A Means Tear

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Friday.

John Means @ BOS (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 97 pitches.

Here’s the thing y’all. I’ve been talking about John Means all winter. He has increased velocity! 21 strikeouts in his final two games once he got in rhythm! He’ll get the changeup back and be a true ace! Then suddenly, during the last three weeks of the pre-season, I saw that Means not only didn’t have his velocity and was a bit shaky in spring, but he’d also lead off the season with Boston and the Yankees and I was steering away. Sure, still inside the Top 50, but I found myself a little reluctant drafting him in some cases. So what does he do on opening day? Why, he goes 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks with 33% CSW across 97 pitches.

How could I ever be so foolish?! Let’s talk about this start. Means’ changeup was back. We’re talking a 40% CSW across 30 thrown earning plenty of whiffs and throwing it with confidence. You LOVE to see it. On the other side, the 94 mph velocity from 2020 wasn’t there. He topped out at 93+ and sat 91/92 through the day, but still earned six whiffs on heaters and managed to set up his changeup well. In other words, this is 2019 Means. Or at least, it was. I’m not convinced Means will be sitting at this lower velocity through the season and the fact that he’s already feeling his changeup is better than I could have hoped. The other question is if that curveball can get a whole lot better and while he was able to get plenty of called strikes on it, I question if it can be a major whiff pitch. Maybe he throws that slider more than two times and gets a feel for it there? Anyway, this is the mean stare we’ve wanted from John, and with that changeup, I’d be okay starting him against the Yankees next. Let’s do this.

Let’s see how every other SP did Friday:


Nathan Eovaldi vs BAL (L) – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 89 pitches.

On the other side of Means was Eovaldi, who did exactly what we wanted him to do on a cold day in Baltimore. For those thinking that’s what held back Means’ heater, it didn’t stop Eovaldi from sitting 97 mph like he always does. Eovaldi’s splitter and curveball did fine, but the real thing I wanted to see was his cutter stealing strikes and setting up an elevated four-seamer. You can understand my sadness when he threw it just eight times. Yikes. That’s supposed to be a 30% usage pitch! I know he just did well, but I’d be cautious against the Rays, Twins, and White Sox next given he doesn’t have that pitch. You can drop Eovaldi in 12-teamers.

Pablo Lopez vs TB (ND) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 77 pitches.

It felt really good to watch Lopez pitch, regardless of the results. It just makes me happy. It was interesting to see him rely more on four-seamers than sinkers (he was missing too far arm-side on sinkers and adjusted) and I think it’ll stick as he went exclusive four-seamers to left-handers. He had 47% CSW on 30 four-seamers – HOT DANG! – and while 3/10 on sinkers isn’t bad, this seems like the way to go. His changeup…well it had moments but it wasn’t the overwhelming pitch we want, especially when his breaker is still a work in progress and that cutter isn’t showing up like we want it to. It’s still a point where that blowup can happen if he doesn’t have his changeup in a game and that is slightly concerning. Still, it’s a better heater and we’re making progress. That’s good.

Ryan Yarbrough @ MIA (ND) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 65 pitches.

Look at him go, getting through 5.2 frames and still getting pulled despite sitting at 65 pitches. Sigh. It was another close game, though, and if there was a sizeable lead + not the first start of the year, I want to believe Yarbrough would have been allowed to complete the sixth. But look at that line! His cutter is still fantastic and while I expect that low strikeout tally as he hovers a 20% strikeout rate, the WHIP should be strong. Just don’t toss him against the powerful lineups of the East. Nick, you sound surprised he did well. Of course he did, he’s called the Friday Pirate! The Fratty Pirate. FRATTY. Ohhhhhhh. 

Blake Snell vs ARI (ND) – 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 86 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Well, save for that WHIP and still getting pulled early, here to the extent that he didn’t get the Win, but at least he deserved the hook this time! 86 pitches ain’t efficient at all and it was the first outing of year, so take a deep breath and exhale with me. Snell is freeeee. He was a bit better with sliders in the zone today (that’s encouraging!), not so much curveballs, though. Whatever, he still earned his first Gallows Pole of the year and that’s wonderful.

Cristian Javier @ OAK (ND) – 3.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 73 pitches.

Yeaaaah, Javier wasn’t efficient in this one and was given the quick hook in fourth. I get the feeling we’re going to have to use him as a streamer later in the year and not spend a roster spot in the short term. There just isn’t enough here to get me excited for Javier.

Dallas Keuchel @ LAA (ND) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 69 pitches.

Blegh. He’s an arm that will contend for Spider-Man by season’s end, but this wasn’t the start you wanted, especially with only 69 pitches to his name. He’s supposed to push 90+ each start! Fortunately, he gets Seattle + Cleveland next and that should work out way better.

Yusei Kikuchi vs SF (ND) – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 10 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 40% CSW, 89 pitches.

Sooooo I had Kikuchi slotted as the #5 in the Mariners rotation, which meant he was going to face the White Sox, Orioles, Dodgers, and Astros to kick off the season. You can understand why I wanted to avoid that. Now here he is, pitching against the meh Giants and goes ham wild, earning himself a King Cole with 10 strikeouts. Sure, it was 3 ER – stupid Posey and Longoria HRs – but 48% CSW on 29 Four-Seamers is insane. His slider was vicious with 50% CSW on 20 thrown as well, but you want to know the best part? Kikuchi elevated with four-seamers. Well, not always, but enough to get me excited that he can with reasonable consistency. So yeah, these are all wonderful things…and I’m so sorry. He gets @MIN, HOU, @BOS next. Oh no. Yeah, oh no. The memories are now flooding back from last year when he was stupid good in his second outing and then allowed 12 ER across the next three games. I think you have no choice but to hold and hope for the best against Minnesota and I’ll be thinking of all of you. Good luck.

Johnny Cueto @ SEA (ND) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 7 Ks – 17 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 105 pitches.

You know, we barely talked about Cueto this off-season and he nearly gave you a QS in his opening start with seven strikeouts and 17 whiffs. That’s kinda amazing. Sure, it was going to be a VPQS, but still, seven Ks! His changeup went 7/29 on whiffs and even earned 31% CSW on his four-seamer. Look, I’m not going to tell you that a start with Cueto against the Mariners speaks to a season of success, but maybe consider Cueto when he faces another poor lineup again. He’s certainly allowed to go as deep as he wants into games and that’s not a common occurrence right now.

Merrill Kelly @ SD (L) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 94 pitches.

Did you expect anything different from Kelly against San Diego? Why?

Trevor Bauer @ COL (W) – 6.1 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 10 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 36% CSW, 96 pitches.

We’ve been debating Bauer for a bit. “Is he going to be his 2018/2020 self of his 2019 self?” and I feel like this start was why not both? He had a no-hitter through six, then allowed a pair of two-run shots in the seventh to get hit sent out in a hurry. The fact he wasn’t pulled after the first hit or even the first home run is what you want to see from Bauer as he hinted 100 pitches. You’re going to love the volume. I should also mention that David Price came in after and allowed two HRs across his first four pitches. Yikes. He was throwing plenty softer as well and that’s a full drop from The List and your rosters until something major changes. It’s sad how far he’s fallen, he deserved better.

Jesus Luzardo vs HOU (L) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 92 pitches.

Bleggggh. The strikeouts are wonderful, but those ratios hurt. A pair of HRs His breaker was excellent with 50% CSW on 26 thrown, 45% on 11 changeups as well, but it’s the fastball that’s still a work in progress as he’s leaving too many in the middle of the zone. Hopefully he can rein in the four-seamer a bit moving forward.

Antonio Senzatela vs LAD (L) – 3.1 IP, 7 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 70 pitches.

After a season-long Vargas Rule, the wall of the off-season is long and full of terrors. Sure, this was as bad of a matchup you’ll see for Senz-A, and maaaybe he’s worth the stream on the road against a poor lineup, but do you really want to put yourself in that situation?

Andrew Heaney vs CWS (L) – 3.0 IP, 7 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 70 pitches.

Oh no. His first two innings were getting me AMPED as his heater was two ticks harder than last season and he was spotting them up in the zone – Heaney is at his best when he can command fastballs up and changeups + curveballs down. Then the third inning happened and he left a changeup over the plate that Jose Abreu slapped for a grand slam. Then it got worse and worse and…yeah, 7 ER on the docket. Blegh. It’s a rough schedule for Heaney ahead and you saw the world of Heaney in one start – he’s so good when it’s working and so disastrous when it’s not. I’d personally avoid him and look elsewhere, I don’t need that stress in my life.


Game of the Day 


Corey Kluber vs. Ross Stripling – I couldn’t be more curious to watch Kluber while Stripling has impressed in the spring with a small chance of excelling despite the excellent Yankee lineup.


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


Photo by Mark LoMoglio/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.

2 responses to “A Means Tear”

  1. Frankie says:

    I really missed these articles! Thank you, Nick.
    I benched Means, and left Kikuchi on my watch list. A bit rusty at managing! Womp womp.

  2. NL Baseball Rules says:

    Even though streaming picks are elsewhere, are you still going to keep track of your streaming wins and losses? I always loved that part of the write-up.

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