Sour Graypes

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Thursday.

What is going on with Sonny Gray? After fanning at least seven batters through each of his first five games, Gray has failed to do so in any of his last four, witch his ERA tagging along for the descent across his last two games, including Thursday’s poor 3.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW performance against the Cubs. Bleeeggggh. 

His velocity has taken a small step back – we’re talking about a tick drop from 93.5 to 92.5 mph across the two stretches – but the sore thumb appears to be his whiffs with a four-point drop in overall SwStr to just a 8.8% clip across his last four games. That’s far from the overwhelming ace we thought we had in mid-August.

What I’m seeing is a sudden lack of consistency with his slider. We’re talking a 17% CSW across his last four games. This was the pitch that propelled his second half last season, of course paired with a great curveball that hasn’t left him during this stretch. We’ve seen periods where Gray doesn’t have this slider in the past and we’ve seen him get its feel back in a hurry, making me inclined to think that Gray should receive a TIARA and cross our fingers that he finds it before season’s end. Paired with a fastball that is performing a bit worse and a curveball that can’t carry all the weight, it can be hard to trust him next start. Good news, it’s the Pirates and that should make your decision for you. Good luck.


Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:


Brady Singer @ CLE (W) – 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 34% CSW. Hot dang! Look at Singer go. Streaming Record: 25-22. I had concerns about this one and certainly didn’t expect flirtation with a no-hitter. He did a bit of what we saw in his MLB debut, leaning on sliders for ~40% of his pitches and they worked super well. The best news here is that Singer gets the Tigers twice in his next three starts, sandwiching a date with the Cardinals and I could be convinced to start all three. Maybe not the Cardinals if you need to be conservative. This is peak Singer and it could stick.

Austin Gomber vs DET (ND) – 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 35% CSW. Gomber got a start with the flurry of doubleheaders coming the Cardinals’ way and we very well may see him again in September. Doesn’t really matter, though, he won’t be stretched out and this is as good as you’ll get…with that 2.00 WHIP. No thanks.

Jordan Zimmermann @ STL (ND) – 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 29% CSW. Whoa, Jay-Z is back on Tour! Sadly, no one purchased tickets because they are responsible people. Smart, too, especially if they don’t try to see him next time he’s in town. This analogy is starting to confuse me. Just ignore Zimmermann, okay?

Dustin May @ ARI (ND) – 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 0 Ks – 1 Whiffs, 31% CSWMay was pulled after taking a liner off his foot, forcing Tony Gonsolin to go 80 pitches in relief for a line of 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 14 whiffs, 35% CSW. I feel bad for all y’all who don’t get a Gonsolin start now, and honestly, he pitched better than the line as it’s not really something you want in the end. No win, blegh ratios, and just three strikeouts. It messes everything up and I’ll have it all sorted out by Monday’s The List update.

Sean Manaea vs HOU (W) – 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 31% CSW. Manaea lived low in the zone with changeups and four-seamers and it worked against the Astros. The BABIP Gods were kind today, I wouldn’t bank on their favor moving forward with two more difficult starts for Manaea.

Chris Paddack vs SF (ND) – 2.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 50% CSW. Paddack was tossing just 92/93 mph in this one, then pulled after two innings with a right ankle sprain. I’d imagine he misses at least one start because of it…which would mean an IL stint. Monitor the situation, but yeah, bad news for Paddack managers.

Dylan Bundy @ TEX (W) – 7.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 12 Ks – 20 Whiffs, 42% CSW. Aces gonna ace and earn the coveted Golden GoalIt really is so wonderful seeing Bundy become the man we always dreamed he could be. I get a feeling he’ll be overdrafted a little entering next year – it’s hard to stay this good at 90/91 and reliant on command – but he shouldn’t fall off entirely with his approach and I love it.

Jose Urquidy @ OAK (L) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 20% CSW. On one hand that’s just one strike (“HAISTFMFWT?!), on the other he had solid pitch separation with changeups and sliders down and four-seamers middle/up. There’s still more polish left to add across each of these offerings, but now at 88 pitches and three fantastic matchups left against the Mariners and Rangers, I’m signing up for some Urquidy. Surprised to be this in, honestly, but the matchups are there, the pitch count is there, and the stuff is good enough and can get better.

Jack Flaherty vs DET (W) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 33% CSW. Aces gonna ace. I’m a little annoyed it took 95 pitches to get 5 frames and I wonder if we’ll look back at 2020 Flaherty hype and wonder if we should learn from being over-enthusiastic of a phenomenal second-half, but 2020 is weird and they missed a ton of time, etc. Regardless, just keep starting Flaherty because duh.

Madison Bumgarner vs LAD (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 23% CSW. This is kinda what I expect from Bumgarner these days. He’s trying to force innings without much icing on the cake and it sets him up for a low floor without a high enough ceiling. He’s *gasp* just a Toby now and I’m not interested. But hey, props for surviving the Dodgers! Velocity? Yeah, just 88 mph. Oh. Yeah.

Mike Kickham @ TB (ND) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 46% CSW. Hot dang! 46% CSW would be a King Cole if he went another full inning, fueled by using his slider 50% of the time as it earned 18/33 CSW. Crazy good. I’m not sure I buy that he can live like this as a starter often with a blegh four-seamer, but mixing in a solid curveball as well allowed him to survive for four frames. Too risky to trust in the future, though.

Sandy Alcantara vs PHI (ND) – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 20% CSWEhhhhh it’s a VPQS and I want more from Alcantara. His changeup was gone here, with just six thrown and relying a bit too much on sinker/slider. Great pitch separation between the two, though, and I don’t think Alcantara is broken or anything. Just not his final form. I’d still roll with him against Boston next, and likely the rest of the season after.

Jake Arrieta @ MIA (ND) – 5.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 24% CSW. It’s an out away from a VPQS and honestly, you’d have taken that if you went with Arrieta. That’s not a good thing.

Josh Fleming vs BOS (ND) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW. Fleming’s approach is riding sinkers away from right-handers / into lefties with changeups and slider down. Those changeups weren’t well executed here and while his slider held a 44% CSW, it wasn’t as pristine as we’ve seen. Meanwhile, his sinker found the middle a little too often and…it was meh. I don’t think there’s enough overall here from JF to make me confuse him with a St. Louis ace.

Austin Voth vs ATL (ND) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 24% CSW. Voth went fastball/curveball heavy and it’s not enough. 2/22 whiffs on curveballs are a far cry from the man we got a glimpse of last season. That being said, the Braves offense is crazy good right now and he did the best he could.

Adbert Alzolay vs CIN (ND) – 3.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 26% CSW. Alzolay had no command of his heater so he snuck in 47% curveballs to steal strikes. It helped and made this better than it could have been, but yeah, he’s AA, not Triple-A.

Aaron Civale vs KC (L) – 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 30% CSW. Blegh. His cutter was hung a bit and too many pitches found the center of the zone, allowing for just 22% CSw on cutters and 27% on sinkers. Curveball was still earning whiffs and a handful of sliders and changeups helped as well, but it’s not quite as overwhelming as we like to see from Civale. I hate to say it, but I think I’m leaning Plesac over Civale for 2021 at this point – I see a little more overall dominance potential from Plesac’s stuff than Civale, and I’m pretty even on the command side as Civale hasn’t shown that it fully sticks from start-to-start. It’ll be a fun discussion, definitely.

Trevor Cahill @ SD (L) – 3.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 38% CSW. Oh hey, it’s more Cahill. He tried to lean on his changeup down, and while the pitch was effective, he’s still a bit too hittable overall, especially as all his pitches landed low. Honestly, I think this is already too much time spent on Cahill because, well you know, he’s his Irish doppelganger, Trevor O’Cahill.

Kyle Gibson vs LAA (L) – 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 10 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 25% CSW. His slider and changeup are supposed to be these overwhelming whiff pitches. Here? 4/39 whiffs. Yeah, that’s not it.

Robbie Erlin @ WSH (ND) – 1.2 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks – 0 Whiffs, 14% CSW. Isn’t it crazy how the Braves are starting a guy like Erlin on a regular basis? What is 2020.

Tarik Skubal @ STL (L) – 2.0 IP, 6 ER, 3 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 27% CSW. Zoinks Skubs! Sorry, I had to do it once. Never again. Like starting Skubal this season. He’s not polished with his stuff and I’m still waiting for his curveball & slider to take over in a game. Just 1 curveball here and it was spiked. He’s not finished.


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.



Alex Young vs. Seattle Mariners – There isn’t a start that grabs me here and I’d stream Yusei Kikuchi or Dakota Hudson if I could. I can’t. I CAN. Yusei Kikuchi vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – He’s too good not to start here. I’m grabbing everywhere I can.


Tomorrow’s Streamer


Justus Sheffield vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – He’s hovering the 20% mark and has decent enough stuff to make this work against a poor Arizona offense. Few options otherwise, with Trevor Williams against the Royals as the only other clear choice (blegh).


Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer


Tyler Mahle vs. St. Louis Cardinals – Mahle is right around 20% and there’s no way I’m holding him back now. He’s in a groove and you want this.


Game of the Day


Shane Bieber vs. Kenta MaedaGuess I know what I’m doing on this Friday night.



(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/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.

6 responses to “Sour Graypes”

  1. Zak says:

    Was hoping to see Smyly here. Any thoughts on what we saw & him moving forward?

    • Nick Pollack says:

      You know, I made a note to not forget to add Smyly and…whoops.

      Pretty cool to not only see him back in action, but also earn 8 strikeouts in 12 outs. 38% CSW and 11/59 whiffs and pumping 94/95 mph was all-around wonderful, cutters got strikes, curveballs were well mixed, it was a dream for Smyly.

      If he gets the chance to take Cahill’s spot next time out against the Mariners, I’d certainly consider it. The biggest hurdle is the pitch count as 59 pitches would mean ~70 next time (normally about a 10 pitch jump each time). I’m not sure that warrants a stream, but for SP/RP leagues, it may work out super well.

  2. Dave J. says:

    Hey Nick…I lost out on Gausman…..now I need someone to fill the 6th spot in my rotation for last two weeks…who would you choose Jose Urquidy, Deivi Garcia, Brady Singer, Tyler Mahle, or Pablo Lopez? Currently have on my roster Degrom, S. Sanchez, I. Anderson, Plesac and S. Alcanatra. Love your site, your insights and your analysis!

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