The Fox and the Hendricks

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Friday.

Opening Day, like real Opening Day with 28 different pitchers starting games was incredible. Yes, I hung out with the Discord from 4:00 pm through nearly midnight talking about the games as they were happening, because how could I not?

With Opening Day comes the craziness of players performing in the ultra-short sample size, yet forcing you to reconsider everything. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t feel a tinge of that with Kyle Hendricks after he came four pitches shy of a Maddux with an ace line of 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 9 Ks against the Brewers. 17 whiffs and a 34% CSW too are absolutely no joke and here I am, Mr. “stick Hendricks in the mid-40s ranks” Pollack waking up to texts of people questioning my Hendricks rank. Well deserved: Hendricks was not the pitcher I expected, or anyone expected, really, to show up yesterday and maybe I have been too harsh on him, especially since arms like Boyd and Montas looked unpolished in their premier outings. Hendricks had his changeup working, sinkers avoiding the heart of the plate, curveballs effectively sprinkled in, and even high four-seamers to earn a few whiffs. It was brilliant, all at 87/88 mph heaters. 

So hold tight, let’s hope his overall rhythm and feel sticks around. This was a lovely ceiling and likely the best we’ll see of him all year, but nevertheless I’ll be raising him a little on Monday — I can’t go too far after just one outing. I hope looking back at 2020 is more than a thumbs up, but instead an emphatic 2015 mid-air fist pump a la Dwight Schrute. We all want that energy now and then.

Let’s see how every other SP did Friday:

Shane Bieber vs. KC (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 14 Ks, 21 Whiffs, 38% CSWAces gonna ace with a golden 21 whiffs showcasing his “Gallows Pole.” It was an absolute joy to watch Bieber do his thing against the Royals, oddly a bit inefficiently in the first few frames. He even showed off a different changeup that went 2/6 CSW, but the real star was fastball command. So many lovely spotted heaters that made Royals hitters fall over to his impeccably placed low breakers. We were wondering if he would still be in a groove, the answer is, undoubtedly, yes.

Chris Paddack vs. ARI (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 10 Whiffs, 35% CSWAces gonna ace. It’s kinda expected to see a relatively low strikeout count from Paddack relative to the others around him, but his efficiency of called strikes paired with weaker-than-average contact is why we like him so much. Expect more of these games of 6+ frames and you’ll be happy to own Paddack. Just not like Bieber happy, of course. Weird side note: I totally don’t pronounce Paddack’s name like the aliens from Mars Attacks when I’m alone. No, definitely not. Who would do that.

Lance Lynn vs. COL (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 4 BBs, 9 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 25% CSW – Aces gonna ace. Leave it to Lynn on Opening Day when many pitchers are getting an early hook to finish the fifth inning at 96 pitches and say Nah, I’m going another inning. He managed to get a runner on and stayed in the game to complete the Quality Start. What. A. Stud. The four walks were a bit shocking, though. Lynn embraced his heater in the zone last year watching batters struggle to do anything with them and I’m not used to him nibbling this much. That should change and you should be thrilled you went with Lynn. He’ll be a rock for you all year.

Mike Soroka @ NYM (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 26% CSW – Surprises can be really cool, and here I had the understanding Soroka would go about four frames. What I clearly didn’t consider enough was Soroka’s ability to get through six frames under 70 pitches. Seeing just 9 whiffs and a sub -30% CSW doesn’t shock me given the low pitch count, but I’m still waiting for that next gear where he can do more than 5 whiffs between his slider and changeup. I think it’s there eventually, but nothing in this start said “oh, he’s different!” And that’s fine. Next start may be worse, given he’ll likely be capped around 80-85 pitches, but maybe that’s just another six frames because that’s what Soroka does.

Jacob deGrom vs. ATL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BB, 8 Ks, 16 Whiffs, 39% CSW – Aces gonna ace. Man, that was fun watching him hit 100 mph against Ronald Acuña to start the day. He was pulled at just 72 pitches given his back issues and didn’t get a win because lol Mets, so yeah, it’s deGrom.

Danny Duffy @ CLE (L) – 4.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BB, 2 Ks, 2 Whiffs, 15% CSW – Way better than expected from Duffy, and in my head clearly the better stream (that I would not have suggested anyone make), but my heart wanted Milone because that would have been more, well, lovely. Anyway, just a 15% CSW from Duffy is terribly low and you know you don’t want to do this save for a rare stream. Keep in mind, he threw just 65 pitches here so it may be another start or two until he has the volume to consider for a proper stream.

Ross Stripling vs. SF (W) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BB, 7 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 29% CSW – So. .. I completely misread this one. Sure, it was the Giants and Stripling did great things against a weak opponent, but I also anticipated that the Dodgers would use their bullpen a bit more aggressively here. How often do you see a Dodgers starter not named Kershaw or Buehler go more than six frames?! A bit odd to see just one whiff on 23 curves thrown, though his changeup returned 8/19 CSW and that’s something to be thrilled about. No reason not to be happy with holding Stripling right now and I hope he continues it against the Diamondbacks. Not a given there, but I’ll raise him in the ranks a bit.

Sandy Alcantara @ PHI (W) – 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks, 13 Whiffs, 36% CSW – I was tempted to lead with Sandy as I was incredibly impressed watching him perform against the Phillies. We’re talking 97 mph sinkers — well-commanded sinkers at that falling off the inside corner and even elevated at times — paired with a 90+ mph changeup that left hitters baffled. His slider showed promise as well, though he did get burned on it once or twice and is the clear #3 at the moment. There’s a lot to like and he’ll continue to go deep into games for the Marlins. Now he gets the Orioles, Phils, and Mets, and I’m excited for the three weeks ahead.

Sonny Gray vs. DET (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks, 14 Whiffs, 40% CSWAces gonna ace. Gray absolutely steamrolled over the Tigers, save for a CJ Cron no-doubter and he’s picking up exactly where he left off last season.

Nathan Eovaldi vs. BAL (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks, 7 Whiffs, 31% CSWThis is the only reason I drafted Eovaldi in the 20th round of my drafts. You did so much for us, earning a win and boosting our ratios, but sadly seeing just three whiffs against the Orioles — three! — doesn’t give me much hope for the future … well maybe. 31% CSW is solid as he earned over 20 called strikes, but it was a lot middle and down, not up. I’m not sure I’m okay with that against the Mets, Rays, and Jays next. On to the next guy.

German Marquez @ TEX (L) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks, 15 Whiffs, 27% CSW – His slider and curveball looked good here, earning 11/39 whiffs in this one, even carrying a no-hitter until the fateful sixth frame, but ran into trouble and gave us a Philly in the end. That slider is key to Marquez having long-term success, but I think it’s a bench in Coors next week against the Padres. I’m cool with Coors + Giants though.

Andrew Heaney @ OAK (ND) – 4.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks, 13 Whiffs, 31% CSWHeaney looked as good as we’ve seen in this one, nailing the top of the zone with sinkers while keeping his curveballs low. Just one mistake deuce here to Ramon Laureano was the sole ER and that’ll happen, but you should be thrilled where the southpaw is right now. He could have cruised through six easily if he weren’t pulled just 67 pitches, so let’s hope he gets at least a cool five next time out against the Mariners followed by … the Mariners. Beautiful.

Marco Gonzales @ HOU (L) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks, 4 Whiffs, 33% CSWHey, we expected a lot worse against the Astros! He had a pair of inherited runners that returned the L at the end of the day, but not so bad, Marco. Not so bad.

Frankie Montas vs. LAA (ND) – 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks, 6 Whiffs, 32% CSWMontas looked all over the place here and was fortunate to strike out the side in the first as he left the bases loaded. He was possibly too amped as he was overthrowing his heater in the first inning, but he settled down a bit to toss some fantastic sinkers later on and I’m still on the train. Just tone it down a little and we’ll see those 6-7 IP games soon enough.

Tyler Anderson @ LAD (L) – 1.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 0 Ks, 2 Whiffs, 21% CSWOh hey, it’s Tyler. The one you hadn’t thought about in roughly 20 months. I remember those days when he was a fun stream on the Rockies. Those were the days.

Jack Flaherty vs. PIT (W) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 37% CSWAces gonna ace. So Flaherty looked immortal once again until the seventh inning, where the Pirates knocked four hits around for two runs. Not as ultra-dominant as we saw in the back half of 2020, but definitely better than the first half of 2020. So we’re cool.

Justin Verlander vs. SEA (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 29% CSWAces gonna ace. The two HRs weren’t “bouncy ball” here, those were legit mistakes that were LAUNCHED by Kyle one and Kyle two. I know there was concern about his new mechanics and maybe that was part of the problem here, but Verlander was still above 95 mph and looking solid. Everything is fine here.

Joe Musgrove @ STL (L) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks, 11 Whiffs, 33% CSW – Musgrove served us a Philly, even getting a double-play grounder with one out that just missed getting turned. He got the hook with runners on first and third, and saw another ER get added to his books moments later. Blegh. I’m a little conflicted about this performance. On one hand, we saw sub-50% fastballs in favor of more breakers and changeups, leading to a 33% CSW and seven Ks. We also saw around 92 mph instead of the 94 mph we saw in the spring + a lapse in command. I’m hoping there’s another proper gear still left to unlock here for Musgrove, but we may not get fully excited until that Tigers start in August. Until then it’s the Brewers next (I’m fine with that) and Twins (that’s a bench). I know, I’ll have Hendricks above him. Okay?

Brandon Woodruff @ CHC (L) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 7 Whiffs, 25% CSW – We saw the velocity back in a big way at 97 mph, we didn’t see his slider do much of anything, though his changeup was a bit better than what we saw last year. Still, those five frames weren’t Camp Counseling, that was Woodruff needing 85 pitches to get through five. He’s safe to start, clearly, just maybe temper your expectations. A little.

Madison Bumgarner @ SD (L) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 26% CSW – Awwwwww he was so close! Bases loaded, 0-2 count, two outs and Bumgarner hangs a curveball that’s roped for a three-run double by … Eric HosmerThanks for the Philly. That’s not to say that Bumgarner looked exceptional in this one, though. His heater averaged just 88 mph, appeasing Marty and Doc at our expense. We did see that higher reliance on curveballs like we hoped, but it returned just 2/24 whiffs — not close to the 15%+ SwStr mark we wanted. I’m a little worried, but at worst he’s a Toby. And he did push 100 pitches out of the gate, which is exactly what we wanted to see. He’ll be a workhorse for you.

Aaron Nola vs. MIA (L) – 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BB, 7 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 34% CSW – Nola against the Marlins should go better, shouldn’t it? He was looking mighty pretty, but then threw an 0-2 curveball that landing low-middle in the zone that Jesus Aguilar crushed. So close, Nola. His changeups were downright pretty and I loved his emphasis on feeding them to right-handers. So no worries here, just one mistake away from the proper Miami beatdown you expected.

Hyun-Jin Ryu @ TB (ND) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks, 10 Whiffs, 27% CSW – The Rays are a good offense and while I think Ryu is better than this, he isn’t so much better to make this is a massive shock. Spin-kick Shake it off Ryu, you’ll be okay.

Matthew Boyd @ CIN (L) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks, 8 Whiffs, 24% CSW – Oh Boyd. This was such a stressful event, despite my elation of watching Boyd again after witnessing his stellar performance against the Yankees first hand in the spring. What went wrong? Everything. He couldn’t find his slider or curveball in the first inning, leading to 2 ER on three base-runners + 2 HBP, and his fastball command wasn’t terrible, but not great. He eventually found his slider for a moment later in the game, but it was too late. Uggggggh. Fastball was 92/94, which is good, but we didn’t see his changeup that got us amped, and this just isn’t the guy we were stoked about. Now, that doesn’t mean he won’t be the guy we’re hyped about for the rest of the year, just that he looked like brownie batter and needed more time in the oven. Yes, batter, since a well-cooked Boyd is Hansel a wonderful thing. I understand if you’re tempted to bench moving forward, but it’s the Royals next and I’m banking on this being more of a wonky rail on the track rather than a bridge under repair.

Tommy Milone @ BOS (L) – 2.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks, 13 Whiffs, 37% CSWI really wanted this to work and at least he had a 37% CSW and 13 whiffs! But fine, it’s the Red Sox and Milone is still Milone at the end of the day. When he gets a chance against a weak offense, look at that CSW and wonder if you need to be sneaky. It could work, I tell ya.

Jose Berrios @ CWS (ND) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BB, 1 Ks, 6 Whiffs, 23% CSW – If you asked who was going to grant us our first HAISTFMFWT?! of the year, I don’t think would have said Berrios, BUT HERE WE ARE. What a game this was as we didn’t see an empty half inning until the third, even at five apiece. Berrios struggled to put pitches where he wanted to, earned just 2/21 whiffs on curveballs, and it was a whole lot of blegh. I’d still be throwing Berrios out there, of course, as that schedule gets plenty easier against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. This was bad though. Like St. Anger bad.

Charlie Morton vs. TOR (L) – 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 8 Whiffs, 22% CSWWait, Morton. No, this isn’t what we talked about. He had his moments in this one, but overall the Jays offense had their way with Morton. Now he gets the Braves and Red Sox but I’m not scared and you shouldn’t be either. Morton is still good. Update: Commenter Derek pointed out that Morton was sitting ~92/93mph yesterday instead of the 94/95 we saw last year. That is a bit scary and slightly actionable, but it could be a product of the weirdness that is 2020 and something that could climb back in future starts. We’ll be monitoring this.

Lucas Giolito vs. MIN (L) – 3.2 IP, 7 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks, 13 Whiffs, 28% CSWOhhhh no that ain’t good. Max Kepler went yard twice and the powerful — like legit unreal powerful — Twins offense made Giolito pay. His changeup looked good, but his curveball and slider did not (though I did squeal when I saw Giolito land a curveball for a first-pitch strike in the second. That was cool). Nothing otherwise too alarming save for Giolito’s inability to be as effective as usual with heaters up in the zone. Without a breaking ball that’s effective on days where he can’t dominate with fastballs, we may see some more days like this one.

 

Today’s Streamer

 

For those unaware, I’m forced to make my streamer picks under the condition of sub-20% owned in Fantasy Pros’ consolidated ownership rates.

 

Martin Perez vs. Baltimore Orioles – You want a cheap Win? Here’s your cheap win. Perez could have his upped velocity from last year and the Orioles are not an offense to run from.

 

Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

Vince Velasquez vs. Miami Marlins – Still technically at just 4% on Fantasy Pros so that’s cool. He showcased a new changeup in the exhibition match against the Yankees, throwing it against right-handers and having success. It’s still VV so there’s innate volatility, but the Marlins is as loaded of a die you’ll find.

 

Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

Pablo Lopez vs. Baltimore Orioles – His changeup is getting used more often and could take advantage of the Orioles. Chris Bassitt against the Angels could pay off as well + Wade Miley as a deep option against the Cubs may work for a Win.

 

Game of the Day

 

Caleb Smith vs. Zack Wheeler – I want to see if Caleb’s velocity is back to 92/93 and if Wheeler is legit making changes as a Philly. There’s also Brady Singer vs. Mike Clevinger which I’ll be turning into a Brady Singer GIF Breakdown this evening at around 8:00 pm EST. Look out for that.

 

(Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

  • Avatar Derek says:

    Morton looked like he was 90-93 on his fastball instead of 94-96. Does this worry you or just a wacky early season start?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Great point, that is a little scary to see from Morton after averaging 94/95 last year. I’ll add it to the Roundup.

      I’m willing to give cough it up to the weird season right now, but if it sticks, that is a cause for concern.

  • Avatar Perfect Game says:

    where would you rank Ray after the changes to his delivery? Would you take him ahead of Glasnow, Lynn or Giolio? I’m looking for it all – best choices for QS, K and ratios.

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      I don’t think I’d take Ray above those, no. Too soon for that.

      We’ll see how he looks! One start doesn’t define a season ahead.

  • Avatar brian says:

    Marco Gonzalez gave up 3 earned runs…not 1 earned run. thanks

  • Avatar Bunnhole says:

    Sand in my pants

  • Avatar Bunnhole says:

    The sand got in my pants😶

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