My favorite part of covering baseball is watching pitchers who have little-to-no expectations revamp themselves and suddenly become massively relevant overnight. Tyler Chatwood is certainly making his case after his first two starts of the year, dominating last night to the tune of 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 11 Ks against the Pirates, Streaming Record: 3-6. That came with 20 Whiffs and a 35% CSW and you have to wonder, is this for real? Like for real for real?
I’m starting to think so. His cutter is filling the much-needed void in Chatwood’s repertoire – a pitch that he can confidently get whiffs on outside the zone, opening the door for fastballs that don’t get crushed inside the zone. It means he doesn’t have to over nibble and stop him from walking the entire alternate training site. It helps having a solid curveball that earned 33% CSW in its own right as he kept the pitch down.
It’s hard not to be a fan right now after a game of twenty whiffs, Pirates or not. Best part? The Royals are next. Grab Chatwood, yes in that league too.
I considered leading with Kikuchi and Freeland as well today, two other arms that we saw some underlying changes from last week that we didn’t know would stick or not in game #2. Keep in mind with all of them – two starts are generally not enough to determine a full season, let alone a ~10-start one. At least one of these will likely fall off. Play the matchups right to lower the risk and hopefully they all are dope and make you dope for rostering them.
Let’s see how every other SP did Saturday:
Yusei Kikuchi vs OAK (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 9 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 38% CSW. Hot dang! Look at all of this! Nine strikeouts! A co-share of the Gallows Pole! Coronated as King Cole! Four-seamer sitting 95.2 mph! But I haven’t even mentioned the best part. Kikuchi was throwing a 92/93 mph cutter that fooled the A’s to the tune of a 24% SwStr rate and thrown nearly 50% of the time. Un. Be. Lievable. If you don’t think it’s a real thing, understand that Kikuchi didn’t throw a cutter last year. It was a slider and came in at 86 mph. He’s thrower harder, has a legit whiff pitch, and I’m freaking out. It’s still small sample and can’t tell if it’ll stick yet, but I’m down to start him in Seattle against the Rockies. Let’s take it from there.
Kenta Maeda vs CLE (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 36% CSW. Man, Maeda is cruising with changeups and sliders making up nearly 70% of his pitch mix. I love how many pitchers have moved to a sub 40% fastball approach this season as it’s clearly the way to go when you have legit secondary stuff. I don’t think the Twins will limit Maeda to save a few hundred thousand down the stretch, so let’s have a wonderful year with Kenta.
Carlos Carrasco @ MIN (L) – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 32% CSW. Aces gonna ace, even with a PQS (hey, the first of the year!). It’s a good WHIP with five Ks against arguably the best offense in the game. Let yourself be happy.
Julio Urias @ ARI (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 29% CSW. This works, Urias. Great to see his changeup earn a near 40% CSW and work out of some tough jams to make it through 90 pitches and six frames. I’m a little iffy on his fastball command at the moment, but I’d be happy owning Urias at the moment.
Griffin Canning vs HOU (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 31% CSW. A better line here from Canning this time around – surprisingly against the Astros – but I was a bit surprised to see him go 2:1 curveballs over sliders. The reason is obvious as he was feeling the hook and not the slide piece, but man, imagine how well he could have done if his slider was doing its thing like last week. Anyway, if this start doesn’t get you on the Canning train, I’m not sure what else you’re waiting for. I don’t think we’ll see a massive elevation to the top of the ranks, but his stuff is certainly good enough for a 25%+ strikeout rate and solid ratios to boot.
Kyle Freeland vs SD (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 29% CSW. We saw Freeland last week look like his former self by avoiding the middle of the zone and it wasn’t quite the same level of command this time with location, but my lord his changeup was filthy with 31% CSW and plenty of outs as he placed it down in the zone. It came with 27% sliders as well having their own success and I’m liking Freeland once again. Not loving, but when he’s not facing a strong team in Coors or has a decent matchup on the road, I’m game. He gets the Giants at home next and I’m down for that one.
Mike Fiers @ SEA (ND) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 23% CSW. That’s a Toby doing Toby things against a weak ballclub. Good work Fiers, now let me get some upside elsewhere for the rest of the week.
Zack Greinke @ LAA (ND) – 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 36% CSW. You were worried about Greinke last week after he sat sub 88 mph on his heater and I’m sorry to break it to ya, that hasn’t changed as he tossed 87.3 mph with fastballs in this one. Even weirder, his changeup wasn’t matching it like before, seeing a 5 tick drop down to 82.2 mph. Huh, that’s…normal for others but not for Greinke. He’s skilled enough with his command to get through games still, but he’s turning into Spider-Man from the good graces of AGA and I’m still scared about it.
Wade LeBlanc vs TB (ND) – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 34% CSW. LeBlanc’s changeup was a bit worse this time around, but his cutter held a remarkable 43% CSw across 23 thrown and helped him hold off the Rays. I wouldn’t put much stock in it, but hey, maybe he can be a streamer once or twice?
Tyler Glasnow @ BAL (ND) – 4.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 23% CSW. You want more from Glasnow, especially not one of the lowest CSW marks of the day. For having such a good curveball, the Orioles did an amazing job laying off, forcing just a 12% CSw across 26 thrown. Yuck. It’s the terror of Glasnow – his changeup isn’t good enough to bail him out when he can’t find his curveball release point. Still, you’re going to start him every time because duh and let’s hope it carries you far.
Drew Smyly vs TEX (ND) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 39% CSW. Smyly was cruising and on his way to be crowned King Cole for the day, but he didn’t get the five-inning minimum as he was pulled with a finger injury. Blegh. He’s feeling his repertoire with that famous curveball missing bats and cutters + 93 mph fastballs for strikes. Wait, 93 mph?! Yep, Smyly was throwing two full ticks harder than last season before the baseball gods injured the journeyman. Poor guy. Hopefully he returns quickly and we can steal him for a few lovely games later in the year.
Luke Weaver vs LAD (L) – 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 30% CSW. Weaver nooooo. I was talking about it in the Discord yesterday – there’s something comforting about watching Weaver pitch. He gets whiffs, dances around the zone at 95/95, isn’t overtly wild…it all just seems so pleasant. Thing is, he was laced last week against the Padres and once again today and you’re frustrated. How could you not be? And now he gets the Padres again followed but a start in Coors. Ugh. I’m willing to bet at least one of these starts will return a good start for you and honestly, I’m starting him in that repeat against the Padres. I simply think he’s better than this given what he brings to the table and to see him earn a 17% SwStr speaks volumes. The skills are there. If you need help in the short term, I understand favoring Chatwood or Kikuchi for their next starts, but if you’re looking for second-half success, I believe more in Weaver for the long haul.
Michael Wacha @ ATL (L) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 26% CSW. I’m blown away to see a 33% CSW on Wacha’s changeup despite featuring about 75% in the top half of the zone. Plenty of cutters and fastballs found the middle of the plate and this just isn’t looking good. Wacha away.
Touki Toussaint vs NYM (ND) – 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 30% CSW. Hey, it’s Touki! He suited up for 74 pitches against the Mets and did a remarkable job with his curveball, boasting a 45% CSW on 22 thrown. Gotta love it. I worry about his heater and split-changeup, though, and it’s the main reason why I’m not going to push him up very far on The List tomorrow. He likely gets the Jays and Yankees and I think I’m out.
Jordan Lyles @ SF (ND) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 5 BBs, 1 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 23% CSW. We finally got a chance to see Jordan on the hill and it’s Fair Jordan. Don’t forget about Lyles, but he’s not quite ready to dominate with fastballs and curveballs just yet. I mean come on Jordan, 0 whiffs on 21 curveballs that led to just one strikeout? HAISTFMFWT?!
Gio Gonzalez @ KC (ND) – 3.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 34% CSW. I’m pretty amazed Gio earned himself 13 whiffs in this one, fueled by a changeup that fell under the zone plenty. He really went the Dallas Keuchel approach as he avoided the zone well and relied on O-Swing, which is easily the way to go unless he wants his nickname to be GG. He needed 77 pitches to not even last the fourth, though, and I’d hold back save for a possible stream in a few weeks when he’s a bit more stretched out.
Zack Godley @ NYY (L) – 3.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 1 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 25% CSW. For the second game in a row, Godley cut back heavily on heaters and focused on cutters, curveballs, and changeups instead. It’s the way to go! Well, you need to be like Aaron Civale and have a good cutter for it to work, as he earned just 5/25 CSW on the pitch here and against the Yankees, you have to be a little bit better. There may be a surprise start down the road, good luck figuring out which one.
Masahiro Tanaka vs BOS (ND) – 2.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 33% CSW. Solid stuff here, shockingly following the “Blake Snell Blueprint” with four-seamers up and sliders/splitters down. Just 51 pitches on the night, though, which means we’re still a little bit away from wanting to own him proper in 12-teamers. I’d say two starts and even then it’s not assurance he’ll be worth the wait. So just let him sit out there like an egg bagel. One day, I’m going to try that…but not today.
Mitch Keller @ CHC (L) – 2.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 27% CSW. The good news: Keller was pumping 93/94 after sitting 90/91 in his first start. The bad news: He was pulled in the third with left-side discomfort. That doesn’t sound great and I’d imagine an IL stint is coming. Blegh. It could spell a path for Chad Kuhl to get regular actual starts, though it may take a few for him to ramp up after getting 55 pitches in his previous “piggy-back” start. Something to monitor.
Ronald Bolanos vs CWS (L) – 1.2 IP, 5 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 1 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 20% CSW. They say you want to get RBs early. I personally have no idea what they are talking about. Who is “they”? Another great question. SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Joey Lucchesi @ COL (L) – 1.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 39% CSW. Look at that CSW! Lucchesi avoiding the heart of the zone with sinkers, but things didn’t go his way at all, forcing 51 pitches in just five outs. Coors will do that to you. Still not a bad streaming option, but not the guy you want to roster right now.
For those unaware, I’m forced to make my streamer picks under the condition of sub-20% owned in Fantasy Pros’ consolidated ownership rates.
Alec Mills vs. Kansas City Royals – I also considered Josh Lindblom against the White Sox, but I wonder if they’ll be a little cautious given his back cramps last time out. There’s also Daniel Mengden against the Mariners as a decent Toby play, but I’ll go with Mills instead. The Twins have shifted things around, lining up Homer Bailey vs. Pittsburgh Pirates and I want that. A lot.
Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer
Tyler Mahle vs. Cleveland Indians – It’s between this or Vince Velasquez against the Marlins and I’m not sure which one will last longer. Velasquez did poorly against the fish last time, so I guess it’s Mahle, even if he’s against Bieber. Blegh.
Game of the Day
Clayton Kershaw vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – Baseball doesn’t feel back until I watch Kershaw pitch.
(Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)