Cease And Persist

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Saturday.

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

Dylan Cease (CWS) vs MIN (W) – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 103 pitches.

Okay okay okay, Dylan Cease has been ridiculously good and I’m bracing myself for the tail-between-my-legs apologies across the off-season ahead. How good has he been? Well last night’s near no-hitter – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 103 pitches – brings his ERA down to 2.13 with a 1.08 WHIP, and 31.4% strikeout rate across 156 innings. That’s the sixth-best ERA and seventh-best strikeout rate among all starting pitchers. Yeah.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s pretty simple how he’s doing this. His slider has been consistently commanded all year and holds some of the best metrics on the pitch across the majors. 24% SwStr rate, a stupid low 12.4% Hard Contact rate, .132 xAVG, and a 38% CSW. He’s improved its strike rate three full ticks as he’s earned more chases on it while bumping its usage from 31% to 43%. We often say “hey, throw your best pitch more!” and what normally holds pitchers back is the idea the pitch gets worse when overused. It’s remarkable to see a 50% boost in usage and for it to get better – more strikes, more whiffs, and a lower average allowed. Incredible.

The other hesitation I had for Cease was his four-seamer and curveball – they hurt Cease plenty in 2021 and I didn’t have faith they’d get better. Thing is, the fastball didn’t get better (fewer strikes, everything else nearly the same) though throwing it less often prevented batters from sitting on the pitch, thus lowering its hard contact allowed. And the curve, well, it dropped in CSW, has allowed more hard contact, a worse average, and it doesn’t matter. The slider is just that good.

So that’s the story. Cease’s story is phenomenal, he threw it more while making it better (a rare feat), his fastball and curve stayed just as middling, and voila, there’s a possible Cy Young in Chicago. I can’t help but have some concerns about this formula working again for another full year, but when you throw one of the better pitches in the game close to 50% of the time, good things are bound to happen.

 

Let’s see how every other SP did Saturday:

 

Corey Kluber (TB) vs NYY (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 41% CSW, 88 pitches.

That’s a King Cole as the Yankee offense is just so dang bad these days. It’s Aaron Judge & Friends as he totally ripped my podcast name. As for Kluber, he had his cutter and curveball cooking, even raising the velocity to 90 mph (yes, raising as it’s been 89 mph all year), helping the sinker earn 13 called strikes. And guess what, we don’t expect the Yankees to be a whole lot better next weekend so why not, toss Kluber against them on Friday, too. LET IT RIIIIIIDE!

Robbie Ray (SEA) @ CLE (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 87 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. We’re spoiled and want more than three strikeouts, but I’ll graciously bow and thank him for his efforts. Be gracious.

Brayan Bello (BOS) vs TEX (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 88 pitches.

Ayyyyy alright! Bello struggled against the Twins and rebounded against the Rangers. The sinker sat 96 mph and found the zone often, the changeup earned some whiffs, and the slider…has some work to do. He may just be a Cherry Bomb where the sweet isn’t the most dominating thing (just nine whiffs, y’all), and with that in mind, it’s an uneasy start against the Orioles next.

Bryce Elder (ATL) vs MIA (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 83 pitches.

Elder’s last two starts have been against the Marlins and he’s dominated in both. Thing is, he’s already back to the minors, again, and all we can do is thank him for his service. Jake Odorizzi should be back later this week against the Mariners.

Trevor Richards (TOR) @ PIT (ND) – 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 52% CSW, 25 pitches.

We expected a short outing here as Richards made way for Yusei Kikuchiwho went 2.1 innings. These bullpen games are really tough to write blurbs for and I’M SICK OF IT.

Shohei Ohtani (LAA) vs HOU (ND) – 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 111 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Ohtani, what a wonderful man you are. I should have never doubted you, too. 53% slider usage, by the way, as it’s a Top 10 pitch in baseball IMO.

Patrick Corbin (WSH) @ NYM (W) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 85 pitches.

Say whaaaaat. Congrats Corbin, you deserve to have fun days, too, you know. Hope the cake was lovely at your Birthday Party.

Luis Garcia (HOU) @ LAA (ND) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 94 pitches.

Okay GOOD. It’s about dang time a secondary pitch stepped up and it’s the…curveball?! The pitch went a ridiculous 10/23 CSW and I’m floored. Garcia has been cutter or slider dominant in the past, with the curve showing up in small bits here and there. I’m glad he found something (and hey, it earned him a Gallows Pole!), but he also sat a tick down on the heater and didn’t have his cutter. Show it again, Garcia, otherwise I think this was a one-off where the hook showed up and it masked everything else.

Julio Urías (LAD) vs SD (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 78 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. 93 mph heater is fine with me and that curve is so dang good. Lovely job this year, Julio.

Roansy Contreras (PIT) vs TOR (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 92 pitches.

Whoaaaa awesome job Contreras. (Sidenote: that Whoaaaa is me replicating a March Madness announcer going to commercial break where the #14 seed is within 4 with five minutes to go). Roansy is still going near 50% sliders and it’s clearly working, while the four-seamer is still a little bit of a work in progress. At least it found the zone a bit more here, but he’s not fully polished yet. It makes me still hesitant to start him against the Cardinals next, but likely better than other options on the wire. Good luck.

Max Scherzer (NYM) vs WSH (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 67 pitches.

Aces gonna ace and leave early with “fatigue” in his side. He’s not expected to miss a start, but it is a bit disheartening right before (or during) your fantasy playoffs. Let’s all hope he’s okay.

Edward Cabrera (MIA) @ ATL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 98 pitches.

Well ain’t that more like it. The curveball took center stage with 37% usage for a whopping 42% CSW, resulting in just 20% fastballs thrown – this is a guy with a 95.6 mph heater and he holds it back 80% of the time. I LOVE IT. He still needs to work on finding strikes a bit more consistently, which may be a problem against the Mets next time out, but long term, Cabrera is something I’m absolutely here for.

Austin Voth (BAL) vs OAK (ND) – 3.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 70 pitches.

Awwww, just 3.1 frames?! This is all kinds of disappointing, even if he didn’t hurt your ERA, just WHIP. I hope that’s not a new trend for Voth – he did labor a fair amount here and likely should go 80+ against Boston. I’ll be slotting him near the top of questionable for that start in my daily streaming rankings.

Dennis Santana (TEX) @ BOS (L) – 2.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 39% CSW, 36 pitches.

Oh dang, it’s Santana, as he “opened” for Hearn, who tossed just five pitches more. We can move on.

Jonathan Heasley (KC) @ DET (W) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 108 pitches.

Blame it on the Tigers. Even though it was a 1.43 WHIP. And just two strikeouts. I just gave a chuckle as I saw that Heasley faces the Tigers again for his next start. Of course he does, why would the baseball gods give us a straightforward decision? I’d say no – his command was really rough and his stuff just isn’t that good.

Madison Bumgarner (ARI) vs MIL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 95 pitches.

He outdueled Burnes and I still dislike it. Coors is next, and we’re moving on.

Jakob Junis (SF) vs PHI (ND) – 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 78 pitches.

Blegh. The slider and sinker had some moments, but he was a little too hittable. The changeup of old wasn’t here, either, though this could be enough for the Brewers next time across roughly the same amount of pitches. There’s a chance, just not one you necessarily want to make.

Clarke Schmidt (NYY) @ TB (L) – 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 63 pitches.

I’m sad the Yankees pulled him at just 63 pitches here and it brings a haze to his future value + it’s the Twins next + Nestor Cortes could return this week. So yeah, let’s not do this, even if the slider is still a strong pitch and tossed 43% of the time.

Noah Syndergaard (PHI) @ SF (ND) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 75 pitches.

What are we gonna do with you? Ah right. Drop. Wait what?! Yeaaaah, if the guy can’t handle the Giants and hasn’t been all too wonderful anyway, why are you holding onto him? Because he’s a TobyBut that’s only when you don’t have anything better on the wire. I’m inclined to believe there is…ah FINE. The Marlins are next. FINE. Hold for that. You win this round Thor…

Xzavion Curry (CLE) vs SEA (L) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 5 BBs, 0 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 93 pitches.

Womp womp. I think he has intriguing stuff, but hot dang that command has to get in check. Too many free throws to first for Curry.

Adam Wainwright (STL) vs CHC (W) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 9 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 82 pitches.

Okay this one hurt. Sure, you got a Win, but those ratios are brutal as Waino’s sinker failed him + the curve and cutter got laced a few too many times. He should rebound against Natty Lite, though I feel your pain.

Tyler Mahle (MIN) @ CWS (L) – 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 0 Ks – 1 Whiffs, 19% CSW, 37 pitches.

The Twins pulled Mahle early in his return from the IL with shoulder inflammation…and was placed back on the IL. UGH.

Corbin Burnes (MIL) @ ARI (ND) – 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 110 pitches.

Aces gonna…oh dear. Oh no no no. The cutter was hung a good amount and the Sneks slapped it around. That’s pretty much it as when he didn’t hang it, Burnes was as filthy as ever. You’re a fantasy manager and need some magic right about now and that’s four straight starts of sadness. I feel for you, this is a TIARA situation and you have to keep the faith.

Michael Pineda (DET) vs KC (L) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 80 pitches.

Pineda is back and tried to plod along like the good ole days. Excuse me, sir. Respect the sign: “No Plodding.” How dare you, Pineda. Have some manners. He’ll get another try and that’s a clear avoid to me. He doesn’t have it.

Adam Oller (OAK) @ BAL (L) – 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 8 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 95 pitches.

But I’m not like Oller guys! Yes, you are. Literally. I think this start really shows how bad the Yankee offense is after Oller went eight shutout last weekend. Yeeeeesh.

Drew Smyly (CHC) @ STL (L) – 2.1 IP, 7 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 64 pitches.

Womp womp. It was a tough call as the hot Cardinals offense collided with Smyly’s fantastic stretch and we saw a few things – a tick lower velocity (possibly a bit fatigued for 64 pitches in 2.1 frames), and fewer heaters missing bats. Still, the command is there and I think Smyly’s talent is good enough to hold against the Giants next. I’m not giving up yet.

Sean Manaea (SD) @ LAD (L) – 4.1 IP, 8 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 90 pitches.

We saw this coming and now Manaea gets the Dodgers again. Yep.

 

Game of the Day

 

Pablo López vs. Max Fried – Ummm duh.

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 Frank Jansky/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.

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