May Pitchers Report
May 18, 2014
By Marc Lawrence
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The running of the Kentucky Derby each year signals the fact that MLB enters its 2nd month of play. And with it a handful of surprise teams take center stage. The key to sustaining will be the success, or lack of it, from the pitching staffs. With that thought in mind, let’s zero in on pitchers that will look to keep their team in the race and those that may pull up before they hit the wire.
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 May. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in May 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 May over the last three years.
Note: * designates a categorical repeat appearance by this pitcher, maintaining status quo from last season’s April list.
I’ll be back next month with June’s Good Month Pitchers. Until then, enjoy the games.
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS
*Buchholz, Clay (11-5)
Like the Red Sox themselves, Buchholz has not had the kind of success early in the season one might expect, with opposing teams hitting .333 against him in April. But like the weather in the Northeast, this is when the Boston right-hander starts warming up and victories follow.
*Buehrle, Mark (13-3)
Yes, the crafty Toronto lefty had a last rough outing, but he finished the first month 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA. His command since the middle of last season has been impeccable and he gives the Blue Jays a shot at a victory, literally every time out. How durable is this pitcher? Since 1980, who besides Greg Maddux has thrown 200 or more innings in 13 consecutive seasons? You just figured it out!
*Cain, Matt (13-4, 10-0 L10)
For a pitcher making ace money like San Francisco is paying him, his career record of 93-91 does not suggest a top line hurler. However, his 3.37 lifetime ERA is certainly sharp and the fact opposing clubs have only .227 against him at least suggests he’s earning his keep. As the numbers show, Matt has been raising cane with the opposition in the second month of the season.
*Cobb, Alex (7-3)
Suffered oblique injury in April and expects to return in late May or early June.
*Gee, Dillon (12-5)
Gee’s success has never been predicated on velocity, but all his pitches have good movement and he’s been particularly effective in the front part of the season and at Citi Field. With last year’s elbow issues behind him, expect more success from him this month.
*Gonzalez, Gio (12-3)
The Washington lefty is wild enough with all of his pitches, which never allows opposing hitters to feel comfortable in the batter’s box. Throughout his career he’s always allowed fewer hits than innings pitched and his breaking pitches have featured sharp downward movement or big sweeping action. GG’s tough to get a read on as a hitter.
Greinke, Zack (11-4)
Has the complete toolbox of pitches and can throw a strike with any of them on any count. Now that Greinke’s mastered the mental aspect of pitching, he’s as good a No. 2 pitcher as there is in baseball and would an ace on most staffs.
Latos, Mat (8-3)
Had off-season knee surgery and developed elbow problems likely trying to compensate for the knee in mid-April and was shutdown. Started playing catch again at the end of April, but no specific time has been set for his return.
Leake, Mike (8-4)
Since further developing his curveball last season, this Cincinnati pitcher is no longer two bad outings away from Triple-A like in the past. He’s not been quite as good as last year to date, leaving too many pitches in the zone and has been taken yard six times already. With warmer days ahead and chance to have a better grip on the baseball, his numbers should match last year if not improve.
*Peavy, Jake (10-4)
While Peavy does not throw in the mid-90’s like he used to in San Diego, he become a smarter ball-chucker and still is averaging a punch-out per inning with Boston. Peavy still hides the ball well with his unique delivery and is expected to a real positive for Boston looking ahead.
Scherzer, Max (12-6)
The 29-year old from Missouri is picking up where he left off from his Cy Young campaign, with better than a strike out an inning and a 5-to-1 K-to-walk ratio. And remember, he turned down a $144 million offer from the Tigers. Dating back to his Arizona days, the talent was in place with all the pitches, but the confidence has grown and hanging around Justin Verlander did not hurt. Scherzer’s WHIP of 1.05 is on pace for a career-low thus far in 2014.
Vargas, Jason (12-5)
The left-hander looks far more comfortable in Kansas City than he ever did last year in his one season in Anaheim. Vargas relies a lot on deception and he’s been a magician thus far with the Royals in posting a 2.40 ERA and opponents hitting only .240 against his tosses. He’s also cashed 7 straight tickets in May.
Vogelsong, Ryan (11-5)
Since returning to the big leagues in 2011, the Giants No. 4 or 5 starter has faced the critics just waiting for him to fail. Last season he gave them plenty to chirp about and 2014 began in much the same way with a series of poor outings before a fine performance against Cleveland his last time on the mound. Let’s see if Vogelsong can build on this and has a typical May.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS
Chacin, Jhoulys (4-8)
After hurting shoulder in spring training was shutdown. Chacin is coming of off good effort in rehab start and if all continues to go well should be back with Colorado this month. Given his past this month, this could be viewed a couple of ways.
*Fister, Doug (4-12)
Fister is slated to make one more rehab start on May 2 and if that goes well will be called up by Washington.
Garza, Matt (3-7)
While Garza’s record has never matched his ego (68-70 lifetime), he’s a steady contributor in the middle to back end of the rotation. Playing on a much improved Milwaukee club thus far in 2014, lets see if he can overcome past difficulties like he had in May previously.
*Jackson, Edwin (4-11)
If you could make the “perfect” Chicago Cubs pitcher that personifies them, Jackson is the guy. Seldom successful on any of the nine major league teams he’s played for (79-91 record); he’s an innings-eater on a bad team and is easily replaceable for a younger and less expensive pitcher, which evidently the Cubs do not have.
Lohse, Kyle (5-12)
Milwaukee has two starters that fit the “bad” mold, but Lohse has a real chance to turn the tide. Thus far he’s 4-1 and foes are swinging and missing frequently (40 K’s in 40 innings) and making feeble contact when they do strike the horsehide (.207 BA). It seems very likely his losing streak will end soon. FYI: he’s dropped 8 straight team starts in May.
Nicasio, Juan (4-8)
After making a career-high 31 starts a season ago, the Rockies righty has a 5.27 ERA to begin the year, surrendering a .300 batting average. He’ll need to fix this fast or memories of past May’s will happen again.
Nolasco, Ricky (6-12)
Nolasco used to be a bettor’s favorite on the road. Now he’s a slump-buster with a Big Gulp ERA of 6.67 and is being racked for a .347 batting average. How long will Minnesota tolerate this?
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