hitters are awful! No, not at all. Hang tight. We’ll all be around in the comments if you need anything — have a good week and I’ll see you for week 2!

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