Riding the Merrill-Go-Round

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Sunday.

Merrill Kelly vs CHC (W) – 8.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 82 pitches.

I know Merrill Kelly’s line against the Cubs wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ve seen — 8.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks (13 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 82 pitches) — but I really wanted to take a moment today to highlight how Kelly has been a wonderful addition to fantasy teams across the last month. Has it been the flashiest? No. The sexiest? H*ck no. But the Tobyiest? Probably.

There isn’t anything quite special with the repertoire and this shouldn’t stick through the end. His fastball sits 91/92 mph with a cutter, changeup, and curveball, none of which can be called exceptional across this stretch. Still, he’s churned outs, tossed enough strikes, and made it work against middling opponents. He’s fanned just 27 across his six starts with a sub-1.00 WHIP and a near-2.00 ERA. That’s shocking production from an arm hovering the 20% rostered mark and while I’m not circling it with a red sharpie, I’d consider him for the stream next weekend as he gets the Cubs again.


Let’s see how every other SP did Sunday:


Wily Peralta vs MIN (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 90 pitches.

Peralta has now allowed just one ER across his last five starts and over 26 innings. Because baseball is dumb and BABIP is a finicky thing. Y’all know this won’t last — he earned 1/74 whiffs on four-seamers + sliders — and if you want to Vargas Rule this, you’re like the man who kept going during Greed. Like dude, we all knew you couldn’t possibly have won that final round on your own.

Corbin Burnes @ CIN (W) – 8.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 12 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 40% CSW, 108 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. I’m happy the Brewers pulled him as Burnes went well over 100 pitches, locking in his ERA and WHIP and that beautiful Golden Goal. I wonder how much more we’ll see of Burnes, be ready for some pullback — they already announced it for Peralta.

Jameson Taillon vs BOS (W) – 5.1 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 91 pitches.

That’s five of Taillon’s last six games with 2 ER or fewer, and this is a different pitcher than we saw at the beginning. Not necessarily better (the results are, but the ceiling is capped!) but different. He’s attacking lefties with four-seamers and curveballs and saving sinkers + sliders for right-handers. It’s kinda working, but I watched this one and I’m not seeing a guy who’s locked in with those secondaries. I think the fact that he’s moving his fastballs around the zone recently is the biggest catalyst (batters aren’t just sitting up in the zone now) but until I see that hook and slider truly step forward, I’m going to carry hesitation. He’s facing the Sawx again next week and I’d be cautious.

Hyun Jin Ryu vs TEX (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 83 pitches.

Ryu went the distance in Game 1 of the doubleheader and I’m thrilled to tell you his changeup — finally — did wonderful things — 33% CSW with 7/24 whiffs. He tossed the pitch four ticks harder than the season average and I have to wonder what tweak he made to increase its velocity and overall effectiveness. Interesting stuff.

Carlos Ródon vs HOU (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 98 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. He averaged 97 mph on his four-seamer and I still can’t believe he’s doing this. Ródon needs to be a bigger story this year as he’s now boasting a 2.14 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. It’s BONKERS.

Matt Harvey @ KC (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 74 pitches.

This was Harvey’s first win in thirteen starts. That’s it. That’s the blurb.

Steven Matz vs TEX (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 68 pitches.

This is obviously better but is it actually good? If a pitcher relies so much on BABIP in the forest Cough WILY FREAKIN’ PERALTA Cough does anyone see it? I don’t think that joke landed. Just like the tree that never landed. Touché. I’ll make this simple — Matz gets his ole boyz in Citi Field next time and I think Matz can take the Jonathan Metz if I needed a start.

Wade LeBlanc vs SF (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 82 pitches.

Suuuuure LeBlanc. Next you’re going to tell me your brother’s new show “Joey” was a smashing success.

David Price @ COL (ND) – 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 66 pitches.

Price is working up the pitch count and now that he’s hovering 70, I imagine we’ll see 75-80 next time out, fortunately hosting Rockie Road instead of enduring Coors. His heater is still at 94 mph, which is wonderful news, but his cutter and changeup need some work. There’s still time. I’m very intrigued to see how he looks when legit stretched out in two weeks.

Johnny Cueto @ STL (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 70 pitches.

I knew I should have just followed “The Cardinal Rule” and streamed Cueto instead. What were you thinking?! There’s a chance Cueto can do it again as he gets the Pirates next, but that’s not a “must hold” start. It’s just a decent chance for something kinda boring like this. Ah, the life of a Toby.

Zach Plesac @ OAK (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 18% CSW, 87 pitches.

The good news: He’s up to 87 pitches and just gave you solid ratios. The bad news: All of his pitches held a sub-23% CSW. Yikes. I’m not ready to buy into the BABIP-heavy approach and that curveball he introduced against lefties really wasn’t there today. He gets the Rays next and I think we’re fine trusting Plesac, but Zach, we need more than this. Let it loose.

Carlos Hernández vs BAL (L) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 78 pitches.

Did you realize Carlos tosses 100 mph and sits 98? Yeah, it’s wild, literally. He doesn’t have a secondary offering to keep batters in check, either, so it makes for a tough sell at the moment but if Hernández has that curveball or slider diving under bats on a given day, he could become the talk of the town in a hurry. He’s just a Young Gun for now, but keep your eye on him, especially if Danny Duffy is dealt at the deadline and Carlos gets regular outings.

Jon Gray vs LAD (ND) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 97 pitches.

People, if Gray can survive the Dodgers + Coors while sitting 95/96 mph (about 1.5 ticks higher than his spring velocity), I’m not sure what else he needs to do to warrant your love. This man is going to be the talk of the town in August when he’s pitching for some other winning ballclub. The Rockies couldn’t be luckier that he’s figuring it out in July 2021.

Braxton Garrett @ PHI (ND) – 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 82 pitches.

Braxton got the start as Pablo López was put on the IL with a rotator cuff strain and we’re all incredibly sad. Braxton was fine, I guess, I just miss my PabLó.

Zach Davies @ ARI (ND) – 4.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 78 pitches.

Bleeegggghhh. Yeah, you get all the extra letters for how agonizing this line is. Davies should just be a streamer at best and even then, you’re gonna stare at it and shudder. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Logan Gilbert @ LAA (W) – 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 94 pitches.

Atta boy Gilbert. I’m really loving his fastball/slider these days and what I saw last time with the breaker has stuck around for another start, going 9/24 whiffs here. His fastball is still well above average and that’s honestly all you need. Sure, the changeup could develop with time as well, but if he’s just rocking those two, Gilbert will be a must-hold through the second half. I’m thrilled we’ve reached this point in just over ten starts in the bigs.

Chris Bassitt vs CLE (L) – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 94 pitches.

Yeah, sure. It’s a bit of a Dusty Donut with that ERA and lack of Win making this celebration kinda lame, but eight strikeouts and a sub 1.00 WHIP are wonderful party favors. Keep on starting him blindly.

Martín Pérez @ NYY (L) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 62 pitches.

I’m still a bit surprised to see the early hook at just 62 pitches. He wasn’t pitching great, but he wasn’t terrible. Anyway, Pérez is a mediocre gamble each day with a limited ceiling and a horrific floor. He’s only worth the stream for a desperate chance at a win and that’s just not my game.

Rich Hill @ ATL (ND) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 83 pitches.

Remember when you started Hill and you were thrilled about it? Yeah, me neither. It feels so long ago now – the last productive outing was on June 5th. Don’t get roped into this.

Drew Smyly vs TB (ND) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 92 pitches.

Wow, a share of the Gallows Pole for Smyly as he faced Tampa Bay and had the best version of his curveball. You know, he hasn’t allowed more than three ER across his last eight starts now, albeit he’s gone six innings just once in that time. Still be careful here as his start against the Phils could spell disaster.

Framber Valdez @ CWS (L) – 6.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 97 pitches.

The struggles for Framber continue as he had a tough challenge today against the White Sox. It’s the same tale — curveball was dope, sinker wasn’t — and we’re just twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the heater to recover.

JT Brubaker vs NYM (ND) – 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 82 pitches.

Coffee Cakes just hasn’t been the same since the start of July, now tallying 15 ER across three starts. His slider was still effective here, but his fastball wasn’t and he needed more to help him get through it. He gets the Giants next in Oracle Park, and that’s as tough as it gets. That start really could go either way, so if you’re someone with Brubaker in their rotation, you should be heavily considering what’s on the wire.

Zack Wheeler vs MIA (W) – 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 101 pitches.

Aces gonna…underwhelm. Leave it to Wheeler to get jumped for a quick four runs in the third, then cruise for three more frames to keep everything in check. Sure, he shouldn’t have had that blowup, but the Adam Duvall homer was on a solid curveball down and away that’s not supposed to get hit over the fence. Wheeler is dope, y’all. Don’t you forget it.

Joe Musgrove @ WSH (ND) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 81 pitches.

Blegh. His last start of one ER came with just 4.1 innings and followed a pair of five-ER starts, meaning Musgrove hasn’t induced a fist pump from his managers since June 23rd. Yikes. He only tossed 21% fastballs in this one, and I still believe that’s part of the problem. I’m all for using secondaries more — they rock! — but you need to mix in plenty of fastballs in order to keep them guessing. Masahiro Tanka and Kenta Maeda in their primes still peppered in ~30% heaters to make their sliders and splitters look that much tastier before they died into the abyss. Musgrove is falling behind too many batters and needs those fastballs to get strikes like the — I can’t believe I’m saying it — days with the Pirates. It’ll all click when he gets that pitch mix in order.

Max Scherzer vs SD (ND) – 7.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 102 pitches.

Aces gonna act like Wheeler and dominate outside a four-ER third inning have a taste of Careful, Icarus with your fourth run in the seventh. What do you think Scherzer’s ERA is this season? If you said “2.54”, that’s hilarious because I just made that up. It’s actually 2.83, and I hope you didn’t cheat. You know who you are. The point is, he’s still a legit ace and let’s celebrate that he’s been able to toss 105 frames with over two months left. 180 frames, here we come.

Patrick Sandoval vs SEA (L) – 7.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 9 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 101 pitches.

The Panada’s velocity was a bit down, though he did take a comebacker in the first inning and I won’t hold it against him. The changeup still did marvelous things and his slider was…fine and I imagine with a proper heater next time, he’ll keep the strikeouts and retain a better ERA – that 1.00 WHIP still works, ya know. Hold The Irish Panda for the Twins next.

Taijuan Walker @ PIT (ND) – 0.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 Hits, 4 BBs, 0 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 35 pitches.

Oh my. If you haven’t seen the play yet, watch it here. In short, a grounder up the line was called fair and Walker thought he knocked it while foul, then argued the call, allowing three runners to score. It’s not like he was pitching well in the first place (four walks and all), but this was so very clearly one of those starts. Don’t hold it against him.

Sonny Gray vs MIL (L) – 4.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 4 BBs, 6 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 99 pitches.

This was going well for Gray until a laborious fifth frame and the wheels came off. His curveball was working well throughout this one, though I didn’t love what I saw from his slider — it earned a decent amount of strikes, but not as deceptive as we’ve seen. I wouldn’t worry much here and keep starting him without fear. Don’t forget, this was his first start back from the rib injury.

Kolby Allard @ TOR (L) – 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 88 pitches.

Dralla got the Jays and we all knew what would happen. That nine strikeout start? Pfffft, here’s one strikeout (HAISTFMFWT?!) and you’re gonna like hate it.

J.A. Happ @ DET (L) – 7.0 IP, 7 ER, 11 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 100 pitches.

Ugh. I was debating between Happ and Cueto and leaned in favor of Happ’s last start where he dominated the Tigers. How could I be so foolish? Streaming Record: 58-44. I really don’t want to trust him again, it’s no fun at all.

Mike Foltynewicz @ TOR (L) – 1.2 IP, 10 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 0 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 14% CSW, 42 pitches.

Like Dralla, this was the Jays and you knew better than to play with fire. Folty just doesn’t have the oomph of 2018 and that’s alright, that’s okay, you never loved us anyway. Nick, are those lyrics from–ANYWAY, Folty is a Toby at best, key words “at best”.

Game of the Day 


Yu Darvish vs Kyle MullerIt’s Darvish + I’m still hyped about Muller. The Padres make this one to sit out, but I hope he succeeds regardless.

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 Barry Stahl (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bsstahl/) | 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 “Riding the Merrill-Go-Round”

  1. DB says:

    What’s up Pollack? It must’ve been late and you were tired, lol.
    It was 3 runs in the 4th for Scherzer, not 4 in the 3rd, and then a homer in the 7th. I remember thinking “Careful Icarus” as frickin’ PROFAR knocked one, lol.

  2. posty says:


    Drew Smyly vs TB (ND) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 92 pitches. Wow, a share of the Gallows Pole for Smyly as he faced Atlanta and had the best version of his curveball.

    Smyly is on Atlanta, he faced the Rays…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login