Nerves of Steele

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Saturday.

Welcome to the SP Roundup, my daily fantasy baseball article reviewing every starting pitcher’s performance from every Saturday game. I apologize for the jokes written in my delirium in advance. Have questions? Ask me during my office hours on Twitch weekday mornings from 9 am-11 am ET.  

Justin Steele (CHC) vs ARI (ND) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 89 pitches.

We should talk about a player I’ve dramatically waved my hand as if someone were offering me tea (HOW DARE THEY) after Justin Steele excuse me. Justin STEELE went 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 89 pitches against the Diamondbacks. Is this a man coming into his own à la Eric Lauer?

I don’t think so. Sorry. I watched this entire start and I had a few takeaways. First, man, the Diamondbacks offense really isn’t good. Second, Steele was all over the place, then would pinpoint a fastball, then miss the next one without care. It was legit “effectively wild” — he held a 47% strike rate on his slider across 32 thrown. That’s not great, even if it earned seven whiffs along the way. Third, his heater was amped early then slowed down and if he’s able to maintain the ~94mph fastball we saw in the first, maybe he can push its whiffs higher than a sub 6% SwStr rate. Fourth, he didn’t make too many mistakes and forced batters to swing at his pitch a decent amount of the time. Fifth, seriously, The Diamondbacks really are a bad offense.

I guess I’m treating Steele like a shot at upside, and with a date against the Reds next, I don’t have an issue playing him there to see if he keeps moving forward, but this nine-strikeout game is not the coming of a new strikeout arm. He isn’t that man.


Let’s see how every other SP did Saturday:


Joe Musgrove (SD) @ SF (W) – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 100 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Despite the lack of whiffs, 44% CSW on the slider is the equivalent of a hot cup of cocoa after a cold day outside. He’s legit and let’s all nod our heads in approval to Felix accurately predicting this blurb.

Michael Lorenzen (LAA) vs OAK (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 29% CSW, 84 pitches.

The man keeps cruising, which can be easy to do when you face the Athletics twice in a row. He’ll get a major challenge against the Jays next and I’m terrified of that start. I don’t think he does quite enough to endure those tough at-bats.

Justin Verlander (HOU) vs TEX (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 33% CSW, 95 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. This is getting wild. I have to raise him above Fried tomorrow, don’t I? That slider went 40% CSW and 9/35 whiffs and that’s pretty dang cool.

Jeffrey Springs (TB) @ BAL (W) – 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 4 BBs, 7 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 80 pitches.

A Gallows Pole?! What’s going on here? Okay, here’s the low-down. I kinda see Springs as a discount Jordan Montgomery: He’s a southpaw with a high release point who has a low 90s heater and a filthy changeup. Seriously, 10/33 whiffs here and a 26% SwStr rate for the year. How he differs from The Bear is that Springs relies on that changeup 30-40% of the time without a strong breaker, while Monty has his curveball as well. It’s not necessarily worse — I think Springs’ heavy reliance on the changeup is a good thing with its 70% strike rate, but it makes me wonder if he has enough in the four-seamer and slider to be a consistent producer, not to mention how the Rays are limiting his pitches — just 80 tossed here. He gets the Yankees next and that’s a no-go for me, but if he does perform, you’ll likely find it tough to grab him for the Rangers start after.

Kyle Wright (ATL) @ MIA (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 91 pitches.

Hmmmmm. Four-seamer was elevated with more intent, though his curveball struggled to find strikes like it normally does (just 7/18 is horrendous), which forced more changeups, which aren’t an exceptional pitch. NICK. THIS WAS A GREAT START. Oh right. Yeah, the line was cool. He was able to pump sinkers without damage inside the zone, and I’m not sure that’s something I want to buy into when they don’t have the same command we normally see. Wright, show me the man we saw in early April. That’s the dude who was a stud and he knew it. These last five starts have felt like a Wright wrong turn when we wanted to stay the course.

Frankie Montas (OAK) @ LAA (ND) – 1.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 24 pitches.

Montas left this one after taking a ball to the hand and is apparently feeling okay. We move on.

Alek Manoah (TOR) vs CIN (W) – 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 16 Whiffs, 35% CSW, 83 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. His four-seamer propelled this share of the Gallows Pole while he featured his slider for a 74% strike rate. You love to see it.

Hunter Greene (CIN) @ TOR (ND) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 84 pitches.

Whoaaaaa Greene survived the Jays. He’s going the Huascar Ynoa route of slider first, fastball second, and I dig it. It means that 100 mph heat is a surprise if he can throw his slider for strikes (61% here works!) and it has me more intrigued than ever. See, the problem was the hittability of his heater and we didn’t know whether his slider will be good enough. Going 10/44 whiffs and a 30% CSW on the breaker does the trick here, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he keeps it up against the Cubs. Huh. I’m seeing trees of Greene for real this time.

Brandon Woodruff (MIL) vs WSH (W) – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 100 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Are you beginning to believe? That’s a 31% CSW on his four-seamer with 18 fouls and only four in play. He’s getting harder to hit on the four-seamer and that’s a great thing.

Joe Ryan (MIN) @ KC (W) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 79 pitches.

Despite the meh numbers, he located his slider well just off the edge of the zone, while his changeup did the same. The issue I have here is the immense y-mLoc% in this one at a massive 40% rate (y-mLoc% = middle location vertically, like around the belt. The average is around 27% for four-seamers). He got away with it against the Royals, but we want to see higher locations from that heater overall: It’s why he had just 4/40 whiffs on his heater in this one. Whatever, keep starting him. He’ll be fine.

Carlos Carrasco (NYM) @ COL (W) – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 30% CSW, 87 pitches.

I was very against this start in Coors and I’m happy to see Carrasco make it work, despitegoing 2/25 CSW on his changeup (plenty foul balls & BIP, 68% strike rate!). The slider did work and his four-seamer pounded the zone effectively. This actually may be the first start seeing everything come together with that changeup and slider earning effective strikes + the four-seamer not getting demolished. Huh. Is it enough to start him against the Phils? I guess you kinda have to, right?

Elieser Hernandez (MIA) vs ATL (L) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 5 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 39% CSW, 70 pitches.

Well hot dang, look at you! There’s the Elieser of previous years: five strong innings with a strikeout per inning. The slider was great, the four-seamer earned a whopping 50% CSW and while Atlanta isn’t great against right-handers, it makes you wonder if it’s the start of a solid Elieser stretch. He gets Atlanta a second time (before Coors, blegh) and I wonder if it’ll be more of the same…nah, I wouldn’t risk it. Monitor it though.

Carlos Rodón (SF) vs SD (L) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 25% CSW, 100 pitches.

Aces gonna ace. Soooo that’s a 1.50 WHIP as he didn’t have his deadly slider in this one, yet he still made it six frames with a 3.00 ERA. Look, I know that’s two starts of being less than you wanted, but when a guy struggles and this is the outcome, you should be thrilled. It’s the sign of a legit ace. No one, save for deGrom, is going to go be a stud 100% of time, h*ck, 90% of the time. The best are the ones who limit the damage when they aren’t at their peak.

Jon Gray (TEX) @ HOU (L) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 94 pitches.

The slider wasn’t nearly as dominant in this one and Gray kinda got fortunate here to survive six with just a 3.00 ERA. Good news is he gets the Athletics and he’s healthy. Start him there as I expect the slider and overall command to be better.

José Quintana (PIT) vs STL (L) – 3.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 32% CSW, 77 pitches.

This Vargas Rule has come to a close…or so you’d think. Well, yeah probably. His curveball and four-seamer were commanded well, and the changeup was kept consistently armside, but the sinker leaked out far too often and even when Quintana has everything working, it’s no guarantee it’ll work out. He gets the Padres as a southpaw next, too, if you needed any more reason to not pursue this.

Ty Blach (COL) vs NYM (ND) – 3.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 0 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 22% CSW, 46 pitches.

Blach. That’s a HAISTBMBWT?! even if it’s just 46 pitches. The Rockies essentially bullpen’d this one so let’s move on.

Nestor Cortes (NYY) vs CWS (W) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 27% CSW, 100 pitches.

So he’s still really good, but the four-seamer returned just 2/45 whiffs and that’s not exactly what we want to see. It’s why you’re seeing 3 ER instead of a pristine six frames. Keep starting him because duh. Oh also, Josh Donaldson sucks.

Mitch White (LAD) @ PHI (ND) – 2.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 49 pitches.

Hey, it’s Mitch! And it wasn’t great! And a bullpen game! And it doesn’t matter at all! Okay, that’s enough exclamation points for, I don’t know, the week.

Brad Keller (KC) vs MIN (L) – 7.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 97 pitches.

Womp womp. At least he went seven frames? He’s a coin-flip at best and y’all know he isn’t worthy on your 12-teamer.

Madison Bumgarner (ARI) @ CHC (ND) – 7.0 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 31% CSW, 98 pitches.

A pair of longballs messed this one up, but overall, Bumragner did his thing. 91 mph heaters, and seven strikeouts make this a Dusty Donut and nothing changes. Just don’t start him against the Dodgers.

Germán Márquez (COL) vs NYM (L) – 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 11 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 102 pitches.

Twelve baserunners in six frames is something else. I’m not even acknowledging the “you do you” here, just don’t do it.

Aaron Nola (PHI) vs LAD (ND) – 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 9 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 40% CSW, 98 pitches.

That’s two longballs as he served you a Dusty Donut against the Dodgers with a solid WHIP and nine strikeouts. Ugh, is there a pitcher more cursed than Nola? Dude earns a King Cole with 40% CSW yet the other 60% burns him terribly. IT’S NOT FAIR. Keep starting him and hopefully he forces the AGA label soon enough.

Matthew Liberatore (STL) @ PIT (ND) – 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 26% CSW, 88 pitches.

I was unable to write the GIF Breakdown last night (Thanks Ben Palmer! Read it!) but I did watch this and my takeaway is simple: His command isn’t great, but the curveball is…when executed. I was pretty unimpressed with everything else, though, and it’ll be a question of if he can get enough out of the heaters to elevate (figuratively) his curveball. Regardless, he’s back in the minors now and will likely be the first call when they need another arm again in the future. I’m not sure I’ll jump on that when it happens.

Trevor Williams (NYM) @ COL (L) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 17% CSW, 52 pitches.

Yeaaaah, not a whole else for you to expect here. Where there’s a Will, there’s a K…or two.

Kyle Bradish (BAL) vs TB (L) – 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 24% CSW, 91 pitches.

Womp womp. The slider is still good, but the heater is too hittable. I’m starting to think that he needs either a strong #3 pitch to remove the heavy four-seamer reliance (56% usage) or he has to reshape that heater to have less cut action. Just my two cents; I’d leave him on the waiver wire.

Patrick Corbin (WSH) @ MIL (L) – 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW, 79 pitches.

Oh Corbin. One day, I imagine you’ll shout at me and say “WAIT I FIGURED IT OUT!” and I’ll look up from above my newspaper on the pool chair to watch your cannonball. That’s nice honey, and we’ll all continue our ways, refusing to pick up Corbin on our teams.

Chris Flexen (SEA) @ BOS (ND) – 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 68 pitches.

He hit the wall against the Phils, then had to endure the Jays and Sawx…with the Astros next. Ooooof. At least it made it a super clear time to jump off if you had him before the Phillies. Maybe we’re back against the Orioles after the Astros?

Garrett Whitlock (BOS) vs SEA (ND) – 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 10 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 21% CSW, 71 pitches.

This experiment hasn’t gone the way we envisioned it, but the Orioles are next and I think you’re okay chasing that and hoping his sinker performs far better than a 1/33 whiff rate. He’s better than this. If it doesn’t work out there, I got nothing for ya.

Dallas Keuchel (CWS) @ NYY (L) – 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 0 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 20% CSW, 84 pitches.

You don’t need me. Seriously, I’m actually curious if one of you wants to take a stab at writing these, I feel like I’ve spilled everything I know into these articles over the years that I’m sure many of you are sitting there thinking “oh, I could totally do that.” Just a thought. Annnyway, I bet Keuchel was in Dallas after this outing. And probably every outing. I mean, I’d love to be the name of a city, walking its streets with a strut feeling like “hey, yeah, this is me.” Kinda like Paris back in the day. Nick, I’m pretty sure Paris didn’t exist during ancient Grecian times. Don’t underestimate Paris’ foresight. BUT HE CHOSE THE WRONG THING AND CREATED A WAR. What, pWar? NICK.

Game of the Day 

Bailey Ober vs. Brady Singer – I’m happy to see Ober back from the IL and the Royals are doing the right thing by calling Singer back up. Let’s see that changeup in action once again.

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 ET Monday through Friday.

Photo by Dustin Bradford//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.

One response to “Nerves of Steele”

  1. BB says:

    Not sure Tampa Bay is limiting Springs’ pitches so much as building him up – it was his fourth start in his last five games following seven season-opening relief appearances, pitch counts in those starts have gone from 43 to 57 to 76 to 80. But yeah, it’s the Rays, so can’t expect him to ever go real deep (does anyone anymore?).

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