Unsung Hiro

Nick Pollack reviews every starting pitcher performance from Thursday.

This may be entirely false, but I get the sense the fantasy community hasn’t given a whole lot of air time to Masahiro Tanaka myself included – and I think he deserves a moment of appreciation for his sturdy 2020 season. After last night’s Win against the Jays – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 31% CSW – Tanaka is holding a 3.27 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 22% strikeout rate with a 14% SwStr rate across nine starts. It’s not the sexiest of stat lines, but he’s helping massively and it’s a significant shift from his 4.45 ERA and 1.24 WHIP from last year.

You may think the culprit is a reduced HR rate, but actually that number has risen over 20 points to 1.64 HR/9. It’s actually his improved ability to throw quality sliders, earning more strikes than before and helping him lower his walk rate to a sub 3% clip. His splitter still isn’t the world-famous pitch it was in his early years, but having that slider to get ahead constantly allows him to throw more four-seamers up in the zone, propelling its 11%+ SwStr that jumped five points from last season.

Having a strong offense at your back doesn’t hurt either, and while the trio of Wins isn’t exactly what you hoped for from Tanaka, he’s been a steady floor arm through the year. He gets the Jays and Marlins next and I’d expect more of the same through the end. Solid stuff.


Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:


Nathan Eovaldi @ MIA (W) – 5.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 33% CSW. Hot dang! Eovaldi was a fade for me as he would be limited, but he made the most of his 76 pitches against the Marlins, doing an excellent job of getting his cutters down for once, even sprinkling in some curveballs for strikes along the way. He’s worth your consideration against the Orioles next week, though it’s not lock he can perform like this again.

Dakota Hudson @ PIT (ND) – 2.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 2 BBs, 0 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 12% CSW. Hudson was pulled early with an elbow injury. NoooooooAustin Gomber came in, preventing him from starting tomorrow, bumping Daniel Ponce de Leon a bit too early for a full start and the whole Cardinals chain is interrupted now. Poor Hudson, I hope he’s okay, he’s a clear drop as I’d expect the Cardinals to rest him through the end.

Steven Brault vs STL (W) – 9.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 32% CSWWhat on Earth. Brault made it work despite just 10% CSW on his slider (but a decent amount of outs with the pitch!) by turning his changeup up a notch to go 44% CSW across 34 thrown and earn whiffs left and right. His four-seamer found the edges for strikes and it just kept working like that cast iron pan you bought a long time ago. I imagine some will take the chance next time against the Cubs, but I’m sure not. This feels more like a Birthday Party than a tweak that’s here to stay.

Framber Valdez vs TEX (W) – 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 11 Ks – 15 Whiffs, 36% CSW. Valdez’s curveball returned last time out and it stuck today with 44% CSW and that’s all you really need from Framber against the Rangers. I still don’t love that sinker, but he got solid strikes in the zone with it and carved up the Texas offense. Now he gets the Mariners and the Rangers again and what you’re seeing may be many fantasy teams’ MVP for 2021. I’m sorry I didn’t buy into it earlier, y’all, I really don’t like that sinker longterm.

Blake Snell @ BAL (ND) – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 11 Whiffs, 25% CSWAces gonna…underwhelm? I mean, this is certainly productive, but that’s not a Quality Start and just four strikeouts from Snell is like seeing just a handful of fries from Five Guys – don’t y’all spill those babies into the bag like a monsoon of potato goodness? Whatever, keep starting him and we’ll talk about 2021 soon. I think I may be a little down on him relative to the field, but we’ll see.

Griffin Canning vs ARI (W) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 7 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 31% CSW. He’s a Cherry Bomb and I’m glad we got to see something sweet in a great matchup against Arizona. His curveball did a lot of work staying down in the zone, while sliders earned strikes and four-seamers elevated. This works, but there was a bit of volatility in that overall command during the start. He gets the Padres to close the year and I’m staying away.

Dean Kremer vs TB (ND) – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 28% CSW. Ayyyy Kremer’s still got it! Streaming Record: 27-25. I wasn’t buying his cutter as a major whiff pitch during his debut, but he proved me wrong here with 7/23 whiffs on the pitch against the Rays + four-seamers moving around the zone and curveballs getting outs. It works for me and it’s enough to make me consider him against the Red Sox next. Still a little risky, but he’s solid.

Jordan Lyles @ HOU (L) – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 27% CSW. We had no expectations from Lyles and he played us all against the Astros, albeit with just two punchouts on the docket. He gets the Diamondbacks next and I can understand a desperate stream, but nah, that floor is too low for me to chase in such a fragile time in the season.

Jose Urena vs BOS (L) – 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks – 19 Whiffs, 33% CSW. It’s one of the better starts we’ll see from Urena as he did an unbelievable job commanding his sinker arm-side, allowing great pitch separation for his slider away. And yet, it returned a Philly and a decent WHIP. This is Urena’s peak and it’s that feeling you get on a terrace in NYC, proud to be on the 14th floor until you’re swallowed by the skyscrapers around you. This view ain’t so great.

Julio Urias @ COL (ND) – 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 2 Ks – 10 Whiffs, 25% CSWHey, this is better than a lot of us expected. Sure, it’s a Philly with just two strikeouts, but he survived. And now it’s the Athletics and that should be okay. Urias wasn’t particularly sharp here, but it’s enough to warrant a start for his final outing of the year.

Kenta Maeda @ CWS (ND) – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – 17 Whiffs, 38% CSW. Aces gonna ace and earn a King ColeI’m sad it’s just five frames and no Win, but whatever, Maeda is dope and makes you feel dope.

Shane Bieber @ DET (W) – 7.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 10 Ks – 21 Whiffs, 33% CSW. Aces gonna get a Careful, Icarus as he was somehow left in for 118 pitches in a clear pull that led to an eighth-inning, two-out 3-run HR. Ugggggh. At least it’s a Gallows PoleYay.

Reynaldo Lopez vs MIN (ND) – 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 30% CSW. I liked his four-seamer command here and while his slider was better than normal, I’m still not seeing quite enough overall to make me consider him for a good matchup against the Indians. It’s still just 94 mph and that’s not cool.

Nick Margevicius vs SF (ND) – 5.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks – 5 Whiffs, 25% CSWJust like eating only one hot pocket for dinner, there just isn’t enough here for what we want.

Casey Mize vs CLE (L) – 3.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 1 Ks – 4 Whiffs, 15% CSW. Mize had a nice matchup and this rookie just isn’t in a groove. Three walks and only one strikeout? “HASITFMFWT?!” His cutter isn’t there, he’s relying way too heavily on sinkers, his splitter went 0/10 whiffs…it’s not the Mize you want. He’s a fun late flier next year as these September struggles could dissipate over the off-season, but yeah, don’t touch this now.

Kyle Freeland vs LAD (L) – 6.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks – 12 Whiffs, 30% CSW. Freeland hosted the Dodgers in Coors and had just two runs through six, then got into trouble in the seventh and ruined his line. Careful, Icarus. I was pretty impressed with his performance here and he’s not the worst option in his last start of the year in San Francisco.

Trevor Richards vs BAL (ND) – 3.1 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks – 9 Whiffs, 28% CSW. We’ve seen Richards have some success going hard into the BSBbut his four-seamers were too low here, while his changeup and curveball have seen plenty better days. I’m not sure he gets another chance, but even if he does, I’d avoid.

Tyler Anderson @ SEA (ND) – 2.0 IP, 4 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 3 Ks – 6 Whiffs, 27% CSW. We were hoping Anderson could squeeze a solid start against the Mariners offense, but he didn’t command his four-seamer well, and then got ejected in the third inning. He does get Rockie Road next and it could work, but it’s a desperate stream instead of one I’m marking on my calendar.

Aaron Nola vs NYM (ND) – 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 5 Hits, 5 BBs, 7 Ks – 13 Whiffs, 27% CSW. Aaron nooooo. While his curveball was great, his changeup and fastballs were not. The Mets are shockingly one of the best offenses around, though, and you’re obviously starting Nola the rest of the way. We need you buddy, you gots this.

Bruce Zimmermann @ TB (ND) – 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 2 Whiffs, 30% CSW. Welcome to the bigs Bruce! I don’t think you need my help here as he’s sadly a Cup of Schmo for now. His fastball was pedestrian while just 2/22 whiffs on secondary pitches does little to turn heads. Maybe another day.

Alex Young @ LAA (L) – 2.2 IP, 6 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks – 7 Whiffs, 27% CSW. Young hasn’t had both his changeup and curveball working all year and it was more of the same here against the Angels. Womp womp. He could get the Rangers next and I’d proceed with caution, even if it is the Texas lineup.

Seth Lugo @ PHI (ND) – 1.2 IP, 6 ER, 8 Hits, 0 BBs, 3 Ks – 3 Whiffs, 25% CSW. Blegh. Lugo wasn’t able to steal called strikes like he normally can, while his curveball/slider combo wasn’t enough. It makes for a hazy road ahead with the Rays next, I’m leaning start him for it. I don’t think he’s broken and he could pull it off, but at the very least consider your options on the wire first. I’m willing to wager Lugo is the better bet, but do your due diligence.

Chase Anderson @ NYY (L) – 2.2 IP, 7 ER, 8 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks – 8 Whiffs, 31% CSW. The Yankees have been crushing the ball for 19 longballs in their last three games – WHAT – and Anderson was their latest victim. Not to say that Chase was someone we expected to steamroll this lineup, but yeah, this probably should have been a little better.


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.



Danny Duffy vs. Milwaukee BrewersOkay, so Duffy is starting this game after all. Let’s do this.


Tomorrow’s Streamer


John Means vs. Tampa Bay RaysThere isn’t a clear pick, so I’ll go with the recent hot streak of Means.


Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer


Brett Anderson vs. Kansas City Royals – Nothing is left. Dunning, Musgrove, Garcia, all owned above 30%, while somehow Brad Keller is at 60%. So there’s Anderson, I guess. I hate this.


Game of the Day



Zack Greinke vs. Zac Gallen – It’s a Zac(k) attack and I wanted to see Gallen rebound after his recent struggles. He’s got it in him. Greinke yelling at things is also a joy.


(Photo by Juan Salas/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.

9 responses to “Unsung Hiro”

  1. HudSON Pls Be Mine says:

    Thoughts on Dakota Hudson on 2021? Optimistic? I traded for him in dynasty for Dansby Swanson (high BABIP, was worried) and Josh Donaldson (I have Didi and Jose Ramirez so I wasnt too worried), but just curious if you still like what you see or not?

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Absolutely love that deal for Swanson & Donaldson.

      I think Hudson can be a solid Toby with a tinge of upside if he gets his breakers in order like we saw for a moment to start the year. Still not enough of a sample to latch on to, but I’m certainly curious for 2021.

      • dakotaaa says:

        you dont think Hudson is coming back? He has a two start week next week for Championship week, and I really need him.

        • Nick Pollack says:

          It’s unclear, but it does seem like it’s a bit too much of a risk for St. Louis right now. Monitor the situation, if he does start, I’m in.

  2. Josh says:

    Nick, I’m deciding between Snell, Clevinger, and Lamet for my 2 keepers next year. Pitching categories are W, QS, K, ERA, WHIP, K/BB, SV+H. I think I’m definitely keeping Clevinger, but I’m torn between Snell and Lamet. I know you’re skeptical of Professor Chaos but he’s been very reliable this year (no more than 3 ER in a start), and is going significantly deeper into games than Snell is (Lamet has averaged 7.0 innings across his last 3 starts, and has gone at least 5 in every start this year).

    That said, I think there’s no question Snell probably has the higher ceiling. What would you do? Thanks in advance.

    • Nick Pollack says:

      I’d personally favor Snell and Lamet and sell high on Lamet if I could.

      I know he’s done great, it does seem a bit too driven by one pitch though. You rarely see a Top 10 SP, let alone Top 15, with a two-pitch mix.

  3. Mark says:

    Would you start Fried today? I know he is coming off an injury and the Mets are hitting well, but they are starting Matz who has been horrible.

  4. Elliot says:

    Thoughts on Montgomery vs Boston or Duffy vs Pit for a QS tonight please?

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