Reaching Max Potential

Nick Pollack reviews every single starting pitcher's performances from Wednesday's games.

We really need to talk about Max Fried’s start yesterday against the Twins. The final line was a slight Dusty Donut of 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 10 Ks, but against a Top Five offense, Fried fanned 10 batters, bringing home 33-of-94 CSW. He touched 98 mph with one of the best fastballs I’ve seen him have all year, and he mixed in sliders effectively. Believe it or not, though, his curveball wasn’t quite as good as we’ve seen. It certainly had its moment down, but he sputtered a good amount, with some well out of the zone and others lofted high that were swatted. He’s so close. With that fastball ready to unleash strikes, the last piece is that curveball consistency, and this start should be an indication of what he can do when he gets there. With the Mets next, it could come out in spades, and I’d buy into this game against the Twins. This could be the Fried we’ve been waiting for.

Let’s see how every other SP did Wednesday:

Tyler Clippard2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks. This was a full bullpen game for the Indians, and the idea that Clippard is beneficial in any way is laughable. LAUGHABLE.

Jack Flaherty7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 10 Ks. Really good sliders from Flaherty in this one. Seriously, few were hung at all, with the heavy majority hanging at the bottom or just under the zone. We’re talking 15-of-33 whiffs—45% swinging-strike rate!—and 40-of-97 CSW overall. Against the Dodgers. Nuts. Even Nutser (nutsier, the nutsiest?) is his current six-game stretch—6.4 IPS, 0.94 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 34% K rate, and a 7% walk rate. Sure, a .210 BABIP and 96% LOB rate will correct themselves, but it’s still a 3.23 SIERA at the end of the day. I’LL TAKE IT. Let’s cross our fingers his slider stays this good.

Wilmer Font2.1 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. Font opened, Brock Stewart followed, and Ken Giles ended it. That’s it? That’s it. This has zero impact—at least not until Brock actually gets stretched out…then we’ll see.

Zac Gallen5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks. Mmmmmm, I watched this game because it’s Gallen and I love this kid. Seriously, have you seen his changeup? Or his curveball? Or that he was able to hit 96 mph? The end result was 31-of-85 CSW as his changeup was phenomenal, but he couldn’t quite get into a rhythm with his cutter yet, and it led to some deeper at-bats, as he failed to put guys away. That’ll get there; it’s a strong four-pitch mix with legit whiffability and good velocity. What’s not to love? I’m tempted to thrust him up ahead of Brendan McKay after this one, I’m falling hard like that time I tripped on the field once. Just a simple trip? Hey, that’s 6+ foot drop! Fair. Nah, it was on foul grounds running after a pop-up. Why did you have to ruin this. BECAUSE IT’S IN MY BLOOD.

Ivan Nova8.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks. It came with just one strikeout in 24 outs—HAISTFMFWT?! Seriously?—but our little Johnny got to put his glasses on as Ivan went Super Nova. Streaming Record: 73-50. I felt uneasy leaning on Nova, but this is what he can do. Now we move on to the next streamer.

Zach Plesac6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks. Thirty-three-of-106 CSW for Plesac as both his slider and changeup were in full effect in this one—9-of-17 CSW just on his slider!—helping us understand that Plesac is someone you should clearly own in 12-teamers. I don’t see him with the same ceiling as other young arms, but he’s certainly deserved his place comfortably above the Toby tier of The List. Bad news here is that the Sawx and Yankees are next. I’d be willing to bet that one of those starts is beneficial, with the other hurting your week. Good luck picking that one. If you need to bench for a week, I think it’ll be worth it as the matchups will be plenty better in late August and September.

Joe Ross6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. Well, well, well. I was wondering if J-Ro would take full advantage of the Giants, and here we are. I’ve talked about him changing his repertoire a bit thus far, but with his heavy sinker approach in this one, it felt a bit like the old days. He disappointingly doesn’t have the slider of the past, but his curveball was fine, and those heaters were tasty: 19-of-51 CSW on sinkers alone! I’d hold off on making the jump right now as I’m not sold on his secondary stuff yet, but I can see some taking a chance on him next week against the Reds.

Yusei Kikuchi5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. Kikuchi’s slider was fantastic here—10-of-34 whiffs—but his heater is still hovering just 92 mph, and his other pitches are kinda whack like a sack of tacks. Why would you even have that. They have to be transported somehow, you know? Anyway, Y2K earned more strikeouts than his nickname would suggest this time around, but I wouldn’t bank on this slide piece being this effective moving forward, as the Padres are one of the most CSW-prone teams out there.

Lance Lynn7.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. Aces gonna ace. Songs will be sung of the legend of Double Hockey Sticks, proving that two wrongs (Ls) do make a right. Oh, and enjoy the Gallows Pole with 24 whiffs. Wild.

Dustin May5.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. I watched a good amount of this one, and I’m still not sold on May. I think he should be owned n all, but he’s not part of the exciting crop of starters that present legit upside for years to come. His sinker has life at 95+, but he didn’t have great command with the pitch. His cutter is solid and was effective here against the lowly Cardinals, but that’s it. His curveball is nothing to write home about, and I’m worried the heater is too susceptible to blowup games without enough upside. But look at this start! I’m willing to wager he won’t have seven+ Ks and one earned run or fewer in any of his games the rest of the way. It seems like the peak, not a plateau.

James Paxton6.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. Sure, this was the Orioles, but Paxton did what he was supposed to do, featuring about 45% cutters and curveballs en route to 35-of-108 CSW. LOVE. IT. Things are cooking for Pax right now, and with the O’s and Indians next, we may be on our way to peak Paxton.

Drew Pomeranz3.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks. It was a bullpen game after all, which meant Pom Pom did his thing and moved on. I wouldn’t expect him to get a significant amount of frames moving forward, and even if he did, I’m not interested.

Jose Quintana7.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks. Great stuff from Quintana against the A’s, featuring four-seamers UP IN THE ZONE. Huh. Just 3-of-37 whiffs on those heaters, though, BUT I STILL LOVE IT. Curveballs and changeups were down and 31% CSW is certainly a product of the approach. Now he gets the Phils, and I’m game, Quintana. I’m game.

Gerrit Cole6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks. Aces gonna ace. Just an easy 34-of-103 CSW. No biggie. Weird to see his slider go 0-of-12 on whiffs in this one, but he transitioned to curveballs, and everything was fine. Just fiiiiine.

Ariel Jurado7.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. Whoa, nice stuff, Ariel. Does this mea—Nope, I still don’t want to be a part of this world.

Joey Lucchesi5.1 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks. Thirty-six-of-102 CSW from Lucchesi as the Mariners were super patient, allowing Lucchesi to pump fastballs and churves in the zone without hesitation. He gets the Rays next and, yeah, we hold.

Steven Matz6.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks. A ton of sliders here from Matz, who produced despite a 1.50 WHIP. I’m digging the ~25% slider usage as it should lead to more strikeouts, while 5-of-18 whiffs from his changeup is certainly welcome as well. I should mention this was the Marlins in N.Y., though, which is as ideal conditions as it could get for Matz. The Braves are next on the road, and I’m hanging out on the sidelines like me on the JV basketball team as a freshman. I was just too much gangles, no finesse then.

Brendan McKay5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks. On one hand, McKay hasn’t survived six full frames since his first start in the majors, and has allowed at least three earned runs in four of his last five. On the other, he’s fanned at least seven in three of his last four, and the stuff is legit. Thirty-one-of-93 CSW is great, his curveball is missing bats under the zone, and he’s commanding his four-seamer well. The only issue I see is his cutter taking a back seat with just four thrown. It’s really strange to me as I absolutely love this pitch and we’ve seen McKay turn away from the pitch in multiple games. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes comfortable with all three offerings (and maybe a fourth in that changeup!) and soars. There’s a part of me that is hoping he struggles a little more down the stretch just to keep his draft stock lower for 2020, but consider me all in with him, Griffin Canning, Fried, Julio Urias, Gallen, and maybe even a touch of Josh James as the young arms to be considerable draft values next year.

Tyler Alexander4.1 IP, 4 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. Meh. T-Lex has a great slider n all—9-of-25 CSW—but everything else is too mediocre for me to endorse him in any way. He needed 102 pitches to get kicked out of the fifth inning against the ChiSox. Yeah.

Shaun Anderson3.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks. When have you looked at Shaun-A and said, “this is what I want.” All the time. Shaun’s girlfriend, you don’t count. I’m talking to these armchair managers playing fantasy baseball here. Oh, yeah. No, you don’t want him. EVEN SHE’S SAYING IT.

John Means 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks. The starts of John has become a Means to an end. That sounded a lot better in my head; what I’m getting at is Means is just a Toby and you probably won’t start him in most matchups down the road. This was the Yanks, so clearly a sit.

Jason Vargas5.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks. I think The Vargas Rule is coming to stop here as he was himself against the Diamondbacks, and it went about expected. Just one strikeout is super underwhelming, though. HAISTFMFWT?!

Jordan Yamamoto6.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. A pair of two-run shots were everything here as Yamamoto relied more on a three-pitch approach this time around. I’m not a huge fan of what he brings to the table, but think of him like a Toby with lower IPS but higher K upside. Not a full-on cherry bomb—somewhere in the middle.

Martin Perez6.0 IP, 6 ER, 11 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. I have no spell slots left, which means, clearly, I have zero MP on my teams. This may be the nerdiest joke you’ve done. And it didn’t truly make sense!

Trevor Williams5.0 IP, 6 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks. No strikeouts? Poor ratios? WHAT DO WE EVEN HAVE YOU FOR.

Homer Bailey4.2 IP, 7 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 0 Ks. Hooooo Bailey. Not a single punchout (HAISTFMFWT?!), and most importantly, lost trust from anyone considering you in the future. You’re done, kid.

Peter Lambert3.0 IP, 9 ER, 7 Hits, 4 BBs, 1 Ks. Lambert has had such a tough schedule during his short career, getting the Astros in a rare start outside of Coors. IT’S NOT FAIR! It’s not like anyone started, him though, and if he actually had good matchups, he would likely not serve up a single HAISTFMFWT?! He’s better than the lines have indicated.

Eduardo Rodriguez – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks. You may not have seen these last two because the game technically hasn’t finished yet—it was suspended in the 10th due to rain. We wanted a lot more from Eduardo against the Royals—HAISTFMFWT?!—but you have to keep throwing him out there. He’s a Toby with K upside and win potential. That’s just how it is.

Glenn Sparkman – 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks. He had that one game and everything else has been the man we know and hate. No, I will not cut him slack for facing the Red Sox; he just doesn’t have that…electricity? Energy? Something that gives him life. He doesn’t have it.


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.


Danny Duffy vs. Detroit Tigers – Pretty easy choice here with Duffy as an overall decent streaming option plus a great matchup vs. the Tigers. Elieser Hernandez vs. Atlanta Braves – Nope, Duffy hit the IL. And there are zero streams I’d recommend now, so I’ll go with the best pitcher available in Elieser. Don’t do this.



Tomorrow’s Streamer


Devin Smeltzer vs. Cleveland Indians – I’m debating between this and Cal Quantrill against the Rockies in San Diego. I believe in Smeltzer’s stuff a little more, but Nicoderm CQ over here could take advantage of Rocky Road. Take your pick.


Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer


Vince Velasquez vs. San Francisco Giants He’s performed well and displayed a good slider last time in Arizona. Among a sea of meh options, VV is the clear choice.


Game of the Day 


Aaron Nola vs. Madison Bumgarner – Let’s live today like it’s Nola Day. Bumgarner can come too.


(Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)

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.

7 responses to “Reaching Max Potential”


    You left out Eduardo Rodriguez.

  2. Nikolai says:

    More upside: Fried or McKay ROS? Thanks!

  3. Jeff Picca says:

    As we start to near the end of this season and turn to next year, how much do you trust Lance Lynn to duplicate this season? Is he worth a spot on a 16 keeper team?

  4. Derek says:

    Why do you think Gallen was pulled with 85 pitches through 5 and cruising? Is this something to worry about ROS?

  5. John says:

    As per Keith Law, your analysis of Dustin May is a “big miss.” Take that for what you’d want/like.

    Reference: http://meadowparty.com/blog/2019/08/08/klawchat-8-8-19/

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