Pitchers Report - April
April 5, 2012
By Marc Lawrence
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Major League Baseball trades places with College Hoops as the sports flavor of the month in April. And as we usher in America's favorite pastime, let's open the season with one of our favorite handicapping angles – good month pitchers.
Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team starts the last three seasons during the month of April. On the flip side, we've also listed pitchers that struggle in April team starts, winning 33% percent or less of their efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each April over the last three years.
I'll be back next month with May's Good Month Pitchers.
Until then, enjoy…
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Josh Beckett - 10-5
Notes - Classic drop and drive power pitcher who uses two-seam fastball and cutter. Had his pitching thumb examined right before the season began, but manager Bobby (The Brain) Valentine says the big right-hander is ready. Can be effective early in the year, especially when his back is right, where he can strikeout hitters with a hard curveball.
Chad Billingsley - 11-5
Notes - If the Dodgers right-hander can maintain command and properly move his thick lower body into right slots, he can fulfill the promise many have had for him. He tends to pitch good or bad in spurts and April tends to be among his better months.
Kevin Correia - 10-5
Notes - Correia was sensational last April and his ERA was worse each sequential month of 2011. Sound advice; take the Pirates right-hander early, not late.
Felix Hernandez - 13-3
Notes - With Michael Pineda in the Big Apple, its King Felix again and a staff full of court jesters. A very strong case can be made no pitcher in baseball has a combination of four betters pitches to get hitters out than Hernandez.
Josh Johnson - 11-5
Notes - All signs point to the 6-7 righty reclaiming his role as the Marlins No. 1 starter. Johnson has three dominate pitches he can throw for strikes and can dial up mid-to-upper 90’s fastball on the outside corner when a batter has two strikes.
Tim Lincecum - 10-5
Notes - An absolute marvel given his size (6-0, 160 pounds) and Lincecum is at his best before August the last two years. Fastball is no longer in the mid-90’s and has used the curveball more to miss bats. Some in the Giants organization would like to see more changeups like he threw earlier in his career. A joy to watch (and bet on) and amazed he doesn’t have shampoo commercial.
Justin Masterson - 8-3
Notes - Has excellent boring fastball with heavy sink action that has to feel like hitting a bowling ball down in the zone. Because of delivery, slider breaks laterally to righty hitters. Ace of the Cleveland staff.
Ricky Nolasco - 10-5
Notes - Nolasco has four good pitches he can throw for strikes and for the first time last year averaged less than one homer per nine innings. Not always a great focus guy and typically is a better bet on the road than at home.
James Shields - 11-5
Notes - Spent the 2010 off-season working on a more compact delivery and throwing more pitches for strikes and totaled an astonishing 11 complete games last year. Good sinking fastball, tight curve and wicked changeup as out pitch. At 30 years old, Shields is at the peak of his command and confidence.
Jered Weaver - 12-2
Notes - Beating Weaver in April is like trying to sneak a fastball by Albert Pujols with a 2-0 count, it does not happen often. In spite of long arms on his 6-7 frame, Weaver repeats throwing motion expertly and has four nasty pitches to baffle batters.
Carlos Zambrano - 10-5
Notes - Folks in Florida have never seen a volcano, but they might for the first time with Mt. Zambrano. The Cubs are paying 80 percent of Zambrano’s contract this season and Big Z has a skipper he trusts in Ozzie Guillen. Zambrano should be highly motivated to impress his new manager and teammates and just might get off to a good start in Miami, before regressing stuff catches up with him.
Dallas Braden - 9-4
Notes - Still recovering from shoulder surgery, will not pitch this month.
A. J. Burnett - 12-4
Notes - Burnett is back in the National League with Pittsburgh, but suffered a fractured right orbital bone early in spring training. Because of the nature of the injury and inability to get in enough pitching work, his return is listed as mid-May to mid-June for the Pirates.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Scott Baker - 3-10
Notes - On the Twins DL with elbow tendinitis, but has been making progress at Minnesota’s minor league camp. If all goes well, Baker could be recalled by mid-April when the Twins will need a fifth starter. When right, Baker throws fastball up and down the zone and can throw curve for a strike on any count.
Dave Bush - 3-7
Notes - Will start the season with Philadelphia’s Triple-A team Lehigh Valley.
Jeremy Guthrie - 4-11
Notes - After a 47-65 record in five years as a Baltimore starter, Guthrie was traded in early February to Colorado. He impressed manager Jim Tracy enough with his ability and work ethic to be the opening day starter. The Rocks new right-hander strikes out few batters and better not elevate the ball at Coors Field.
Matt Harrison - 4-9
Notes - Harrison showed significant improvement in his secondary pitches a year ago, accounting for career-high 14 wins and dramatically lower ERA (3.39) and WHIP (1.28). The 26-year old lefty might be able to remove his name from this list by next season, but has always struggled with quick loss of confidence when things go sour.
Joe Saunders - 5-10
Notes - Saunders is just filling a spot until somebody else can take over the fifth starter role for Arizona. Never a strong punch-out hurler, Saunders was last in the National League with qualified innings in strikeouts per nine innings.