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 Playback.tv weekday mornings from 10 am-12 pm ET.
Shohei Ohtani (LAA) @ DET (W) – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 111 pitches.
You already heard the news, but Shohei Ohtani was something else on Thursday, hitting 2 HRs in the second game of the Angels’ doubleheader, a moment after, oh I don’t know, how about earning his first CGSHO – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 111 pitches. Well yeah Nick, he’s the best baseball player on the planet. Sure, but have you already forgotten that he’d allowed 14 ER across his last three starts? Oh. Right.
This outing from Ohtani wasn’t anything dramatically special from an arsenal perspective. In fact, it was awfully boring as he went mostly two-pitch: 56% four-seamers returning 16 called strikes and 35% CSW and 23% sweepers at 31% CSW. So this was…yeah, I feel weird saying it, but Blame it on the Tigers.
I do want to shine a light on Ohtani’s four-seamer, though. The 97 mph heater has been detrimental across his career, returning a .295 xAVG in 2022 with just a 10% SwStr rate, forcing him to embrace sweepers last season to push him into the Top 10 SP. This year that fastball has improved drastically. It has gained four ticks in SwStr rate, held a .198 xAVG & 21.7% HC rate (both 91st percentile!), and its PLV…has stayed the same. So has the movement and velocity, and so has its locations, mostly. So what gives?
In short, the heater is getting thrown in more two-strike rates and executed more often, with a large near seven-point jump in putaway rate to 26% – 96th percentile on four-seamers in the majors.
I don’t think that sticks around – PAR% isn’t as sticky as we want it to be and without a change of shape or locations, I don’t think the hard contact and average numbers stick around as its strikeouts fall. Still, Ohtani has an elite sweeper and I imagine that pitch will get a larger focus in the second half. Meanwhile, enjoy the day, Ohtani. This was something else.
Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:
Josiah Gray (WSH) @ NYM (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 106 pitches.
Well done Josiah, you were tasked with preventing Senga from getting a Win today and you served many opposing managers well. For the rest of us who actually roster Senga, I’m sorry. Nick, please talk about Josiah. Fine fine fine. The cutter did the ole Collin McHugh of living upstairs and nipping the top of the zone while the slider and curve lived downstairs and I dig it. There’s something legit there if he can do this with any regularity, but command has never been Josiah’s strong suit + even with this attempt at the BSB, Gray didn’t earn the whiffs or strikeouts you’d expect. It’s too weird for me to chase, even with the Brewers next. Nothing looks elite.
Justin Steele (CHC) @ STL (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 92 pitches.
Steele cruised along as the Cubs jumped ahead against Hudson, throwing with a little less precision along the edges than we normally see, but overall it was Steele and that’s cool with us. I’m not too concerned about the heater being 1.4 ticks down as he was able to push it when he needed to. I can’t help but think he was in cruise control with the large lead.
Kodai Senga (NYM) vs WSH (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 99 pitches.
Cutters and four-seamers earning sub 60% strikes each is normally not a recipe for Senga success, but fortunately the forkball and slider came through enough, and plenty of the cutters/fastballs that were strikes found gloves. Phew. Close one here. We keep starting for the strikeouts, but don’t forget that Senga was a Cherry Bomb for a long time. The clunkers are still there.
Miles Mikolas (STL) vs CHC (L) – 0.2 IP, 1 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 36% CSW, 14 pitches.
He was ejected for throwing at Ian Happ after Happ’s backswing struck catcher Willson Contreras on the head in the same at-bat. So we got 4.1 IP of 5 ER and 9 Hits of Dakota Hudson instead. Okay then.
Patrick Sandoval (LAA) @ DET (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 97 pitches.
Despite facing the Tigers, Sandoval still couldn’t earn more than seven whiffs on his slider + changeup combined, with neither eclipsing 25% CSW. Please stop chasing him.
Tanner Bibee (CLE) @ CWS (ND) – 6.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 97 pitches.
That’s another Golden Goal for Bibee, though on a day with five games, it lowers the bar a touch. The slider was solid armside, and the four-seamer generally sat upstairs. While the curve and changeup each earned solid CSW marks, they were not consistently commanded pitches, sadly. This wasn’t a replication of his last outing command-wise, but solid nonetheless. Gonna be tough to decide if we start him against the Astros. My gut says no – the command is too volatile – but we’ll probably still do it. LET IT RIDE!
Michael Lorenzen (DET) vs LAA (L) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 88 pitches.
The Angels are a good squad and even earning a share of the Gallows Pole wasn’t enough to hold off the Loss and poor ERA. Still, the slider was good, you got seven strikeouts, and a 1.20 WHIP ain’t bad if you took the gamble. We shrug and move on to the Pirates…if he’s still on the Tigers. You know it in your hearts, y’all – Lorenzen is made to pitch for the Orioles. Who would he face if he pitched for Baltimore next week? Toronto. YOU’RE DUMB NICK. Sure am.
Dylan Cease (CWS) vs CLE (ND) – 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 9 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 102 pitches.
Cease was about a tick down on everything and this wasn’t a fun day at the park. Sure, the slider earned 10 whiffs and 67% strikes, but it was either far in the dirt or randomly around the zone. And the four-seamer + curve that stepped up last time? They each returned 20% CSW or lower with just 2/69 whiffs between them. Oh no. And now it’s Texas. OH NO. Thing is, Cease is generally opponent-agnostic and part of me still wants to start him there. If the slider is a touch better spotted and the fastball or curve can come through, he’ll produce. Up to you if you want to take the gamble.
Fun Sad fact: Entering this game, Cease had a 4.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 28% strikeout rate across his last 16 starts and it’s only going to get worse tomorrow when it’s his last 17 starts. That’s a Cherry Bomb, alright.
Matt Manning (DET) vs LAA (L) – 5.0 IP, 7 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 87 pitches.
Ah. Two of Ohtanis HRs + another longball did the most damage, and while I love seeing a slider that actually returns whiffs (9/33!) and a fastball that nearly sat 95 mph, his command is not what you want. The presence of those two skills – slider whiffs and 95 mph heaters – is absolutely what we want from Manning, but it can’t be chucked well over the plate like it was here. Kinda funny how he doesn’t have those skills and succeeds, but when they are present, something else falters to ensure they don’t produce results. So. Funny.
Game of the Day
But Nick?! Where are the streaming picks? – I’ve moved them to the daily SP Matchups & Streamer Rankings article.
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