Tightrope Walker

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Friday.

I remember the hype in February for Taijuan Walker as he was making his return with the Mariners, which quickly deflated once we found out his velocity was depressed to low 90s. I found myself out after how he looked last week, but he sure got my attention with a 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks performance against the Athletics last night. Wait, seriously? Yeah, Walker had the deepest outing of any arm last night and it looks like he’s back on the radar.

Well, kinda. I personally want to feel differently, but his has the makings of a Birthday Party to me. His fastball was well commanded at the top of the zone, but only returned two whiffs across 41 four-seamers at 92/93 mph, his cutter was decent but nothing exceptional, and 26 splitters and curveballs returned just one whiff. One. The A’s allowed walker to pound the zone frequently for 20 called strikes, but I get the sense that an aggressive team will punish Walker a bit moving forward. He seems a lot more like a Toby who I’d stream against weak teams. Sadly for him, he plays for one of the two weak teams in the West and has to get lucky to snag one of the four Giants games in September.

In short, I wouldn’t be running to the wire to pick up Walker as I expect trouble against the Angels next week. There are arms with better repertoires out there that speak to more consistency and production. This was nice, but likely not here to stay.


Let’s see how every other SP did Friday:


Yu Darvish vs PIT (W) – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks, 18 Whiffs, 42% CSWI know, I was worried about Darvish after last week, too, and I’m honestly still a little concerned given this was the Pirates and I’m not seeing ultra dominance with his slider and heater, but hey, that’s a King Cole for his 42% CSW and we’re thrilled with this game. So cool, aces gonna ace n all, and let’s not think too hard about this.

Randy Dobnak vs CLE (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 22% CSWAyyyy it worked! Streaming Record: 2-6. Everything is coming up Pollack! On the real, it’s not a repertoire that speaks to a hold in 12-teamers as you can see with that 22% CSW and just 4 Ks. A little shocked at the whiff rate, but don’t overthink this. Just send him back to the wire and if he’s starting in the future against a weak team go right ahead. We don’t even know if he gets another turn in the rotation given Jake Odorizzi’s possible return.

Tony Gonsolin @ ARI (ND) – 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks, 5 Whiffs, 27% CSWThis is more or less what I expected from Gonsolin, maybe with an extra ER or strikeout as well (HAISTFMFWT?!). With Kershaw coming back, I think Dustin May sticks around and Gonsolin goes back to being a reliever. Sorry Tony, dig the Zappa look though.

Jordan Montgomery vs BOS (W) – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks, 11 Whiffs, 31% CSWHis 93 mph velocity was a tick higher than his former self, while his solid changeup was something that had disappeared in the second half of 2018. Cutter needs a bit of work, but overall I’m happy with this start from The BearIt’s so good to have him back in action and I’d roll him out there for the Orioles next week.

Logan Webb vs TEX (ND) – 3.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 34% CSWSo you can see with that CSW that Webb has something there. It’s just something right now but held back to live its life. Like it’s caught in a substance. Maybe it’s from a spider? Like it’s adhesive, used to catch stuff, I can’t really think of it. Anyway, Webb shouldn’t be considered for much as his command is preventing his low pitch counts (just 79) from turning into a meaningful outing for you. We’re waiting for a bit here.

Zac Gallen vs LAD (ND) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 9 Ks, 19 Whiffs, 40% CSW. You’re a Gallen Gal by now, right? I know it was hard last week to see five walks and roll with him against the Dodgers, but the stuff was there and like the 76ers, you trust the process. At 40% CSW, he was almost yesterday’s King Cole and I wouldn’t be shocked if he was actually coronated a few times this year. His sole walk was a 3-2 changeup that Chris Taylor wisely resisted despite many victims falling for it under the middle part of the zone constantly. And I still can’t believe Mookie Betts was able to hit that stupid far inside changeup for a longball but whatever, things are cool.

Spencer Turnbull vs CIN (W) – 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 29% CSWLike Gallen, we all had some trepidation where we liked the arm but hated the matchup. Turnbull’s stuff was…wait no. Turnbull, why did you throw 29% sinkers?! You just killed it with a 10% mark last game, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS. The end result was just nine whiffs on the day, failing to throw a single curveball and holding back a bit on sliders. Ugh. But Nick, the start was great! Yes, yes, it’s just seeing him fluctuate with his approach makes me concerned that we’ll see some volatility along the way. He sat mostly low and went inside-outside more than north-south…but his slider and changeup were good. Alright, I’m still in, just a little less than before. That’s all.

Jon Gray vs SD (ND) – 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks, 7 Whiffs, 32% CSWI’m a bit shocked at how many still own Gray after last week’s blegh, but I’m glad to see he helped here. I wouldn’t take the risk each week – it worked hosting the Padres in Coors but you only got two strikeouts (I need a new Grave Mistake term…) but that can’t be counted on again.

Dallas Keuchel @ KC (W) – 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks, 7 Whiffs, 20% CSWYep, that’s my Spider-Man alright. Keep being you, Keuchel.

Trevor Williams @ CHC (L) – 4.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks, 15 Whiffs, 30% CSWIt’s your standard Williams start where it just…is. I wouldn’t put any faith in Trevor for your squads.

Alex Cobb vs TB (ND) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks, 5 Whiffs, 29% CSWCobb’s “The Thing” was still doing decent work, but the whole package just ain’t there. You have little reason to start Cobb these days.

Kris Bubic vs CWS (L) – 4.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks, 5 Whiffs, 20% CSWIf you’re looking for a GIF Breakdown, Trevor Hooth has you coveredHe did a great job with the piece and I got a sense of Jason Vargas here as a lefty with mediocre velocity but a solid changeup that could form into a solid ratio arm with a few strikeout games under his belt. I wouldn’t be jumping to the wire for him now as there should be plenty of bumps along the road. Pearson and Javier are higher in my book.

Sean Manaea @ SEA (L) – 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 30% CSWA little more encouraging for Manaea as he sat 90 mph in this one, but I’m still not seeing quite enough from him to get me excited. That’s a poor ERA against the Mariners and I watch Manaea, then Plesac, and think why wouldn’t I want Plesac instead? Manaea has turned into a TobyThis is the way.

Rick Porcello @ ATL (ND) – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks, 5 Whiffs, 20% CSWOh hey, it’s Porcello again, getting Rickety, rickety wrecked. I think it would be pretty cool for him to go on a Vargas Rule stretch, but I don’t think it’ll happen any time soon.

Ryan Weber @ NYY (L) – 3.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 4 BBs, 0 Ks, 6 Whiffs, 24% CSWWell, yeah. Weber defines this start as “Why?”

Blake Snell @ BAL (ND) – 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks, 9 Whiffs, 34% CSWSnell barely touched his breakers here and featured too many heaters down the pipe to the Orioles. Blegh. Still at just 53 pitches and we’re patiently waiting for the true Snell to arrive. I’m still not liking the super low zone rate on his slider and curveball, too. They can’t touch those pitches, use them to get ahead!

Garrett Richards @ COL (ND) – 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks, 17 Whiffs, 27% CSWGarrett had a tough matchup inside Coors and still recorded 17 whiffs. He got through five frames with just a first-inning two-run shot to his name, but it came apart a bit in the sixth and there’s your blegh line. He threw 40/90 sliders here – no wonder 17 whiffs! – and the three curveballs he threw we far from the good ones we’ve seen in the past. I’m still holding Garrett and I’d even toss him out there against the Dodgers. His slider is just that good.

Lance McCullers @ LAA (ND) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks, 8 Whiffs, 29% CSWI feel like the majority of pitchers have had one great start and one blegh start thus far, showcasing why it’s so important to have more than 10 weeks of a season for us to truly understand what to do. But whatever, it’s the chaos and we’ve got to embrace the fire around us. This is fine. So after looking dominant against the Mariners last weekend, McCullers was a bit all over the place against the Angels. There was decent separation of each of his three pitches, but I didn’t get the sense of overwhelming batters like we’ve seen in the past. You’re going to keep starting him, just understand a possible elevation to the Top 20 is likely not in the cards.

Mike Clevinger @ MIN (L) – 4.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 5 BBs, 5 Ks, 12 Whiffs, 28% CSWI was already planning to slot Bieber ahead of Clevinger and now I’m really going to. Clevinger wasn’t a man possessed and looked as shaky as I’ve seen him. Now it was the Twins instead of the Royals last week, but this wasn’t the Clev we know and love. I don’t think I’m moving him down more than that one spot, but I’m not happy. Shock of the century.

Matt Andriese vs HOU (L) – 1.2 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks, 1 Whiffs, 19% CSWYeah, Andriese isn’t terrible, but this was the Astros, he’s not fully stretched out, and there was no reason to risk this. Can’t say I’m shocked at the HAISTFMFWT?! but there may be a time when we say “hey, maybe Andriese deserves a stream tonight.” That’ll be cool.

Luis Castillo @ DET (L) – 6.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks, 22 Whiffs, 32% CSWCastillo faced the Tigers and earned a Gallows Pole as we expected…yet he threw some poor changeups well inside the zone and the Tigers actually punished him for it. It’s a bit frustrating and you just have to brush it off. Sidenote: I don’t think we’ve seen one PQS this entire season thus far. Whoa.

Mike Minor @ SF (L) – 5.2 IP, 6 ER, 9 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks, 11 Whiffs, 28% CSWProbably the most disappointing start of the night was this one from Minor as he faced the Giants. The Giants! In Oracle Park! I’m glad he went 98 pitches, but 90 mph is a full 2.5 ticks lower than last year and he made way too many mistake pitches over the heart of the zone. Minor relied on his slider way too heavily for a pretty mediocre offering, featuring it nearly 30% of the time, and I saw a man that looked very lost on the hill. I’m a bit scared of that dwindling velocity (90.5 mph last week as well) and with the Athletics next, I may have some reservations. It would be the Mariners after though…

Sean Newcomb vs NYM (ND) – 4.1 IP, 6 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks, 8 Whiffs, 29% CSWYou want Newcomb? Get new brush instead, it does a whole lot more and costs the same. That’s it? That’s 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.


Jon Lester vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – I think you can steal a Win here against a poor offense. Even Kyle Freeland was considered here (sadly Anibal Sanchez vs. the Marlins won’t be happening), but I think this is the safest play. Yesterday’s rainout pushes the Cubs starters back a day. That means Tyler Chatwood vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – He increased his cutter usage with its higher velocity and had himself a day against the Brewers. Now he gets the Pirates, let’s do it.


Tomorrow’s Streamer


Chris Bassitt vs. Seattle Mariners – He looked good last time out and the Mariners don’t scare me, even with Kyle Lewis there.


Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer


Alec Mills vs. Kansas City Royals – I also considered Josh Lindblom against the White Sox, but I wonder if they’ll be a little cautious given his back cramps last time out. There’s also Daniel Mengden against the Mariners as a decent Toby play, but I’ll go with Mills instead.


Game of the Day


Luke Weaver vs. Julio Urias – I want to watch Weaver improve from his first start and Urias continue to develop on the hill.


(Photo by Juan DeLeon/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.

13 responses to “Tightrope Walker”

  1. Rocket says:

    Feeling much better about Darvish and Gallen after yesterday. Yes it was the Pirates but, considering how Darvish started last year and how he finished it appears he is closer to the end of the year version. With Gallen, I was a little hesitant about the matchup. He more than held his own against one of the most difficult line ups to negotiate. I think several pitchers have started to improve their command with their second start and Gallen looks like he is back on track.

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Definitely encouraged by both!

      I think Gallen was closer than the line looked last time out, while Darvish is certainly in a better spot than the first half of last year, he’s not *quite* like his second-half self yet. I hope we can there soon.

  2. Kenji says:

    Great insight as usual, and the Newcomb and Porcello blurbs made me laugh out loud

  3. Doug B. says:

    Montgomery already has a nickname – Gumby.

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Yeah, a lot of guys have other nicknames. I’m a weirdo and have my own personal ones, too.

    • Rocket says:

      That was his nickname last year. He needs a new nickname to match his new approach. Pretty sure he would be ok with throwing Gumby out the window. Sounds like a nickname for a rook. I think the fact that the Yankees held him back so he could pitch opening day says a lot about what the future holds. Boone has a plan for “Monty” because he sees something special.

  4. Perfect Game says:

    Woodruff or Maeda for ratios and QS? I’m thinking Woodruff goes deeper into games.

  5. CJ says:

    Nick would you rather have walker, junis or Eovaldi?

  6. Nick Pollack says:

    Don’t like any of them, pretty close between Taijuan and Eovaldi. Eovaldi is safer, Taijuan has a higher ceiling.

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