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Cheers Johnny

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Thursday.

Welcome to the SP Roundup, my daily fantasy baseball article reviewing every starting pitcher’s performance from every Thursday 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.  

Johnny Cueto (CWS) vs BAL (L) – 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 104 pitches.

I feel like we have to take a moment to talk about Johnny Cuetowho went 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 104 pitches, with a touch of Careful, Icarus as he allowed his third run in the sixth. This was just his second start of the year under six frames, but his second outing more than five strikeouts as his changeup and fastballs missed a fair amount of bats to earn a share of the Gallows Pole

I know some of y’all are buying into this renaissance of Cueto’s career (he’s certainly been a valuable add in quality start leagues!) but I’m largely skeptical that this is something to lean on in a standard 12-teamer. I simply think he doesn’t do enough across the repertoire and even with those 16 whiffs tonight, do you buy into nine whiffs across four-seamers and sinkers moving forward? I don’t, and I fear his now 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP are seducing too many.

He gets the Angels next and you should simply treat him like a TobyNot an exceptional one, but someone you can toss in there if you need something to play this week and to move on from quickly when the matchup is questionable or there’s something exciting to chase. Against the Angels? I can take it or leave it.

 

Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:

 

Frankie Montas (OAK) vs SEA (ND) – 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 102 pitches.

Wow, Montas pounded the zone with four-seamers, sinkers, splitters, cutters, the whole dang lot. Balls found gloves, he went eight frames, and I’m so happy he’s teetering back into AGA territory. Just give me a few more of these and I’ll act like I never mentioned the whole Cherry Bomb thing.

Devin Smeltzer (MIN) vs CLE (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 92 pitches.

Good to see Smeltzer rebound and look like a Toby again. That curveball flipped in the zone for 10/24 called strikes, returning a wonderful 75% strike rate, and he elevated four-seamers. It’s Cleveland + Baltimore next and I’d wager at least one of them going his way. Not a bad pick-up in the short term, just don’t expect a whole lot.

Dean Kremer (BAL) @ CWS (W) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 93 pitches.

Ummm Kremer had 10/39 whiffs on his cutter tonight. It’s been ages since he’s had that pitch and while it’s so clearly an exception at the moment, I’ll be paying attention now. Boy do I hope this is a real thing.

Robbie Ray (SEA) @ OAK (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 94 pitches.

Props to everyone who stuck with Ray. I’m not totally convinced these last three starts are indicative of a major summer trend for Ray, but he is elevating four-seamers and keeping the slider down, and he gets the Orioles + Athletics again. Schedules, you’re the real MVP.

Zach Plesac (CLE) @ MIN (L) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 100 pitches.

I saw the line, rushed to the window to see for myself annnnnnnd just 2/22 changeup whiffs. Ugh. 73% strikes, though, while the slider was excellent and the four-seamer survived. I don’t think I can trust Plesac without that changeup missing bats again + it’s the Twins and Yankees next so whaaaaatever.

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) @ CIN (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 80 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Sure, the WHIP is meh, but this is TATIAGA and the curveball came to play with 56% CSW. You love to see it.

Braxton Garrett (MIA) vs COL (ND) – 4.2 IP, 1 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 94 pitches.

Well ain’t that a Dusty DonutIt’s a horrible WHIP, but just 1 ER allowed, a share of the Gallows Pole, and seven punchouts make daring managers accept the 2.00+ WHIP. That slider was ridiculous at 10/38 whiffs here, consistently kept down for 76% strikes. Don’t go too wild here — it was Rockie Road and he survived fewer than five frames — and he’s not an option I’d consider against the Cardinals in standard cases.

Ranger Suárez (PHI) @ SD (W) – 7.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 94 pitches.

Hmmmmm. I’m glad he was able to go 7+ frames, but it’s a meh 1.22 WHIP with just three strikeouts, and the changeup is still not the changeup from last year. Suárez as a four-seamer/sinker arm just isn’t the man you want to trust. Ranger Danger.

Kyle Freeland (COL) @ MIA (ND) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 107 pitches.

Hot dang, look at you! Freeland has his moments here and there and a road start against Miami apparently does the trick. His slider was excellent with 44% CSW, but his overall command was stellar, living on the edges of the zone with four-seamers, sinkers, curves, and changeup as well. Welp, it’s the Dodgers next so this bliss will soon be lost in the wind.

José Quintana (PIT) vs CHC (ND) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 83 pitches.

Whoaaaa. Quintana continued his excellent pitch separation, but stepped it up with his four-seamer nailing the very top of the zone and above to propel him to a Golden GoalWell done you marvelous southpaw, I wish I could trust this. The Nationals have messed up a decent amount of arms already and I’m a bit hesitant to take the gamble.

Framber Valdez (HOU) @ NYY (ND) – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 101 pitches.

This was a tough call and a PQS with a solid WHIP and seven strikeouts absolutely works for me, especially when the curveball was atrocious at 1/14 CSW. That’s supposed to be his best pitch. I feel like he escaped with this one as the sinker saved the day.

Jason Alexander (MIL) vs STL (W) – 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 88 pitches.

Every time I hear someone suggest starting Alexander, I read it as if Kramer just entered my apartment to suggest it. Ahhh-huh. 

Kyle Wright (ATL) vs SF (W) – 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 10 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 91 pitches.

Blegh. He didn’t get his secondaries down and the sinker leaked out over the plate. He’s not pitching like a proper Top 20 SP despite the 3.18 ERA and 26% strikeout rate, evidenced by a 1.16 WHIP. I worry it’s a sign of bad things to come for Wright, or maybe he’s just an SP #3/#4 for the year and that’s okay. I think I’m undecided about Wright more than any other pitcher right now.

Justin Steele (CHC) @ PIT (ND) – 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 100 pitches.

Okay, the strikeouts are cool — 10/42 slider whiffs! — but the ERA and WHIP are why we don’t go for Steele, even against the Pirates.

Dakota Hudson (STL) @ MIL (L) – 4.1 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 88 pitches.

He’s a coin flip and this one made us question why anyone would say “tails never fails”. Of course it does, that’s the whole point.

Joe Musgrove (SD) vs PHI (L) – 6.0 IP, 6 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 88 pitches.

Nooooooo. Musgrove had a terrible sixth frame where he allowed 5 ER, but this one wasn’t smooth before it as he ended the night with just one strikeout and eight whiffs. HAISTBMBWT?! His slider returned 0/25 whiffs (WEIRD) and far too many pitches landed in the heart of the plate. Don’t worry, it was a pretty clear One Night Bland that had 1 ER after five frames.

Jameson Taillon (NYY) vs HOU (ND) – 5.2 IP, 6 ER, 10 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 90 pitches.

Yikes. After earning a ton of whiffs on the four-seamer last time out, Taillon failed to earn a single one across 24 fastballs here. He tossed just a few up in the zone and it wasn’t the Taillon we know and love. Don’t fret, the A’s and Guardians are next and as you know, Oakland is A’s-OK.

Hunter Greene (CIN) vs LAD (L) – 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 9 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 98 pitches.

Womp womp. He’s a Cherry Bomb who had survived the Dodgers once before, but it wasn’t meant to be here. Greene leaned too heavily on four-seamers as a product of his slider being a bit wonky and it’s not the Hunter we want to see.

Alex Wood (SF) @ ATL (L) – 1.0 IP, 6 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 1 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 42 pitches.

Okay, so I had some legit hesitations here but not like this. Sure, he spiked some sliders and changeups, but it’s not like the dude just chucked in some meatballs. He got burned in the second inning, allowing six straight baserunners from a walk, infield single, walk, single, hit by pitch, infield single. Yeaaaaaaah. I know I sound like a mad man, but I think I’d start him against the Tigers next week.

 

Game of the Day 

Justin Verlander vs. Luis Severino – I mean, this is just awesome.

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.

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Leslie Plaza Johnson/ / Icon Sportswire

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.

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