Ballin’ Angel

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Thursday.

Angel Zerpa vs CLE (L) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 68 pitches.

We’ve had surprise MLB debuts this week and the latest of interest is Angel Zerpaa southpaw for the Royals who impressed with a strong 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 68 pitches line against Cleveland. We haven’t seen the other young arms truly excel (I’m looking at you Lynch), is Zerpa ready to take the leap next year?

I watched a good amount of this and I liked what I saw from his 94 mph heater. His plan of attack was to jam right-handers constantly, while landing sliders for free real estate inside the zone (25% CS rate) and hoping to surprise with his changeup. Sadly, the slow ball wasn’t all too great and this line was mostly a product of his heater missing the heart of the plate (when it missed middle, it was slapped around). Unless Zerpa turns that sweeper or changeup into a legit whiff offering, sadly he’ll get lumped in with the rest of the Royals for next year and fail to become a staple of our rotations. Let’s hope he unlocks one more gear over the winter.


Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:


Collin McHugh @ HOU (ND) – 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 0 Ks – 0 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 14 pitches.

As expected, Ryan Yarbrough followed and, as doubly expected, he wasn’t helpful with 3 ER in 4.2 frames and no Win in sight. He’s a deep Toby for next year and you know what that means – I ain’t drafting him.

Justin Steele @ PIT (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 76 pitches.

Hot dang, look at you! It’s about time Steele earned a line worthy of his action-hero name. You can thank the curveball for the surprise outing, well, that and some wonderful BABIP, and y’all shouldn’t see this and believe it’s a sign of the future. No, that would be “Happy New Year 2022!” Oh my. That’s such a terrible joke and it sets the tone for this entire roundup. I’m so sorry.

Alexander Wells vs BOS (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 80 pitches.

Well hot dang, look at you, too! Wells actually survived against the Sawx and had one final Birthday Party to end his year. Enjoy all the cake you want, Wells, you have six months to run it off.

Shane Bieber @ KC (ND) – 3.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 50 pitches.

I was paying close attention to this outing as I want to be encouraged about Bieber heading into the offseason and…this wasn’t it. Just 3/28 whiffs on his breakers (all on the slider) is not the man we know, while his fastball sat just 91 mph – 93 mph before his injury – and he wasn’t the overwhelming arm we know he can be. But hey, it’s a long winter and who knows what he’ll be in six months. Sigh. I’m gonna miss this.

Corey Kluber @ TOR (ND) – 4.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 83 pitches.

Ehhhh, at least he survived? This doesn’t help at all and he didn’t have his cutter nor his curveball. Hey, it’s the Jays, cut him so slack. There’s an outside chance Kluber finds a groove in the offseason and looks more like his former Cy Young self in 2022, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s awfully rare for older pitchers to rebound so strongly (Verlander and Greinke are exceptions, y’all).

Brett Anderson @ STL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 61 pitches.

Yep, that’s a start. Brett, you’re such a dang Toby.

Lance McCullers Jr. vs TB (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 98 pitches.

Atta boy McCullers. I’m seriously impressed he tossed 162.1 innings this year – soaring past his previous high of 128.1 innings in the majors (he did toss 158 innings between Double-A and MLB in 2015) while boasting his best ERA along the way. The walks returned this season, though, and I really hope the slider and curveball can both be there in tandem moving forward. When they tally for 50%+ usage in a start, things are oh-so-special.

Ian Anderson vs PHI (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 91 pitches.

Ever since that one start, I’ve been looking at this vinegar and hoping it’s honey. Vinegar?! That’s a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP! I know, but I’ve seen what he could be and it is GLORIOUS. Here we saw 3/20 curveball whiffs and I can’t shrug quick enough. Not to mention, that changeup earned outs but few CSW with just a 15% clip. He’s better, I just know he is.

Edward Cabrera @ NYM (ND) – 3.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 56 pitches.

So here’s the thing. Cabrera finally had a legit secondary in his curveball (5/13 whiffs!)…but he left early with a blister on his finger. This was the start we were waiting for, and it fell apart in front of us. I can’t help but imagine he’s a legit sleeper next year as many will point to 2021 and say “see? He’s not good” yet that curveball has legit promise (54% CSW here!) and he pumps 96/97 mph. That’s a real sleeper. I wonder if the Marlins will need him in the rotation, though. Monitor this.

Rich Hill vs MIA (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 86 pitches.

We thought it would be Megill, but Hill got the surprise call and gave us a Dusty Donut with that 1.80 WHIP. I have to hand it to him. The man tossed 158.2 frames this year of 3.86 ERA and that’s absolutely legit. I expected either worse ratios or fewer frames and certainly not both. He’ll be 42-years-old next year and you can’t believe it continues, right? RIGHT?!

Tony Gonsolin vs SD (ND) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 78 pitches.

Tony allowed an absolute BOMB to Tatis and essentially ended his night as he was pulled one out later. Save for that slider, the sweeper was pretty dang great and there’s a chance he gets more playing time next year and flashes his excellent 2020 self. There’s also a chance the Dodgers invest more money and shore up their rotation to prevent Gonsolin from getting a clear chance once again (#Dodgeritis is a real thing) so let’s not hold our collective breath.

J.A. Happ vs MIL (W) – 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 9 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 97 pitches.

We all chuckled when the Cardinals acquired Happ and Lester at the deadline, but look at this. The man essentially earned a VPQS while boasting a share of the King Cole and a Win. That’s incredible. Props to him.

Nick Pivetta @ BAL (L) – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 87 pitches.

Pivetta earned a share of the Gallows Polebut like his co-champion, he wasn’t able to escape the fifth frame. Bummer. I dug how he embraced the four-seamer + curveball lifestyle this season, but I still have all kinds of concerns about the dependability of his command and it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Scott Kazmir vs ARI (ND) – 0.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 0 Ks – 1 Whiffs, 17% CSW, 23 pitches.

Johnny Cueto eventually showed up here for 2.1 frames and 1 ER, but I’m sad Kazmir’s ridiculous return to the majors concludes with this outing. What a cool story this has been and it deserved a better ride into the sunset.

Kyle Gibson @ ATL (L) – 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 86 pitches.

The slider earned whiffs again (6/21) and propelled a share of the Gallows Pole + eight strikeouts, but Atlanta is legit and Gibson, well, he isn’t. It was a glorious first half and we’ll always have it, but we really should leave it behind us when considering next season.

Madison Bumgarner @ SF (ND) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 79 pitches.

So the heater almost sat 91 mph, but it wasn’t enough against the mighty Giants. I can see Bumgarner being a decent play in deep NL-Only leagues next year, but for us normal folk in the twelves, there is no reason you should be considering Bumgarner next year.

Vince Velasquez @ LAD (L) – 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 38% CSW, 71 pitches.

Wow, VV gave us a small glimpse of the past in this one with a 46% CSW on his heater. Pretty cool to see 7/21 slider whiffs as well, but the Dodgers took advantage of the mistakes and Velasquez makes those quite a bit. I’m willing to bet he’ll have one start next year that makes us take a step back, and I trust all of you not to do anything silly when that day arrives.

Tarik Skubal @ MIN (ND) – 3.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 54 pitches.

Phew. We made it through Skubal’s limitations and hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of it. Yeah yeah yeah, five runs and a HAISTBMBWT?! but we didn’t expect anything and now I’m excited to see what he turns into for 2022. There’s some legit potential in his arm with an above-average heater and two potential plus pitches in his slider and changeup.

Robbie Ray vs NYY (L) – 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 100 pitches.

The man allowed four longballs in this one and despite it, I’d still name him the AL Cy Young. He’s the only qualified starter under a 3.00 ERA, tossed 193 frames, and that’s all that really matters. Enjoy it.

Glenn Otto vs LAA (ND) – 2.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 63 pitches.

I considered Otto a decent option for this start, but his slider wasn’t nearly as good as we’ve seen, boasting just two whiffs across seventeen thrown. Welp, guess I’m crossing my fingers he has some excellent spurts with it next year so we can stream him once again. Just don’t disappear on us like you did here, okay Glenn? I want you to be an Otto-start.

Alex Cobb @ TEX (ND) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 99 pitches.

That’s a King Cole for Cobb but it doesn’t matter. This was not what we wanted. Streaming Record: 92-77. Just a week ago, I was wondering if I could go on a miracle run to hit 100 streaming wins and now I need to go 3-for-3 just to hit 95 wins. Sigh. Streaming in September ain’t as easy as it used to be.

Joe Ryan vs DET (ND) – 4.2 IP, 6 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 85 pitches.

Womp womp. Simply put, we tossed far too many heaters in the middle of the zone and the Tigers can handle middle-middle pitches better than the Cubs. I think Ryan has legit potential, but a low-90s heater, even if it has legit deception, needs to come with stellar command if it’s being thrown the heavy majority of the time. He won’t have his seniority until then, making him a JR for a while.

Miguel Yajure vs CHC (L) – 2.0 IP, 7 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 1 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 18% CSW, 50 pitches.

Welp, this didn’t go Wright right. Can we move on? There’s nothing to move on to. Oh no, can I just sing the theme to Gulliver’s Island? I don’t see how that would hel—A THREEEE HOUR TOUR. A THRREEEE HOUR TOOOOUUUUR.


Game of the Day 


Ranger Suárez vs. Sandy Alcantara – It’s been an incredible ride for Ranger and I just want to get one last good look at Sandy before he leaves all my teams. It’s been an honor, Alcantara.

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

Have Questions? – Join my morning Twitch Livestream! I answer all questions there for free: 9:00 am – 11:00 am EST Monday through Friday.

Photo by Keith Gillett/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.

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