Toe-Hitter

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Wednesday.

Carlos Rodon vs CLE (W) – 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 114 pitches.

Obviously, we’re going to talk deeply about Carlos Rodón‘s near-perfect game against Cleveland, with a final line of 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks. The only blemish was hitting Roberto Pérez in the toe with a poorly executed back-foot slider in the ninth and who cares, it doesn’t change anything for your fantasy team. Rodón started slowly in this one, ramping up his velocity from 93 mph across the first three frames to 95 mph across all nine. His last two pitches were 98.8 and 97.5 mph. Yeah, adrenaline does things, but the fact this heat is in there is what we’re looking for here. It’s why he held 12 whiffs on four-seamers at a 26% SwStr rate. Yes, on a fastball.

It wasn’t just heat in this one. Rodón was able to get 60% strikes on sliders and boast a 38% CSW on changeups, with the latter being a very welcome surprise. It’s wonderful news all around, though I’d be lying if I didn’t want a few more than five whiffs on his slider. But whatever, no-hitters ‘n’ stuff.

So yeah, be happy you picked up Rodón after his impressive first outing, and let’s hope it stays hawt against the Red Sox next week.

 

Let’s see how every other SP did Wednesday:

Dustin May vs COL (ND) – 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 71 pitches.

Come on, you couldn’t let him go at least five frames here? I know it was a jam in the fifth, it’s just…this is Rockie Road! At least we’re seeing a touch more whiffs from May, even if no one pitch is getting it done. This start does spark hesitation given the lack of a signature whiff pitch (curveball + cutter = 3/22 whiffs) so I guess he’ll hover #50 on The List for now.

Jon Gray @ LAD (L) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 89 pitches.

Yeeeesh. It was the Dodgers and terrible luck for Gray to get them on your road start, but still. Ain’t much here to look at — 1/33 whiffs on sliders! — as we all collectively forget about him once again.

Joe Ross @ STL (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 89 pitches.

That’s the second straight impressive line from Ross as he survived the Dodgers last time out. It was good to see his slider perform better, but he’s still not quite missing bats like he used to. I’ll overlook that as his command was as good as I’ve ever seen it — he nailed glove-side heaters and kept sliders arm-side, creating superb pitch separation. He likely gets the Cardinals again, and it could be something you’d want. This is a very small margin of error without those whiffs, though.

Kohei Arihara @ TB (W) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 85 pitches.

He’s as “kitchen sink” as you’ll find with a repertoire seven pitches deep and it did a great job befuddling the Rays, including 5/9 whiffs on splitters. That’s pretty wonderful for a surprise offering. I don’t see Arihara as anything more than a possible Toby — “possible” being the keyword there — and I’d leave him on the wire, even after this solid outing.

Johnny Cueto vs CIN (W) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 68 pitches.

As he began proving that his last start was more than just embracing Rockie Road, he was forced to leave the game with a lat strain. Dang, he was under 70 pitches and could have legit made us interested, not to mention I can’t help but think of Cueto’s frustration as he’s pitching his best baseball since he signed with Giants years ago. Poor guy.

Corbin Burnes vs CHC (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 42% CSW, 81 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. This is getting dumb. Yes, yes, I’ll raise him up on The List, even if he’s going to get fewer innings than the rest. He’s just that good right now, making it no surprise he earned a King Cole. It’s way too fun to watch as he still barely throws his slider despite its 25% SwStr rate. He just doesn’t need to.

Tyler Anderson vs SD (W) – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 86 pitches.

While he’s not Top 10 in SwStr any longer, it’s amazing how pitchers have cruised through the Padres lineup since Tatís hit the IL. There’s nothing too exciting to report about Tyler save for his four-seamer once again stealing the CSW show with a 37% clip — the pitch was a shocking CSW darling last year. He gets a favorable start against Detroit next and despite what they’ve done to the Astros’ rotation, that could be a deep streaming option.

Joe Musgrove @ PIT (L) – 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 81 pitches.

Wait, what?! He allowed a hit?! After getting pushed last time out, I’m not too shocked he went just 81 pitches here, leading to an early hook. Cut him some dough, Joe, the dude did enough last week. The cutter and slider were both great again, while his four-seamer sat at 94 mph. This is going to be a fun year rostering Musgrove.

Kenta Maeda vs BOS (L) – 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 86 pitches.

I’m really conflicted. On one hand, Maeda earned a Gallows Pole and is keeping his ERA below 3.00. On the other, he simply can’t go deep into games, he still can’t find his splitter (13% CSW!), and his best pitch in this was his fastball at a 48% CSW. Whaaaaat. If you know Maeda, it’s all about whiffs and outs on his splitter and slider, while the fastball is just there to steal strikes against passive hitters. In this game? 9/29 whiffs off four-seamers. Yeah, weird. He’s not the same guy we saw in 2020 and while I think he’ll get better as that splitter returns, I can’t keep him up above the likes of Glasnow, Woodruff, Lynn, and Burnes. That just feels so wrong.

Brad Keller vs LAA (W) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 94 pitches.

Keller served you a Philly and helped in every way. Fastball was at a fantastic 94.3 mph (not 92!), but the breaker was mediocre once again. If he’s pumping 94+ against the Rays next time out, I’d take my chances, even without the breaker at its best. I just don’t know if he’ll hold it. Sidenote: That’s two straight Kansas City starters showcasing legit increased heat. I wonder if that’s more than a coincidence.

Tyler Mahle @ SF (L) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 38% CSW, 89 pitches.

Atta boy Mahle, you had plenty of success here even though your overall command was actually a good amount worse than we normally see. While I’m not scared for what’s ahead, I would have liked to have seen legit pitch separation instead of scattering fastballs and sliders all around the zone.

Eduardo Rodriguez @ MIN (W) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 76 pitches.

Ayyyy, Eduardo survived against Minnesota. I’ll take this all day as we expected Eduardo to still be limited to some degree and he was able to get a good amount of strikes on cutters. Nothing all too special here, and I’m still a touch hesitant to start him against the White Sox. He’s not a stud, you know.

Josh Fleming vs TEX (L) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 84 pitches.

Fleming got the call and I’m happy to see he was able to 84 pitches and five full frames. He wasn’t able to keep the incredible sinker/slider (or I guess it’s label a cutter now) pitch separation from last year, but his sinkers were well spotted and he shoved a 1 ER gem for Tampa Bay. I don’t really love it moving forward, but hey, maybe a rare stream here and there.

David Peterson vs PHI (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 80 pitches.

I’m pretty happy to see Peterson rack up 10 strikeouts and showcase increased velocity as he sat just above 93 mph for the night. I don’t love 1/20 whiffs on sliders, but I do like nine called strikes, so don’t blame Peterson for the Phillies’ passivity. All-in-all, it’s a decent outing, but not one that I truly buy with fastballs sitting middle often. Maybe the new velocity allows him to get by with it, but I think his repertoire is lacking enough that he’ll need better command to survive long term.

Griffin Canning @ KC (L) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 92 pitches.

The WHIP isn’t there, but I’ll take that ERA and five strikeouts from Canning. Streaming Record: 5-8. It was 47% sliders here and I wish we’d see a bit more of that curveball — I don’t trust his changeup nearly as much. It’s not the overwhelming performance that instills confidence save for a good matchup moving forward, but it’s Texas next and I’m okay with that.

Nathan Eovaldi @ MIN (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 82 pitches.

Despite a date with the Twins (just chose one, not both!), Eovaldi was able to keep his head above water and help your squads. He’s still leaning breaker over cutter, though the latter showed up and earned a ton of strikes at a 94% clip. Whoa. Curveball earned strikes as well and Minnesota didn’t exploit it. It’s the White Sox next, though, and while you may want to make this a Vargas Rule, I’d say “Why wait for the wall?” I’d see if there’s a solid replacement out there.

Michael Fulmer @ HOU (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 78 pitches.

I have to say, it’s pretty cool to see Fulmer starting, getting five frames, average 95/96 mph, and hold solid ratios against the Astros — albeit one struggling with COVID. Sadly, even me, a notorious Fulmer fan back in the day, can’t get behind this as his changeup wasn’t the old slowball. Solid fastball command, though, and that could make him a good streaming option against the right opponents. I wouldn’t roster him, though.

Adam Wainwright vs WSH (L) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 85 pitches.

Waino struggled early, then rebounded with curveballs to spit out five respectable frames for the Cardinals. I can imagine him going six next time without the early hiccup against the Nationals, don’t ignore the possibility.

Nick Neidert @ ATL (ND) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 16% CSW, 76 pitches.

Did you know Neidert was pitching? I wouldn’t be shocked if you didn’t. And that’s okay.

Corey Kluber @ TOR (ND) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 77 pitches.

Blegh. He allowed a pair of HRs and it ruined his day, but that isn’t to say Kluber was pristine otherwise. He’s getting there — 10/30 whiffs on cutters! — but we have yet to see the total package. I have that anxious feeling you are all having about Kluber and even with that pit in my stomach, I’m going to tell you to hold. I’m willing to call April 30th against the Tigers the outing where it all comes together. A Judgement Day for KluBot. I’m tempted to call it for Cleveland the start prior on the 25th, but I’ll play it safe and say he needs two more starts. Feel free to sit against Atlanta knowing you’re just doing it for one week.

Jake Arrieta @ MIL (L) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 84 pitches.

Yep, that’s Arrieta alright. It’s a Dusty Donut as the WHIP and strikeouts are fine, but the Loss and ERA are not. He’s a boring streamer when the stars align and should not be consistently rostered. J.A. no longer rules.

Zack Wheeler @ NYM (L) – 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 10 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 108 pitches.

It’s essentially a VVPQS and that’s not cool. He’s not spotting his fastball nor slider along the edges like we’ve seen and it’s frustrating to watch. It feels like he’s right there, but the execution is a touch off and he’s not dominating as he should. Sure, it was still a Quality Start, but you know Wheeler should be better.

T.J. Zeuch vs NYY (ND) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 16% CSW, 62 pitches.

Ross Stripling was supposed to start this and instead hit the IL with a forearm strain. Man, I have so much sympathy for him. He’s waited so long for a firm rotation spot again, he gets it, endures a tough schedule, and gets hurt before he can blossom. Life ain’t fair. What about Zeuch? What about him? I guess he had to pitch instead. That’s about it. K.

Jose Berrios vs BOS (L) – 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 77 pitches.

Annnnnd life is weird again. Why couldn’t he just be in the same rhythm we saw from his first start of the season. Whhhhhy. Just like I preached caution back when he was in rhythm, I’ll speak of hope as he’ll bounce back within the next few starts as he undulates once again. It’s why Berríos is the premier Cherry Bomb, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.

Charlie Morton vs MIA (ND) – 6.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 38% CSW, 96 pitches.

Blleeeggggh. Morton seemingly turned a corner in his last outing and, honestly, I think that ability is still here. He ran into trouble in third for a four-run frame and while the damage had been done, it doesn’t completely nullify Morton’s cruise control in the other five frames. I’d buy low if your league manager was panicking.

Zach Plesac @ CWS (L) – 0.2 IP, 6 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 0 Ks – 1 Whiffs, 15% CSW, 26 pitches.

For all the hoopla about Rodón, there was equal sadness about Plesac’s horrendous performance in the first. We’re talking either meatballs or just plain balls and it was hard to endure. We all know he’s better than this, and it’s best to brush it off and move forward. Don’t drop Plesac, that would be foolish.

Lance McCullers Jr. vs DET (L) – 3.2 IP, 6 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 87 pitches.

What is in the water in Detroit? No one is immune from the TIGERS! It didn’t help to have plenty on the team out with COVID, but that doesn’t cover McCullers completely. His slider wasn’t as good as we’ve seen, using it far less and 0/14 on whiffs as his curveball was as good as it gets. It was a case of “It’s the curve and nothing else”, and while I think McCullers has more in the arsenal to help prevent this moving forward, he just didn’t have it here. Look, when it comes to what we expect from someone’s ERA or WHIP at the end of the season, it’s very rare to predict a sub 3.00 ERA and sub 1.10 WHIP. That means we expect 95% of pitchers to have multiple poor starts during their 2021 journey. Let’s not overthink it when they arrive in April as opposed to August.

Game of the Day 

 

Chris Paddack vs. Mitch Keller – Will Paddack find his heater? Can Keller build off his command from last week?

 

But Nick?! Where are the streaming picks? – I’ve moved them to the daily SP Matchups & Streamer Rankings article.

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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 Jaybird says:

    Nick do you advise we use Rodon to try and lure away someone having a slow start like Charlie Morton? Or does he just look too real now?

  • Avatar SweetLouWhitaker says:

    Brad Keller rosterable in a 13 team league with deep benches?

  • Avatar Evan says:

    Sucks to hear Maeda is gonna drop, but I get it. Hope he can make his way back up

  • Avatar The Mustache says:

    McCullers was suffering side effects from the J&J vaccine and required rehydration via IV after the game. So that should explain why he was so off.

  • Avatar Jim says:

    I’m not sure I follow. You say here that ERod is not a Stud, but in your Top 100 you say he, “could be a rock through the year.” Does that mean he could sink your team, or be solid?

    • Nick Pollack Nick Pollack says:

      Sorry for the confusion! There’s a difference to me between a stud – a Top 20 pitcher – and a rock – someone you don’t drop.

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