The Gaus That Kevin Built

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Thursday.

What a magical season for Kevin Gausman. After a horrendous 5.72 ERA and 1.42 WHIP as he bounced between the Braves and Reds, shifting from starter to reliever and struggling to find his way, Gausman got a chance to start fresh with the Giants and took full advantage. Following last night’s 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 9 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 32% CSW – hey, that’s a Gallows Pole! – Gausman boasts a 3.68 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a whopping 15% SwStr rate that fueled an elite 32% strikeout rate. Magnificent.

The question now is what to make of this moving forward. Gausman will be a free agent next season and you have to hope he lands somewhere that returns an easier schedule than 2020. Out of his eleven games, one saw Slam Diego, two were in Coors, and three were against the Dodgers, while just the Diamondbacks and here Rockie Road marked the only starts of respite along the way. His approach has been a full embrace of the BSB, pushing his four-seamer to an 11% SwStr for the first time in his career (raising his velocity back up to 95+ mph certainly helps, too), while his splitter stayed down and pushed its SwStr even further to 25%, the highest of his career. All great things here.

I look at his 3.68 ERA and think “well, he had a rough schedule with half of his opponents coming against elite offenses”, but I can’t escape that this was a small sample for a pitcher who has struggled with volatility for much of his career. He does throw a splitter as his #2 pitch after all.

If some are placing Gausman inside the Top 50 for next year, I think I’m avoiding. There is a cliff in drafts each year where you shift from reliable arms to upside arms you’re okay dropping early and while Gausman will be near the top of the latter list, I get a sense the cliff will be later than the early 40s it was this season. There were more arms that improved this year (Burnes, Ian Anderson, PabLo, Plesac, Civale, Lamet, etc.) vs. pitchers that fell dramatically (Bumgarner, Weaver, Verlander…?) and without a strong third pitch, I can’t shake that worry of volatility over six months. (A six month season! Can you imagine?!)

 

Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:

 

Chad Kuhl vs CHC (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Look at you Kuhl! Your sinker has continued its velocity descent to just 93.1 mph and I’m terrified for 2021 unless that changes, but you peppered effective breakers all day, with sliders for whiffs and curveballs for strikes. Amen to that.

Hyun Jin Ryu vs NYY (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 23% CSW. Aces gonna ace – that’s a 2.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 26% strikeout rate for 12 starts (he made all of them!) and 67 IP. I really need to be changing my approach Ryu after yet another strong sample, though I can’t help but escape the feeling that the moment I embrace him is the moment it’ll fall apart. I guess I just need to power through that.

Ian Anderson vs MIA (L) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Atta boy Anderson. I’m in for 2021 and I get a sense he’ll be somewhat cheap in drafts…? Maybe not, I often under-estimate how high SP will go in drafts as we need all winter to craft our new interpretations of the SP landscape. With Anderson’s north-south mechanics, I see a tinge of Lucas Giolito in here with a better #3 pitch, but not the same fastball and changeup quite yet. The man can be that Double-Helix of fast/slow balls though and I’m down to take the dive next year.

Pablo Lopez @ ATL (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 23% CSW. I’m so thrilled to see it – REDEMPTION HAS ARRIVED. Changeups were down again, cutters were better as they stayed up-and-in to left-handers, but the four-seamer command wasn’t as precise as we’ve seen. It may surprise you to hear that his changeup isn’t the elite whiff pitch it was at the beginning of the year. Originally around 25%-30%, it’s fallen to sub 18% through his full season. Still great, but it hasn’t solidified as an elite pitch like we hoped (19% CSW here). Not yet, at least, and it could continue its path for 2021.

Walker Buehler vs OAK (ND) – 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 32% CSW. What a lost season for Buehler. Draft him with confidence next year, he’s still dope.

David Peterson @ WSH (W) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 31% CSW. After earning 23 whiffs last time with a stupid good slider, the strikeouts were a bit underwhelming this time around, but he made up for it with ratios. He’s a Toby for next year with a tinge of strikeout upside and while there’s a chance at that breakout if he really comes into that slider, I would only consider him as a late-round flier, especially if the matchups are good early on.

Alex Cobb @ BOS (W) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 27% CSW. The lad did it again. He ended his season with a pair of strong outings, albeit with nine strikeouts combined, but whatever, this helped. I’m glad you could do that, Cobb. Now stay out of my 2021 Top 100.

Dallas Keuchel @ CLE (ND) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 25% CSWThat works Keuchel, completing your case for Spider-Man with a 1.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and just 16% strikeout rate. Man, that’s just everything we could have truly hoped for. Okay, maybe a few more strikeouts next time?

Kwang Hyun Kim vs MIL (W) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 24% CSW. Great stuff Kim, you’ve solidified yourself as one of the stronger Toby options for next season. I get it as a safer pick if you’ve taken plenty of risk, but yeah, I don’t draft Tobys, y’all know that. A little different for QS leagues, though.

Mike Fiers @ LAD (L) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 20% CSW. Sure, I’m glad Fiers could survive against the Dodgers. I have no feelings one way or another.

Patrick Corbin vs NYM (L) – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 10 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 18% CSW. Blegh. What are we doing with Corbin for 2021? I. Don’t. Know. There will be some that just throw away 2021 stats, there will be others that heavily lean on them. For Corbin, he’s still hovering 91 mph and I don’t see something so ridiculously off that I’d avoid for 2021. It speaks to “give this man a proper off-season to get in rhythm and he’ll be solid.” I wonder what ADP will outline and if it settles around the 30th SP or so, I think I’m game. He’ll get the innings and strikeouts, alright.

Cristian Javier @ TEX (W) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 32% CSWHe served you a Philly against the weak Rangers, but that WHIP and six Ks work. I’m not excited about Javier for 2021 as his breaking ball isn’t being used as a major putaway pitch yet, but it’s good to see him sit around 93 mph this time instead of the 91/92 we normally see. There’s some potential, but it should take some time and you’ll draft him wondering what you should do in April. That’s not for me.

Jordan Montgomery @ TOR (L) – 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 33% CSWOn one hand, I’m thrilled The Bear was able to win a King Coleon the other, it was just a 33% rate and showcases how rough of a day for pitching it was. Anyway, with JorMont, I think I’ll be all over him as my #6th starter if he’s clearly in the rotation for next year (I’m not sure why the Yankees wouldn’t go for it), his velocity has bumped up to sitting ~93 mph, multiple secondary pitches can do great things, like his curveball prior and changeup here – 9 whiffs at 41% CSW – and with more time, I see a guy who is a stable ratio/Win arm with a strikeout rate pushing 25%. That sounds excellent to me.

Chi Chi Gonzalez @ SF (ND) – 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 19% CSWThere was a deeeep outside shot at this one working and to CCG’s credit, he was close to a VVPQSbut yeah, not enough.

Corbin Burnes @ STL (L) – 3.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 26% CSW. Boooo-urnes! No! He had no command of his heaters in this one, forcing him to go cutter/slider/changeup heavy and it didn’t work like you’d want to – Note: he did leave this game with back discomfort and it may have been the cause of his command issues, though he’s known to have a bit volatile fastball command. There’s going to be a lot of debate about Burnes this off-season and really, it’s simpler than you think. It’s a coin-flip of upside and we need to start talking about this more often. There isn’t a blueprint that says Burnes will continue to be dope or that he will take a major step back. It’s like Bieber or Corbin of old – a pick on Burnes is a roll of the dice. You know this, I know this, it’s all about if you want to take that gamble or not. I’m leaning no as I feel stronger about the paths of others, but I totally understand if you do.

Zach Plesac vs CWS (ND) – 6.2 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 21% CSW. This has Careful, Icarus all over it as Plesac allowed 3 ER in the seventh frame. Blegh. I know this is crazy and stupid, but let’s say he gets pulled after six innings and doesn’t pitch in the seventh. Plesac jumps from a 2.28 ERA down to a 1.81 for 2020. HA. Paired that with a 0.80 WHIP and 28% strikeout rate and yeah, I’m down for 2021. I like that his draft stock will likely be depressed a touch given it was just 55 innings and eight starts (that’s right, Plesac averaged nearly SEVEN INNINGS PER START) as I trust the new skill set with slider increasing seven points in SwStr to 24%, changeup jumping four points to 17%, and curveball stealing strikes in the zone more often. It’s possible I’m overlooking his downtick in velocity from 94 mph to 93 mph, but the pitch was still effective and hey, he’s young. That can correct itself.

Kris Bubic vs DET (ND) – 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 26% CSW. Nooooo, that changeup was atrocious in this game, allowing for the Tigers – a team that has been surprisingly excellent against left-handers – take full advantage of Bubic. I don’t think I’m interested in Bubic for 2021 as his stuff is still raw – I don’t blame him, he hadn’t pitched above High-A before this season.

Alec Mills @ PIT (L) – 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 22% CSW. Bleeegggggh. We felt lucky that he got the Pirates instead of the White Sox, but I wish it never happened as it made many jump back for one more start. He’ll likely get a rotation spot again next year unless the Cubs go wild in free agency and sadly, all I see is a guy hoping to be a TobyThat ain’t my style.

Michael Fulmer @ KC (ND) – 2.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 0 Ks – 1 Whiffs, 14% CSW. You couldn’t even give me a semblance of hope, could you. 92.7 mph velocity?! Seriously?

Martin Perez vs BAL (L) – 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 17% CSW. Blegggh. Perez has been dancing between stable Toby and Double Bubble all year and I understand hoping for this one to go better, but his changeup decided against your wishes and this was…yeah. No thanks for 2021.

Lance Lynn vs HOU (L) – 5.2 IP, 9 ER, 12 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Fun fact that isn’t fun but maybe it is, I don’t know – Lynn’s 2020 ERA jumped from 2.52 to 3.32 because of this start. Man, for a guy that carried you through the entire season, this stung. A lot. I feel for all of you that were relying on this for your ship. Now looking to 2021, I think this helps us because it should depress some of his value. This was a Top 15 SP and now he may be in the Top 20/25 discussion. I’m down, give me Lynn as my #2 SP all day.

 

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.

 

Daniel Ponce de Leon vs. Milwaukee Brewers – He’s been on fire and tossing over 85 pitches per start. Hopefully he has one left in the tank.

 

Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

John Means vs. Toronto Blue Jays – He just fanned twelve batters and his changeup command was better than we’ve seen. One more time, Means, you gots this.

 

Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

JT Brubaker vs. Cleveland Indians – It looks like he’s getting the start and I’m down.

 

Game of the Day

 

Carlos Carrasco vs. Mitch Keller – There are a ton of good games here (Kershaw vs. Heaney!) as we have 18 games ahead. Happy Friday :)

 

(Photo by Cody Glenn/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 King Donko of Punchstania says:

    Re. Burnes: What’s not to like about an overhauled approached that returns a 46% GB rate, 3.17 SIERA, 14.5% SwStr rate, 37 hits allowed in 59 IP, and a 37% K rate?

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      Not Nick, but I will play. Personally, I don’t like the lack of a track record, the career high K rate and the high strand rate. The thing I like the least is his fluke HR rate – that explains his fluke ERA. That doesn’t mean he is not good – it just means that we don’t know what he is or whether he can maintain it over a real workload. I think the fact that he was getting bullpen looks going back to the minor leagues is a bit concerning – there are probably some ugly underlying factors like health. In looking at his pitch data, he does look intriguing but there is no reason to get too carried away with anything from 2020. Personally, I would be willing to take a chance as there is a lot to like but volatility is a problem. I have a feeling that you will have to pay through the nose on him next year which represents the real problem. Its not like you will be able to snag him as a 5th starter. There are so many glowing spots in his stats from this joke of a season that there will be people fighting over him in most drafts. What if he is going near Lance Lynn? I imagine he might…

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    I watched Ryu a week ago. First time in TOR and I agree that he is a TOR pitcher. Sure, take the under on IP but he is one of the best in baseball despite the lack of a showy FB, name, etc.

    RE: Anderson – Zero chance any young player goes cheap in drafts. Especially a player on ATL. TB and ATL are the most media hyped teams of the past few years. That stuff matters! I always try to avoid players on media teams… it doesn’t always work lol.

    As one that died with Lynn in this start. You didn’t pay for a #1. You probably paid for a #3 or 4 I would imagine, so that is a plus. Nobody drafts Lynn that high as there are way more hyped options. How crazy is everyone involved that they left him out there for 10 runs? it wasn’t a bad inning… it was a bludgeoning from start to finish. That inflated ERA is that way because of the IP that he guarantees. In a QS league or one that doesn’t revolve around ratios he is best.

    Re: JF and WB. Sad to see how the young aces in the game were handled this year. Maybe if we talk enough about how babying SP doesn’t help them in any way we can make a difference. The folks making up these new paradigms have zero understanding of baseball whatsoever. We need more Lance Lynn, Trevor Bauer types.. what are these people thinking? You can see with your own eyes that pitching deep doesn’t stop those guys from succeeding.

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