Fantasy Baseball SP Roundup: Down On Your Puk

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Friday.

Welcome to the SP Roundup, my daily fantasy baseball article reviewing every starting pitcher’s performance from every Friday game. I apologize for the jokes written in my delirium in advance. Have questions? Ask me during my office hours on Playback.tv weekday mornings from 10 am-12 pm ET.  

A.J. Puk (MIA) vs PIT (L) – 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 6 BBs, 1 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 68 pitches.

It took two days into the season before I had my first major MISS of the year. It’s easily the worst part about what I do – here I am saying “I like this guy!” and I can feel the seething emotions of all of you after you served me your trust on a velvet pillow. It was a lovely pillow, you have great taste.

That player is A.J. Pukwho looked horrible in his debut as a starter for the Marlins, returning 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 6 BBs, 1 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 68 pitches against the Pirates. I obviously watched all of it and to be completely fair, his first frame wasn’t the worst thing ever. In fact, he struck out his first batter and only surrendered a sole walk in the first. But then he walked three in the second, then two more in the third with a pair of base knocks and you see the line above.

I watched as much as I could of Puk this spring and I saw a different arm than what we got on Friday. Puk had showcased better feel for his heaters, while landing sliders with far more confidence. I hadn’t seen his changeup yet (splitter?) either, but the root of the excitement was: great heaters with a flat arm angle that he pounded for strikes (75% strike rates in 2023!) + a legit SwStr slider that makes for a phenomenal 1-2 punch.

We didn’t get that in the slightest. I dig the general BSB focus of fastballs in the top half, sweepers in the bottom, but he couldn’t consistently nail the zone with his heater, while far too many sweepers landed out of the zone. We saw 50% strikes on heaters and sub 50% on sweepers. Nope. As I got more data this morning, I did see one startling number, though. Puk raised his vertical release point, which makes his elite 1.4 HAVAA (height-adjusted vertical approach angle) from 2023 likely fall under his 2022 mark, which was just above average. What does that mean? Simply put, Puk’s fastball at the expected lower velocity of 92/93 mph isn’t as exceptional as we thought it would be. He still has elite extension, but without the flat angle, that might not be enough. It could have been a one start thing, it could also be Puk making changes from RP to SP.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel after this small of a sample – Puk will obviously be better than this. He gets the Angels next and I’ll be starting him in all leagues where I have him. What we need to remember is that this was his debut as a starter. There are a lot of emotions at play and the first starts of the year across the league are notoriously poor representations of the player’s season. However, if there’s someone else screaming at you on the wire, like Houck or Olson’s fantastic two-start matchups, then feel free to do so. It’s possible Puk adjusts right away and kills it from here on out, it’s also possible he doesn’t get into a groove and gets displaced once the rotation heals. H*ck, Crochet looked SO much better and if you want to make that swap (even with the terrible Crochet schedule), you have my blessing. As for you Puk, I’ll see you in five days.


Let’s see how every other SP did Friday:


George Kirby (SEA) vs BOS (W) – 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 17 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 99 pitches.

Kirby walked two of his first three batters of the season, which is not what any of us had on our bingo cards, but flashed something we’ve always wanted from Kirby: 9/29 breaking ball whiffs. That sub 25% strikeout rate from 2023 already looks like a relic of maturation. Now just get that four-seamer a little higher dangit.

Zack Wheeler (PHI) vs ATL (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 89 pitches.

Aces gonna ace, earning a co-share of the Gallows Pole with his opponent. Even sitting a tick down at 94/95, Wheeler’s heater is still one of the best in the game at 11/45 whiffs and 36% CSW. We even saw 7/10 strikes on splitters and 9/10 sweeper strikes, helping him stay ahead of one of the best lineups in baseball. Give the man the love he deserves.

Cristian Javier (HOU) vs NYY (ND) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 90 pitches.

THE CHANGEUP IS THE TRUTH. Javier’s struggles can be quickly summarized as “his slider needed to earn more strikes” and out of nowhere, Javier began throwing this lovely 82 mph changeup during the spring. I watched it earn a ton of strikes in the zone, and I could only hope it would carry into the season. Spoiler alert: IT HAS. 68% strikes in this one on a night where the four-seamer wasn’t well spotted and went just 1/32 whiffs, and it saved Javier when the slider went just 57% strikes on its own. That dang slowball, it’s Cristian’s savior and I’m a believer. I’m so excited.

Bobby Miller (LAD) vs STL (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 11 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 93 pitches.

Oh look at that. Miller added an extra inch to his four-seamer vert, now flirting with 17 inches of iVB (dope), and is nearing 50% hiLoc on the pitch. We’re making progress turning Miller into a bona fide 30%+ strikeout stud, with the last piece of the puzzle coming from his slider, a pitch that went just 1/12 whiffs here, looking more like a cutter than a slider with far less drop. But he just fanned 11. I know…across nine whiffs. Gotta get those numbers up.

Merrill Kelly (AZ) vs COL (W) – 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 79 pitches.

An easy, breezy, beautiful Win for Kelly as Rockie Road is looking like a reality before they even hit in Coors. Brilliant pitch separation here from Kelly, too, who deftly avoided the heart of the zone and pulled off the Canibal McSanchez with cutters landing at the top of the zone for strikes. All this in just 79 pitches! You love to see it.

Aaron Civale (TB) vs TOR (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 86 pitches.

Huge props to Civale here, coming through against a strong Jays squad. He avoided the heart of the plate super well and the curve…huh? Six curveballs?! Sure, the sweeper stepped up as we thought it would at 16 thrown and was effective at earning outs, but even curves + sweepers returned sub 30% overall usage as this was the cutter/sinker game. Now, the command of those was great, so I get it – he was feeling it and ran with it. We’ll probably see a different distribution next time and it’s great to see Civale comfortably sport another weapon in that sweeper.

Nick Pivetta (BOS) @ SEA (L) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks – 17 Whiffs, 37% CSW, 84 pitches.

THE. WHIRLY. BIRD. When Pivetta has a dominant secondary and can keep it down, the dude crushes. He just missed out on a Golden Goal (some dudes named Wheeler and Strider) and had to settle just for a King Cole as he demolished the Mariners with said sweeper, boasting a 25% SwStr across 28 thrown, while the four-seamer stayed up and curves + cutters went just under 70% strikes. Sigh. Where have you been for five years? I’ve been here, just not very often. Oh right, consistency n stuff. Please don’t leave me.

Freddy Peralta (MIL) @ NYM (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 92 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. I’ve been generally out on Peralta this pre-season, concerned he may not be in the same rhythm + his injury-prone nature, but hot dang did he look amazing. His release point is a touch higher this year, which does lower his elite HAVAA a touch (it’s still super flat!), but he’s done so much to massively raise his iVB nearly four inches to eclipse 18″. So now Peralta has dope extension, dope iVB, and dope HAVAA? Yeah, that’s a near 6.00 PLV four-seamer after one game and we’re in for a treat.

Carlos Rodón (NYY) @ HOU (ND) – 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 87 pitches.

He did it. The madman actually sat 95/96 mph after I denied it would happen day after day after day. But this was the Astros and adrenaline was there in the first start of the year. Okay that’s true and it did dip as the game went on, especially after the first inning that featured his hardest pitches of the night – atypical for Rodón who used to ramp up through the game. So fine, we’re not out of the woods yet, but the new cutter is looking like a great addition for Rodón and I was thrilled to see him locate it gloveside with ease. I’m optimistic right now but we need to see more.

Martín Pérez (PIT) @ MIA (ND) – 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 86 pitches.

Ayyyy it (almost) worked! If only you didn’t need 86 pitches for 13 outs, you could have given us all a cheap Win. Instead, we got some ERA help and a ton of WHIP hurt. The command was just a bit off here and I’m still slightly tempted to give it a try against the Nats next week. The Marlins are a tougher offense in my book. At least Pérez can go 90 pitches, right?

Kyle Harrison (SF) @ SD (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 76 pitches.

Niiiiiiiick. You told me not to trust Harrison! I know. I still don’t. 5/55 whiffs on his four-seamer with much less iVB than last year (3rd percentile now) and little reliability on his secondaries still. He pumped heaters into the zone here, it went his way, and I’m still terrified start-to-start.

Spencer Strider (ATL) @ PHI (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 18 Whiffs, 34% CSW, 90 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. The first of many Gallows Pole awards and he featured 15% curves + changeups here, which many are excited about, though I need to note that they combined for a 43% strike rate. At any rate, they weren’t the problem here – it was one meaty fastball to Marsh that went over the fence for a two-run shot. One singular pitch, y’all. Can’t predict that.

Jose Quintana (NYM) vs MIL (L) – 4.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 85 pitches.

His fastballs aren’t spotted well at the moment and he failed to record a whiff on anything but his curve. There’s a chance he corrects it against the Tigers, but yeah, not for me.

Logan Allen (CLE) @ OAK (W) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 14 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 82 pitches.

That’s one more run that you wanted, but you’ll take that Win all day. He is a bit new this year, with his fastball looking more like a sinker and the sweeper getting a bit more break, though the man still wears his brown suit like a Toby. I wouldn’t circle his start against the Mariners for next week.

Joe Musgrove (SD) vs SF (L) – 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 84 pitches.

It was a rough first frame for Musgrove and he failed to earn a whiff for a long time, until getting into shape and looking solid in his final 4.2 innings. There’s been plenty of collective worry about Musgrove across the spring + the Korea series, but the cutter and slider woke up and his command was pretty solid overall. Also, that Chapman HR in the first wasn’t on a bad pitch at all. I’m still shocked it went out.

Ross Stripling (OAK) vs CLE (L) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 92 pitches.

About two ticks down on everything, but at least it’s just 35% fastballs? He’s exploring ways to make this work and I can see a moment or two where we actually pick up Stripling for a stream. Over yonder. Is it that shiny speck over there? I think so…? Keep looking.

Chris Bassitt (TOR) @ TB (L) – 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 95 pitches.

Things were cool until they weren’t. He’s still getting a ton of called strikes on the sinker and sometimes, that’s just how it is. Whatareyagonnado.

Zack Thompson (STL) @ LAD (L) – 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 87 pitches.

Hey, he tried his best and even flexed a new changeup that was kinda great at 36% CSW, spotted low, and returned a 23% SwStr rate. But the heater is down 2-3 ticks and even with decent overall command, it’s the Dodgers. Sonny returns after one more start, allowing Thompson to get one more opportunity against the…Padres. Nope.

Cal Quantrill (COL) @ AZ (L) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 9 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 23% CSW, 88 pitches.

COL story, bro.

Game of the Day 

Jared Jones vs. Ryan Weathers – So many fun starts today, but I gotta go with these youngins as we figure out what the h*ck we’re supposed to do with the backend of our rotations.

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

Have Questions? – Join my morning Playback.tv livestream! I answer all questions there for free: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm ET Monday through Friday.

Featured image 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.

One response to “Fantasy Baseball SP Roundup: Down On Your Puk”

  1. Thatcher Riggin says:

    Bassitt was was plagued by some poor defense as well but he looked pretty solid imo.

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