We’re past the halfway mark on the season and after a middling VVPQS performance of 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks against the Phillies, Max Scherzer now has a 3.95 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, terrifying the hearts and minds of fantasy managers everywhere. Those aren’t marks of a Top 5 fantasy starter and something is up.
In short, it’s his fastball. The pitch is getting hammered for a 25% HR/FB rate and returning its highest wRC+ since 2011 at a poor 142 mark. But that’s too simple of an answer. There’s more at play here and it stems from his secondary pitches.
Scherzer’s slider is finding the zone 11 ticks less from 51% down to 40%, while seeing a slight drop in O-Swing. That means he’s getting fewer strikes on the pitch overall, forcing more fastballs to catch up (even if its 31.4% SwStr is stupid high). His changeup has found the zone more often, but it has come at a severe cost of whiffability – its O-Swing is down 14 points and a near 50% drop in its SwStr rate to just 11%. That’s bad.
Without these two weapons terrifying batters like they used to, Scherzer’s heater has become a larger focus for hitters, allowing them to tee off more frequently. It showed in yesterday’s game with just a 19% CSW on both his slider and changeup across 32 thrown and it’s not right. I imagine Scherzer can reclaim the feel of these pitches and return to being the Mad Max of old, but there’s only so much time left to get there. Some trade deadlines are arriving this weekend and if some still see Scherzer as that Top 5 arm, it may be a perfect selling opportunity. Otherwise, I think you have no choice but to ride this out and hope he can get his slider and changeup back.
Let’s see how every other SP did Wednesday:
Zac Gallen @ LAD (ND) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 31% CSW. Aces gonna ace. Gallen has the toughest schedule of anyone and it doesn’t matter. 38% CSW on his changeup with another 43% on curveballs, combining for just under 50% of his total pitches. It just makes my heart swell.
Zack Wheeler vs WSH (W) – 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Aces gonna ace. That’s a 2.20 ERA on the year, though he got incredibly lucky in the field as he was smacked around a bit with four-seamers that found gloves. The main story is that 18 whiff total – YES- fuelled by high heaters – DOUBLE YES – and low sliders – TRIIIIIIPLE YES. It’s still not quite the BSB but we’re getting closer to the Wheeler we’ve dreamed of and I’m crossing my fingers we see that overwhelming start sometime in September.
Triston McKenzie @ KC (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 27% CSW. He elected to go slider over curveball in this one and to my surprise, it worked super well for a 41% CSW with 6/17 whiffs. Fastballs aren’t getting quite as elevated as I want and it led to just a 20% CSW, but it generated plenty of outs and that’s cool with me. You should feel strong with McKenzie in your rotation through the end of the year.
Walker Buehler vs ARI (ND) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 35% CSW. Aces gonna ace. As mentioned with Gallen, this was such a fun game. Crazy that Buehler didn’t earn a single first-pitch strike as he went 0-for-19. Unreal. His four-seamer still managed to earn a 40% CSW though, and while he tossed just 71 pitches here, I’d imagine 80+ next time and it should be another start of quality. Here. We. Go.
Charlie Morton @ NYY (ND) – 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 42% CSW. Velocity sat 94/95 mph and that’s wonderful. He was allowed to go just two innings and 36 pitches, though, and that’s not good at all. Remember, Morton’s velocity has been up in the first inning or two in the past, only to fall as the game went on. We’re not out of the woods yet, especially considering we may not even see 80+ pitches from Morton in September as the Rays could be saving him for the playoffs. Ugh.
Robinson Leyer vs ATL (ND) – 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 37% CSW. The Red Sox built a cake of pitchers for this one and Robinson was the first Leyer of delicious 7 ER collective effort. That sounds like the worst Carrot Cake I’ve had. I feel you random person, that can be rough.
Cristian Javier vs TEX (W) – 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 20% CSW. I’ll take those ratios from Javier, but he’s still sitting 91/92 mph and not doing enough with that breaking ball to make me a believer with just 1/28 whiffs in this one. He gets the A’s next and I’d be cautious.
Jose Berrios vs CWS (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 35% CSW. Well look at this. A Golden Goal for Berrios as his curveball was on for the third straight game. Get your tickets, let’s ride this train through September and hope that deuce sticks around. And hey, 40% CSW on changeups too! Now we’re TALKING.
Kyle Hendricks @ PIT (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 26% CSW. I would say this was a standard Hendricks affair, but his changeup – his best pitch – was thrown the least of all four offerings. Huh. Well, it worked and we keep on keepin’ on here.
Hyun Jin Ryu @ MIA (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 26% CSW. Here are some numbers across Ryu’s last six starts: 1.32 ERA, 30% K rate, 0.91 WHIP. Yeaaaah, I need to give him a lot more love on The List and I need to stop calling him someone in contention for the Spider-Man. He’s better than a Toby, definitely.
Reynaldo Lopez @ MIN (L) – 1.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 26% CSW. Reynaldo labored here and now his rotation spot is in question. Remember when he was throwing legit gas last year and he got us a little excited? Sigh…
Kolby Allard @ HOU (L) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Look at Dralla go. His changeup performed as well as we’ve ever seen it and his cutter earned a…5% CSW across 21 thrown. Okay, so, um, yeah, no. That’s a lot of commas. YOU’RE A LOT OF COMMAS. This isn’t something to buy into.
Sixto Sanchez vs TOR (L) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Is it bad that I already want to give Sixto the AGA label? Yes, it’s been just three starts. BUT HE’S SO GOOD. Fine, that’s only eight whiffs and a sub 30% CSW, and it was a bit odd to see him turn to sinkers over four-seamers in this one, holding 96 mph velocity on average instead of his 97/98 as he does with four-seamers. We also saw that dreaded velocity drop as he progressed through the game, falling to 93/94 in the sixth frame. Also weird to see 0/14 whiffs on his slider, but the pitch fell in for five called strikes and given time, Sixto has the repertoire that should develop in a major way. I’m excited, y’all, but yeah, no AGA label.
Julio Teheran vs SD (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 22% CSW. I wonder if we’ll ever get to a point where we feel comfortable starting Teheran again. But he did well against the Padres! And he didn’t even invite me to the event. I had the coolest gift for your Birthday Party, Teheran, guess I have to just throw it out now.
Jakob Junis vs CLE (L) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 22% CSW. Junis left this one early after taking liner to the arm. It was precautionary and he should be fine for his next start, but after just one strikeout in four innings – HAISTFMFWT?! – and just a 23% CSW on his “fantastic” slider, what are you really hoping for?
Joe Musgrove vs CHC (L) – 3.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 48% CSW. Whoa, Musgrove is back! And carried a 48% CSW. Okay, it was across 46 pitches, but that’s pretty wild. He threw sub 40% fastballs as his curveball and slider killed it for 54% CSW each, though his fastball sat 92/93. I want to see him sitting closer to 94 mph and that low pitch count is turning me away at the moment. But hey, at least it’s a secondary-heavy repertoire and it could work later on as he gets the stamina back…for like the last week of September. Alright, fine, 2021 Musgrove, I’m hoping you’ve got it.
Michael Wacha @ BAL (ND) – 3.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 16% CSW. Yep, that’s Wacha, alright.
Tyler Mahle vs STL (ND) – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 27% CSW. Well this is weird. Streaming Record: 22-19. Mahle’s heater was fantastic, jamming batters on both sides of the plate and earning plenty of outs and strikes. His slider earned a 35% CSW and here I am thinking this would be a fantastic strikeout line…just three?! In 21 outs?! The Cardinals put a lot of those heaters in play, but he avoided the heart of the plate a ton and I wouldn’t be scared off by this start. Mahle is cooking and I think he’ll return a strikeout per inning against the Cubs next.
Dinelson Lamet @ LAA (ND) – 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 35% CSW. It’s essentially a PQS with a great WHIP and a strikeout per inning. Yeah, that’s fine with me as I’ll say aces gonna ace.
Johan Oviedo @ CIN (ND) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 34% CSW. I find Oviedo’s stuff interesting, but there’s still command issues to iron out as he couldn’t survive the 5th, ending his night with 83 pitches. There may be something over time, but yeah, it’s too wild right now to get behind.
Logan Webb @ COL (ND) – 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 28% CSW. Webb stepped in Coors and, well, you don’t need more for this. You didn’t start him, nothing really changed, and he’s a rare streamer…like the Mariners next. That could actually be kinda solid inside Oracle Park.
John Means vs NYM (L) – 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 17% CSW. Uggggggggh. Velocity is not staying as high as we like at 94 mph now and that changeup is failing to drop under the zone, again. Can we just take those two things and do the opposite? K thx. Speaking of Ks, you earned just one in this start? HAISTFMFWT?! I have this belief that one day Means will just suddenly click into place and restore the command he had last year and pair it with his new velocity, but this was judgement day and if he’s still not there now, well, I’m going to stop holding my breath that it’ll arrive this year at all. Fun flier at the end of drafts for 2021 as we see where he’s at on Opening Day, though.
Kyle Freeland vs SF (ND) – 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 20% CSW. Freeland is having a better year than expected, but this was too risky of a start inside of Coors for 12-teamers. Now it’s San Diego next on the road…that’s a questionable one that I’d lean bench to play it safe.
Jordan Montgomery vs TB (L) – 0.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 33% CSW. Life is pain. Montgomery allowed a pair of 2-run shots in the first inning and after needing 39 pitches for two outs, he got the hook. What’s weird is I don’t think he pitched too poorly. Sure, he hung a few curveballs and those were crushed. His changeup was still well located save for one hanger in the middle and sinkers/fastballs found the edges. I am worried about his next start given how few pitches he threw here and if that means he’ll be a bit limited next time out. He gets the Jays next and if I had him in a 12-teamer, I’d let him roll. It would be easy for me to just say move on and everything, but I just don’t see a lost, horrible pitcher. What I saw was really blegh inning.
Adrian Houser vs DET (ND) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 24% CSW. Man, this is as frustrating as it gets. He’s like a discount Chris Bassitt at the moment, featuring an effective sinker but nothing else in the arsenal to give him the support he needs. It’s pretty simple, if you can’t trust Houser against the Tigers, what matchup can you trust him in? You can let him go if you haven’t already.
Spencer Turnbull @ MIL (ND) – 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 3 Hits, 5 BBs, 5 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 28% CSW. His four-seamer was great and his slider was fine, but that sinker is bad and his curveball/changeup are nowhere to be found. So yeah, we’re done until there’s a major overhaul to what we’re getting on a given night.
Robbie Erlin @ BOS (ND) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 23% CSW. Erlin reminds me of the NES Rob. I never really understood its purpose and why it was around, but hey, you wanted it to do well, you know?
For those unaware, I’m forced to make my streamer picks under the condition of sub-20% owned in Fantasy Pros’ consolidated ownership rates.
Zach Eflin vs. Washington Nationals – He’s owned in just 18% of leagues as of Tuesday morning, which means you can take the chance on Eflin’s new curveball taking shape.
Dane Dunning vs. Kansas City Royals – There are 20 games scheduled for Friday and I imagine there will more options for Friday as starters solidify, but I’m loving this one for Dunning against a poor Royals lineup.
Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – Okay, I know. This is crazy. There just isn’t a good play out there and it’s the Pirates and I feel strongly that Tony Disco is not the 7 ER guy we’ve seen. I’d be very cautious with this one, though.
Game of the Day
(Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire)