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Beautiful Clay

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Wednesday.

Welcome to the SP Roundup, my daily fantasy baseball article reviewing every starting pitcher’s performance from every Wednesday game. I apologize for the jokes written in my delirium in advance. Have questions? Ask me during my office hours on Twitch weekday mornings from 9 am-11 am ET.  

Clayton Kershaw @ MIN (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 13 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 41% CSW, 80 pitches.

I’m going to do something a bit rare today and talk more about the game of baseball rather than fantasy implications. Clayton Kershaw was as dominant as you’ll ever see a man on the hill today (he is TATIAGA after all), returning line of 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 13 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 41% CSW, 80 pitches against the Twins, earning a Golden Goal and quelling any fear of inability. Wait that’s a near perfect game. Yes it is. And they pulled him?! They sure did. WHAT?!

I don’t inherently think they did anything wrong. We were wondering just a month ago if Kershaw was even healthy and here he is, making his first start of the year after a shortened spring training, tossing 80 pitches — about 10-15 more than we anticipated he would. The Dodgers signed Kershaw with the idea to win another championship and you simply can’t put a routinely injured pitcher back on the mound for two more innings (at most, six batters — he loses the perfect game? They pull him), pushing him before he’s ready. It’s April 13th y’all, there are six months left and a chance at history matters less at this moment.

But maaaaan do I hate that. Baseball is an immortal game and seeing Kershaw, the most dominant pitcher of his generation, perform at his peak with a clear path to carve his name into yet another piece of baseball lore is why we purchase tickets. Why we turn on the TV each day. Why every single pitcher picks up that ball laying on the rubber in the first inning. Maybe today. Each day is a chance. Each pitch is a potential step closer to ascension. Kershaw had it. We know he had it. How dare they take it away from not him, but all of us.

So fine, there it is. I get it, I really do. It makes all the sense in the world and for the sake of seeing more healthy Kershaw, my future self is happy for what they did. But dang, this ultra-rationality of the game gets a bit tiring sometimes, you know?

 

Let’s see how every other SP did Wednesday:

Corbin Burnes @ BAL (ND) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 97 pitches.

Aces gonna ace with a share of the Gallows Pole. I feel you, random Brewers fan. You needed this. We all did.

Merrill Kelly vs HOU (ND) – 5.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 79 pitches.

After fanning seven in just four frames last time out, this start against the Astros sure looks like Kelly has gulped down Michael’s special stuff this off-season. Sadly, I think this may be a Vargas Rule than a legit overhaul. His changeup wasn’t nearly as good in this one (just 3/18 whiffs) while Kelly sat 92.5 mph on his heater. The hype was surrounding his 93-94 mph velocity, while this lower mark is reminiscent of his initial 2019 season. I can’t say the man I saw tonight looked incredibly primed to dominate through the year. You should be okay with the Nationals next, but I’m not holding on tight.

Josiah Gray @ ATL (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 82 pitches.

Ayyyyy, you love to see it. Well, not the whole velocity down across the board part (a full tick on his heater, included), and he threw sub 60% fastball strikes and hovered 60% on his main secondary…but he survived against Atlanta! It sounds to me like you actually didn’t like this start. Ya caught me. We can’t trust Gray yet. The command ain’t there.

Triston McKenzie @ CIN (ND) – 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 67 pitches.

Here’s the good news: McKenzie sat 93.7 mph in this one, a far cry from his 91 mph in the first half of last year and a full tick up from the second half. The bad news? I don’t think his command is all that sharp yet. It’s okay, his stuff can be good enough to return performances like this one, even when he’s allowed to go 5+ frames, but I’m not quite buying into this like the other hot hands of April. Still hold on, though, because duh.

Logan Webb vs SD (W) – 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 38% CSW, 96 pitches.

I said last time I didn’t expect Webb to hang comfortably past a 25% strikeout rate and while he may not be there now, the sheer fact he went eight frames to get you the desired seven strikeouts is a wonderful thing. The changeup made a major appearance and everything is looking gorgeous at the moment. Keep it going Webb, I’d love for you to be this man the entire season, but it better not be a Webb of lies.

Frankie Montas @ TB (W) – 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 89 pitches.

See? You had nothing to worry about as his splitter and slider did wonderful things — he even earned a Win despite pitching for the Athletics. Start Montas.

Max Scherzer @ PHI (W) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 96 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Yeah, this works. He’s no Tylord Megill, but we’ll take it.

Framber Valdez @ ARI (ND) – 3.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 5 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 75 pitches.

We saw the peak of Valdez last time out and here’s the valley. Get used to it.

Eduardo Rodríguez vs BOS (L) – 3.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 72 pitches.

Yikes. Eduardo hasn’t found his groove yet this year (six changeups?! SIX?!) and it may not be that way for another start with the Yankees on the horizon. This is the gambit you make with Eduardo: You’re willing to stick with him through thick-and-thin for the end of season results. Personally, I’m seeing how the end of April looks in his repertoire and I’m going to sit down for an honest conversation about him. Erod, get it together.

John Means vs MIL (ND) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 51 pitches.

Means was pulled with forearm tightness “as a precaution.” Suuuure, it would explain the tick of velocity loss we’ve seen. This is terrible news and I can’t help but imagine he misses his next start, if he’s not placed on the IL that is. What a bummer.

Zach Thompson vs CHC (ND) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 67 pitches.

He was hit by a comebacker to the shoulder and took an early exit, but he wasn’t pitching that well before it. Cutters and curves returned solid CSW marks, but his sinker and change got far too much airtime for me to consider this Frozen Banana.

Nathan Eovaldi @ DET (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 101 pitches.

The curveball worked, splitters earned 15/17 strikes (hot dang!), and even the cutter did some good work as the fastball did its job at 96 mph. And yet, it’s still another 3.60 ERA day. So? It helps! It absolutely does! He’s simply not destined to be a Top 15 SP at any point, ya dig? Like a shovel in a garden. 

Max Fried vs WSH (L) – 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 78 pitches.

Weird, the velocity spike we saw in the spring and opener hasn’t stuck around — the fastball matched last year’s mark while the slider came just slightly harder. Regardless, I don’t think Fried is in the place he wants to be yet with his command and it may take another start or two for him to get back in rhythm. Remember, he’s my new poster child for starting slow: Last season, he allowed 14 ER in his first three starts, then held a 2.44 ERA the rest of the way.

Sean Manaea @ SF (L) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 86 pitches.

He’s still at 91 mph (that’s fine, not great, but fine) and earned 10/50 whiffs on sinkers. I’ll take that all. Day. Keep starting Manaea until further notice.

Gerrit Cole vs TOR (ND) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 17 Whiffs, 36% CSW, 85 pitches.

Aces gonna not quite ace. Vlady Jr. popped two longballs of Cole — one off a hanging middle-middle slider, the other off a 98 mph in-and-off the plate that was just insane — and that’s it. Seriously, Cole was phenomenal otherwise, he just happened to face an absolute stud.

Dallas Keuchel vs SEA (W) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 80 pitches.

Is this enough for you to join DK country like it’s 2017? I didn’t think so.

José Berríos @ NYY (ND) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 80 pitches.

Blegh. The Yankees are tough, but this wasn’t the best of Berríos. Sadly, he gets the Red Sox next as the gauntlet continues. Let’s hope for a rebound.

Shane McClanahan vs OAK (L) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 41% CSW, 85 pitches.

It was far from an efficient start from McShane, but 48% CSW on 29 curveballs is heavenly. And so is 55% CSW on 11 changeups. AND 50% CSW on 10 sliders. Uhhhhhh that’s dope. This just has to work over time, you have to believe me, he even sat a tick harder on his fastball. Those walks are sure to go down and then he’ll be zooming TO THE MOON!

Chris Paddack vs LAD (L) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 73 pitches.

Among all the Kershaw hoopla was Paddack making his Twins debut and he wasn’t as bad as you’d think. Well, his velocity was down nearly three ticks to a very pedestrian 92 mph, but at least he earned 9 whiffs with 37% CSW on the pitch…? Yeah okay, it wasn’t good. Sigh.

Aaron Nola vs NYM (L) – 3.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 76 pitches.

Jeeeeeez Nola. I turned this game on and the very first pitch I saw was his longball to Nimmo. Life ain’t fair. It’s a shock to see his curveball return a paltry 19% CSW — this pitch has been at the top of CSW leaderboards for as long as we’ve been recording it — and a bigger shock that he returned just three groundballs all day. This isn’t the Nola we know and love.

Nick Lodolo vs CLE (L) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 79 pitches.

Womp wooooomp. This was a start of jitters as Lodolo hit batters and walked so many. He’ll get more chances and when he does, that’s when you should properly judge him as he’s way better than this. In some ways, reminds me of softer throwing Chris Sale with some of the stupid swings I saw on his slider from right-handers. That’s what we’re working with here. He’s a stash play for now and if you don’t have time for a stash play, then shave it off. You don’t need facial hair to look good. I do think this will turn around in about 2-3 starts, though.

Robbie Ray @ CWS (L) – 6.1 IP, 6 ER, 10 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 88 pitches.

Oh nooooooo. I had a touch of fear entering this start that Ray would struggle as A) It was the lefty-smashing White Sox, but more importantly B) He sat two ticks down in his first start of the year. Welp, Ray sat, once again, two ticks down from last year (actually 2.8 ticks and it’s terrifying) and the ChiSox had their way. His slider couldn’t do squat to save him, earning just — get this — 2/36 whiffs. Oh look, we found the sole pitches that Luzardo didn’t earn yesterday and gave them to Ray’s slider. What a kind man, that Jesús. At this point, what do you do? You gotta hold and hope for the best, that’s what you do. Here’s to him righting the ship as soon as next week against the Rangers. Please have the velocity back.

Kyle Hendricks @ PIT (L) – 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 7 Hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 78 pitches.

Ohhhhh so this is why you weren’t on The List until this week. It’s the curse of The List as Hendricks went from looking like his best self to his worst. Against the Pirates. Instead of 13/33 whiffs on changeups, we got 2/17 and when paired with just 5/11 strikes on curveballs, you’re gonna have a bad time. Against the Pirates. Looks like he faces the Rays next week and does it really matter? Why? Because he just did this. Against the Pirates.

 

Game of the Day 

Kevin Gausman vs. Luis Severino – I love watching a good splitty. I also enjoy getting another look at Severino as he makes his best effort to take another step forward toward his former ace accolades. Grab the popcorn.

But Nick?! Where are the streaming picks? – I’ve moved them to the daily SP Matchups & Streamer Rankings article.

Have Questions? – Join my morning Twitch livestream! I answer all questions there for free: 9:00 am – 11:00 am ET Monday through Friday.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Ben C says:

    TATIAGA! Put some respect back on his name!

  • Southern Marylander says:

    It’s official, despite coming into the season of my 16 team league with a rotation of pitchers (all keepers I’d acquired last year or over the offseason) of McClanahan, Means, Giolito, Bieber, Kopech, Verlander, and Ynoa (plus a Glasnow injury stash and Grayson Rodriguez prospect stash), mine is the only team to not have a single pitcher W. And Giolito and Means are out of action. It’s been an awesome first week.

    • Joe says:

      Join the rest of us. I drafted two main league teams from the Top 100 SP here and both are complete and utter disasters at this point; Cole, Buehler, Alacantara, Montas… okay so far. Now is where I thought I plucked gems from PL top 100 at the draft: Kopech, Houck, Eflin, N Martinez (Okay… still holding) but Ober, Ynoa, Matz are already dropped and the damage was done. Rough week, but still holding faith this can work out.

  • Joe says:

    Actually… M Kelly looked fantastic during this game. I watched the entire thing and while his velo and spin rates may not have blown the Statcast types away, his placement and pitch choice kept his opponents off all day. He ran out of gas a bit in the 6th and was rightfully pulled. But to say he hasn’t shown OBVIOUS improvement going forward is to say you didn’t watch the game. Numbers never lie, but sometimes you need to watch a performance to see the stuff play.

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Hey Joe!

      I absolutely respect the “eye test” vs. just the spreadsheet of numbers, in fact, it’s why this site exists in the first place – I made a GIF database of every pitch because it tells a better story than the table.

      Sadly, I can’t watch every single game every single night, but I actually *did* watch this one. He got away with plenty of mistakes, from his final changeup to Alex Bregman in the sixth, too many hittable fastballs finding gloves, and his breakers rarely showed up. His heater hitting some spots + BABIP brought him through the game. I personally wouldn’t use “fantastic” here.

      He absolutely made some great pitches – mostly with command heaters in some big spots – but it’s not the man I saw in the first start – that was a guy who overwhelmed with his changeup and attacked better with heaters (fastballs that came in harder, too).

      It’s not to say that he’s destined for mediocrity, but the hype I had initially is fading a bit. Certainly worthy of a look against the Nationals, though.

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