What Lyles Beneath

Nick Pollack reviews every single starting pitcher's performances from Friday's games.

It’s time we talked about the hot start to Jordan Lylesseason after trouncing the Giants last night to the tune of 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. A man so off the radar that I couldn’t get a picture of him pitching for the Pirates. It’s a 0.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and crazy good 29% strikeout rate for the year thus far, which is blowing minds. It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s…a fad? Maybe? 9.3% overall swinging-strike rate doesn’t speak to that K rate, neither does a decent 92-93 mph heater, though the biggest change people will point to is the increased reliance of a curveball that he began using more last season. It’s pulling in a 15.6% swinging-strike rate while finding the zone over 40% of the time and that’s solid marks for a breaker. At the same time, it was 26% CSW this time against a poor Giants offense, with just 18/80 in his first start of the year. Sure, the Cubs game was wonderful with 10 Ks last time out (33% CSW), but it’s not enough to get over a 100% LOB rate, .237 BABIP, and 6% HR/FB rate. But it’s a 0.53 ERA! Regression turns that into 3.57 SIERA. That’s fine! Yeah, that’s also assuming his strikeout rate sticks near 30%…which it won’t. Maybe we’ll be lucky and get a 22% mark or so – solid! – but that’ll turn this into a 3.80-4.00 ERA pitcher with an 8% walk rate. This isn’t the breakout arm you’re hoping for (That would be Caleb) and while I’m down to own him in the short term – Arizona + Texas in PIT works for me! – I expect this go south in May.

Let’s see how every other SP did Friday:

Kyle Hendricks7.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 11 Ks. Hot dang, it’s the start we’ve all been waiting for from Hendricks. What’s fun is with all the worry you had prior, this game alone brings his ERA down to 3.54 with a 22.6% strikeout rate. Sure, the 1.67 WHIP needs a little more time, but you get how these things can normalize quickly early in a year.

CC Sabathia5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 4 BBs, 5 Ks. Another solid outing from CC, though I expect him to get a lot of five-frame games. And that’s fine, but QS leagues take note.

Ryne Stanek2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 1 BBs, 0 Ks. Whoa, they’re letting Stanek go two frames now! The Fratty Pirate (Ryan Yarbroughfollowed with six Ks in 3 frames with 3 ER. It’s why you don’t do this.

Anthony DeSclafani6.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. Huh. Just 5/31 whiffs on breakers, 26% CSW, and I’m a little hesitant to buy this. Fastball command was solid – jamming left-handers often up-and-in, while doing a good job of sitting breakers under it, it’s just…not enough. I don’t see a pitcher that has the approach to wiggle out of multiple jams a night and I’d hold off from buying this.

Caleb Smith6.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks. You own Smith now, right? He’s passed every test of the NL East now, holding a ridiculous 26.4% K-BB rate, a 15% overall swinging-strike rate, and earned 15 whiffs without collecting more than six on any pitch – that’s a sign of a strong three-pitch mix! There may be some rough days ahead with his HR/FB rate still dramatically lower than last year, but it’s so worth it.

Carlos Rodon6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 6 Ks. Another strong outing from Rodon against a poor offense in the Tigers, but I can’t ignore that he’s suddenly getting the whiffs we’ve sought for from his slider – its 7.1 pVal is ridiculous thus far, stemming from a 22% swinging-strike rate, 44% O-Swing, and .104 BAA in 204 thrown. He’s not quite perfecting the BSB (Blake Snell Blueprint) as his fastball isn’t elevated enough + his changeup needs refinement, but it makes me more encouraged to keep owning him and pushing him up The List. Especially when his future schedule is stupid good with Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Toronto twice, in his next five starts.

Matt Strahm8.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. Remember that horrible first start of the season and it was the reckoning of The False Prophet all over again? Strahm holds a 1.00 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in three starts since. But that’s where the fun is, because I’m not actually happy with the state of Strahm right now. GASP. Just a 16% strikeout rate in those games as his velocity sat just under 91 mph here, with only 2 whiffs across 27 changeups and deuces. The slider is looking a bit better, but this still isn’t the man I was ultra-hyped about. He’s needed a .189 BABIP and 87% LOB rate to earn those lovely ratios in these three starts and I’m still a bit cautious to throw him out there. But the hate mail will slow down now so at least I’ve got that going for me.

Marcus Stroman8.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. 35/109 CSW is great, and I’m happy to see him get above the 15% swinging-strike threshold with sliders, especially throwing it over 30% of the time. That’s the Stroman we want and it’s a major part of his success here against the A’s. Seriously, the pitch was filthy. We’ve seen it come and go in the past, though, so I can’t label this as a corner turned nor a corner earned, and it could become a corner burned. That’s a stretch. YOU’RE A STRETCH.

Jason Vargas4.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks. Sure, whatever Vargas.

Justin Verlander7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. Aces gonna ace. 38/107 CSW sounds about right.

Jhoulys Chacin5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks. We were worried about Chacin against the Dodgers, and understandably so with that poor WHIP, but why be worried? You can’t predict this man, after all, Chacin will do well when Jhoulyst expect it.

German Marquez5.0 IP, 2 ER, 10 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. That’s two starts in Coors now and two shaky outings that distance himself from the “ace” y’all want me to call him. Great to see 11/31 whiffs on his slider, though, and I could just cough this one up to BABIP. But it’s Coors. Right you are mystery italics. Right you are. 

Ross Stripling4.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. After his eight frames with low strikeouts, Stripling elected to even it out in the Brew Crew, this time going the McCullers approach of a low IPS and poor WHIP but high strikeout rate. The clock is ticking on Stripling’s time in the rotation with Rich Hill set to return shortly. Maybe it’s one more rehab start for Hill, maybe not. He gets the Cubs next if he does stick and I think that alone means we have to move on. #Dodgeritis is a disease.

Vince Velasquez5.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks. We liked the previous Velasquez outing, but I was wary of a pickup given this start in Coors. What a fool I was. Kinda. His breaking stuff is still meh – 8/32 CSW on breakers is not good at all – and while his heater return 15 whiffs on its own (helping him earn a Gallows Pole at 19 whiffs), I can’t shake the feeling that VV is still a Cherry Bomb at heart. That’s a scary thing and could be a case of avoid him for the bad matchup, start him for the good, and get it all wrong. He’ll be on The List next week because duh but it’s just not for me.

Marco Gonzales7.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. A bit of Careful Icarus here as Gonzo allowed a two-run shot off the bat of Mike Trout (duh) on a solid curve under the zone in the 8th inning. He’s Spiderman for a reason and keep him going at the back-end of your 12-teamer.

Merrill Kelly3.2 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 7 BBs, 5 Ks. What a ridiculous game. From the “double” off Bryant’s bat, overall wonky command, and 100+ pitches before the fourth ended, this definitely wasn’t the Kelly start we envisioned. I’m not down-and-out on Kelly though, he gets the Pirates next and that seems plenty more favorable.

Felix Pena5.0 IP, 3 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. Ehhhh, the only reason you’d roll with Pena is for his above-average strikeout ability. This isn’t what you’re looking for.

Eduardo Rodriguez5.1 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. Just 12 changeups in 94 pitches is all you really need to know here. Yes, six Ks but that’s just not what we want. Okay, that’s a lie, you should also know he had 14/32 on his cutter alone, which is wonderful to see. Fastballs elevated, changeups low, cutters for strikes…that could work. But the ratios aren’t going to be pristine unless his best offering – changeup – is better and more of a focal point. I’m still on the fence here.

Anibal Sanchez5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 6 Ks. Blegh. He couldn’t seal the VPQS against the Marlins as the season of cutter regression continues. Drop him and move on in your 12-teamers. Streaming Record: 12-9.

Adam Wainwright3.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks. Ahhh yes, the Wainwright we all know and hate.

Madison Bumgarner6.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. I loved how well Bumgarner kept his cutter low while keeping heaters up. I don’t like how hittable his changeup and curveball have become, though. It’s not the workhorse of years past, but he’ll do fine as your #4 or so this year.

Jake Junis5.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. Peter arrives home after a long day, sits at the edge of his bed lost in thought. Not a word is spoken. Beats pass. His wife, Lucy, turns on the light, turns to the side, concerned about the rock in her life. “What is it Peter?” Peter sighs deeply. He can hear the quiver in her words, he feels terrible that he’s made her feel this way. “I trusted Junis today and he let me down.” Lucy turns his shoulders to her. “Never trust him again, Peter.” Peter nods. “Never again.”

Drew Smyly3.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. Huh. I think I’ve given Smyly the same May 15th Judgement Day as Minor received last year (or not?) and this start, even with its terrible WHIP and ERA, is a step forward. 34/102 CSW with everything missing bats and landing in the zone is impressive. His cutter was plenty good nipping the outside corner and curveballs often fell low. There’s polish missing in his deuce’s consistency and keep heaters on edges and elevated, but I have a few a mantras and one is steps, not leaps. I think he’ll get there and make for a nice trade deadline swap for the Rangers.

Aaron Brooks5.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. Remember that first start against the Sawx and how it made some interested? Classic April.

Jordan Zimmermann6.1 IP, 5 ER, 6 Hits, 4 BBs, 4 Ks. Jay-Z, this isn’t a Blueprint for success.

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.

Derek Holland vs. Pittsburgh Pirates – I love Holland and pitching against the Pirates. And love that no one else loves him so I can get a taste of that sweet-sweet hipster feeling. How have I lived in Brooklyn forever and never felt like this?


Tomorrow’s Streamer


Dereck Rodriguez –  vs. Pittsburgh PiratesSure, why not, it’s the Pirates. Again.


Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer


Mike Minor vs. Oakland Athletics – I’m not a fan of the options here and Minor’s scaling up.


Game of the Day


Touki Toussaint vs. Corey Kluber – Will Touki steamroll through the Tribe lineup? Will Kluber bounce back? I WANT TO KNOW. Also Curious how Jordan Lyles looks against the Giants. This is a repeat of yesterday because of rain. GIVE US WHAT WE WANT.


(Photo by Justin Berl/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.

11 responses to “What Lyles Beneath”

  1. Zach says:

    Caleb Smith a must own in a 10 man?

  2. Kev says:

    H Nick. Rich Hill is on waivers in my 10 T Roto league. I see he has been steadily moving up in your rankings as he gets closer to a return (next week?). If he stays healthy (a big “if”) is he worth an add and where do you see his projection ROS. Happy Saturday. Thx!

  3. Mike P says:

    I’m assuming you like Luke Weaver over Jordan Lyles? How would you rank these three pitchers. Lyles, Weaver, Eflin ROS. Thanks!

  4. Ryan says:

    Pick two ROS.
    – Caleb Smith
    – Happ
    – Kikuchi
    – Freeland

  5. Saint says:

    Hello Nick,

    Drop Kelly or Anibal for the two start weeks of Weaver or Pablo?

    Perhaps both?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  6. Terry Bennett says:

    Hey Nick,
    In a Keeper League with standard Roto categories – how would you rate the following for ROS and Long Term:
    Reynaldo Lopez (I currently own him)
    Spencer Turnbull
    Trent Thornton


  7. Mike Bourg says:

    What’s funny is that looks like your Lyles pic is from PNC Park anyway, I can see the black and gold in the background!

  8. Brandon Heikoop says:

    Marquez gave up 10 SINGLES. How is that a Coors effect?

    Worse yet, this was against the #3 scoring team in baseball. That’s both his home starts against top half (maybe even 10) teams. Statistically, that’s unlikely to occur.

    Even with those facts in mind, he’s still putting up a better season than many of the top 10 guys.

  9. Robert Andino says:

    Hey Nick,

    Love your work and excited for this week’s list.

    Quick PitcherList terminology question:

    Which is better and would you prefer to roster on most occasions. A Cherry bomb or a Toby?

    Thanks again!

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Generally, Cherry Bombs as they have a better shot at removing their labels over the course of the year.

      Good quality ones, though, not Freddy Peralta versions.

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