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.
Matthew Liberatore (STL) @ TB (W) – 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 101 pitches.
It hasn’t been pretty for Matthew Liberatore this year. It has been nearly a year since I saw Liberatore feature increased velocity and a new slider with the Cardinals as 2022 came to a close, hinting at a possible sleeper candidate for 2023. If he can sit 94/95 mph with the new slider earning whiffs and his curveball grabbing strikes, there’s legit potential! What I’ve seen for months now has been the complete opposite – his fastball sat 92/93 mph last time out, with just ten sliders total – adding to the list another start of at least 4 ER, with zero faith of anything new on the horizon.
Welp, FORGET EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT
MATTRESSES LIBERATORE. The St. Louis southpaw returned a marvelous 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 101 pitches line tonight against the Rays (The Rays!), sitting 94/95 mph and a tick harder across all his secondaries. Is this it?!
Probably not. I’m not ready to fall for his sinker that sat away to right-handers all night, nor lean heavily into his four-seamer that casually sat over the plate. The curve was the star of the show with a 50% CSW, but can we really bank on that? Or the changeup finally returning outs as it had a near 70% strike rate (usually around the low 50s). It’s all abnormal and atypical for Liberatore and while there were times he felt dominant as I watched this, there were many times it felt wrong, like a grooved 1-2 four-seamer that barely missed the warning track.
It felt like one of those lovely nights you can feel will be a lovely memory in five years’ time. HOWEVER, I’m not going to rule out that the moments of fantastic command are here to stay, moments he can build upon for his next start against Oakland. Not the worst dart throw I’ve seen if he can keep the velocity up, continue throwing curveballs for strikes, keep the changeup down, and maybe get more whiffs on the slider.
Oh, one more small thing. Wanna know the weirdest fact about tonight? Liberatore’s only two hits of the game, despite throwing so many pitches over the plate, came on two pitches outside the zone – a sinker and “four-seamer” (it was a terrible 89 mph changeup, IMO), each middle and away. What a strange start.
Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:
Reese Olson (DET) vs MIN (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 36% CSW, 94 pitches.
Hot dang, look at you! Olson’s slider was fantastic once again, but it was the curve, sinker, and four-seamer that shocked me with consistent strikes that kept the Twins on their heels. Those two hits came on sinkers over the plate he’d love to have back, while most four-seamers landed on the arm-side edge with grace. This is cool, not convincingly sustainable (changeup is still blegh), but cool. He’ll face them a second time next week and I’m still cautious, even with the King Cole.
James Paxton (BOS) vs KC (W) – 5.1 IP, 0 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 98 pitches.
That’s more like it. Give me two more starts like this and you have your AGA label, you Gallows Pole co-winner. Pro tip: get that heater a little more upstairs and throw it 95/96 instead of 94 mph. That way you won’t go just 3/58 four-seamer whiffs. Nick, I’m obviously trying to do that. WELL OKAY THEN.
Patrick Corbin (WSH) @ PHI (ND) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 7 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 87 pitches.
I think I had to read that a few times to make sure I had it right. When is the last time you saw a pitcher return a 0.29 K per BB ratio in a start? And surrender zero earned runs?! It’s bonkers and not in the way you want it to be.
Austin Cox (KC) @ BOS (ND) – 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 29 pitches.
We saw a double opener from the Royals with Hearn following for a frame after Cox before Alec Marsh closed it out with five frames of 2 ER. It’s cool to see his curve step up with 44% CSW and 7/27 whiffs, but the four-seamer is still rough and the slider wasn’t all that good. Don’t get bogged down by Marsh.
Ty Blach (COL) @ LAD (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 83 pitches.
Four whiffs, two strikeouts, and six innings with just 1 ER against the Dodgers. So many Gold Star worthy pitchers tonight, and yet this has to take the cake. For what it’s worth, he didn’t give in to the Dodgers batters, living on the edges with sinkers and using all secondaries mostly out of the zone. There’s something to be said about that.
Kenta Maeda (MIN) @ DET (L) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 89 pitches.
I got the answer to the question I never wanted answered: “Can Maeda survive when he doesn’t have his splitter?” Fortunately, on a night where his splitter went 0/20 whiffs and just 5% CSW, Maeda was able to step up with his slider, earning 80% strikes and 40% CSW, with his four-seamer earning some whiffs of its own when elevated. Sure, it’s best to lose the splitter against Detroit and not a legit offense (Blame it on the Tigers), but he still gets props for it. Now don’t do it again.
Noah Syndergaard (CLE) vs TOR (W) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 87 pitches.
Wow, the Guardians starting pitchers absolutely wrecked the Jays in this four-game set, especially with their four-seamers, which somehow returned seven whiffs from Thor in this one. I know, it makes little sense but maybe that’s just how the Jays are right now. I don’t buy that new fastball SwStr ability and the rest of his repertoire is just as eye-roll inducing as ever. Rostering him is like entering Syn City.
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs COL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 67 pitches.
It’s as we expected for the return of TATIAGA with the Dodgers issuing a hard five-inning cap, and yet it still helped your fantasy squads. It’s good to have Kersh back, but can you not go 15% CSW on the slider next time? K thx.
Aaron Nola (PHI) vs WSH (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 105 pitches.
It’s a clean line until you realize he needed 105 pitches for just five frames. That’s not the Nola way and I’m a little surprised he returned to splitting fastballs between four-seamers and sinkers after going nearly exclusively with the former across his last few outings. Obviously, it worked out for him, but get this – three of his five hits came off…the sinker, all coming in TWO STRIKE COUNTS. Maybe don’t throw that pitch late. Please.
Dean Kremer (BAL) vs HOU (W) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 91 pitches.
Hey, we take this against the Astros. Still want more from the four-seamer like a five-year-old smartphone losing its battery, but we’re still going to use it every day. You’re getting a new phone this year, aren’t you. I’VE HELD OUT SO LONG.
Zack Littell (TB) vs STL (L) – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 19% CSW, 73 pitches.
Man, if it weren’t for Liberatore suddenly waking up, this could have been a Win for Littell as he did his job for six frames. It certainly wasn’t the best job I’ve seen from him – he couldn’t get anything down for the life of him – but if you told me he’d return a PQS with a 1.17 WHIP, I’d have taken it all day, expecting a Win. Whatareyagonnado.
Bailey Falter (PIT) vs ATL (ND) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 86 pitches.
Against Atlanta? Well, yeah. Nothing special from Bailey here.
Alek Manoah (TOR) @ CLE (L) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 93 pitches.
You’re probably wondering how I got here. No, it’s pretty clear that your fastballs are far worse than they used to be and your one redeeming quality recently, a well-commanded slider, went just 1/31 whiffs. You probably expected me to be here. There we go.
Hunter Brown (HOU) @ BAL (L) – 6.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 97 pitches.
We’re not quite there yet as Hunter allowed most of his hits on breakers that fell comfortably into the zone. He’s close, but nailing down the precision of his slider and curve is what’s holding him back from expected dominance. It’ll come.
Bryce Elder (ATL) @ PIT (L) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 87 pitches.
Well dangit. I consider Elder a Toby these days and relatively safe to stream and yet, here we are. His pitch separation is still really good with sinkers armside and sliders gloveside and I’d still start him against the Yankees as that team is going through things. Solid Win chance there.
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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