August Good Month - Bad Month Pitchers
August Good Month - Bad Month Pitchers
August Good Month - Bad Month Pitchers
By Marc Lawrence
With the MLB trade deadline at hand and the NFL pre-season whetting our pigskin appetite, the month of August sets the table for the stretch run of the baseball season. Which pitchers can we count on to satisfy our tastes, and which ones figure to turn our stomach? Take a look below.
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 August. On the flip side, we've also listed pitchers that struggle in August 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 August over the last three years. I'll be back next month with September's Good Month Pitchers. Until then, enjoy…
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Chen, Bruce • 13-5
Since being placed back in the starting rotation, Chen has been a valuable commodity for Kansas City and continued to throw extremely well in producing a 2.09 ERA. If the Royals are really going to make a run at the wildcard, Chen will have to match his previous August numbers.
Cueto, Johnny • 10-5
Has been on the DL since June 30 with a right shoulder strain and there is no specific timetable for his return.
Gallardo, Yovanni • 12-4
Though just 27 years old, the radar gun does not lie and the Milwaukee right-hander has lost three to four MPH off his fastball accounting for career-worst ERA (4.91). It does not help playing for one of the worst teams in baseball, but this is his own doing, with opposing right hand hitters ripping a robust .286 against his tosses. Can he turn it around this month like in the past?
Halladay, Roy• 12-5
On July 21, Halladay threw off a mound for the first time since having corrective surgery on his throwing shoulder. Reports have his range of motion much improved, but at this juncture his return this month is questionable.
Hernandez, Felix • 12-5
It is just remarkable. Year after year, King Felix keeps putting up phenomenal numbers, despite pitching for a mediocre Seattle club. This season has been no different and Hernandez has not lost a game since May 25 and history tells us he will not drop many this month either.
Kennedy, Ian • 13-5
After winning 36 games the last two years, it has not been a good year for the former-Arizona right-hander with only three victories. This season he's giving up over a hit an inning and he's on pace to surrender a career-high in walks if he generates enough innings. The Diamondbacks traded him to San Diego on July 31 to upgrade their depleted bullpen.
Oswalt, Roy • 9-3
Suffered an injury on July 22 and has been doing rehab work since. He could come back this month, but at 0-4 with 7.64 ERA with the Rockies, no reason to rush Oswalt back, who is a shell of his Astros days.
Sabathia, CC • 11-5
Sabathia turned 33 years old last month and has lost three to four MPH on his fastball. At 95+ you can miss spots and still get out big league hitters. However, with decreased movement and throwing in the low 90's, CC's ERA could be headed for the worst of his stellar career. Still thought of as a big-game pitcher, Sabathia has to rebound or the Yankees have no shot at the playoffs.
Santana, Ervin • 13-4
Though his record does not show it, the change of scenery helped Santana and the 30-year old Kansas City pitcher has been hovering around three all year with his ERA. Santana continues to pound the strike zone and he's conceded only 31 walks in 21 starts. The Royals were playing good baseball at the end of July and if the Dominican dandy stays true to form, K.C. might be playing meaningful games all month long.
Scherzer, Max • 11-5
There have been Scherzer critics, pointing to his gaudy record of 15-1 being a byproduct of run support and very favorable pitching matchups. While there might be a speck of truth in this argument, ask opposing hitters what they think, batting .197 against him. And he's second in punch-outs in the American League.
Shields, James • 13-4
The Royals righty is beginning to command his pitches better of late and working later into games, as was his custom with Tampa Bay. If Shields can continue to throw well and match his road ERA (2.50), he and Santana form a nice 1-2 combo at the top of the Kansas City rotation.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Burnett, A. J. • 4-11
At this time, Burnett only has 25 percent of the total wins he had in 2012, yet his ERA is a half a run lower, suggesting the lack of run support. If Burnett can keep throwing strikes with his cut fastball and sweeping curveball, the runs should come. Missing a few starts in June should help be fresher in the later stages of the season.
Cecil, Brett • 4-8
Has worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 2013.
Corriea, Kevin • 4-9
The Minnesota right-hander has done his part to be a part of the worst starting pitching staff in baseball and has a 5.27 ERA in his last 10 outings. A combined 80 hits and walks over 54.2 innings will lead to a bloated ERA. No reason to believe soft-tossing Corriea will improve his stock with the Twins.
Hanson, Tommy • 3-7
His record might say 4-2, but Hanson has been another bust for Los Angeles. To this point he's only made 11 starts after being counted on as the fourth or fifth man in the Angels rotation, with an ERA over five. Hanson's 11-4 rookie campaign of 2009 seems a long time ago.
Hernandez, Roberto • 4-10
Even the normally positive skipper of Tampa Bay Joe Maddon is finding it challenging to say upbeat phrases about this pitcher. The Rays have a plethora of outstanding starting pitchers and more are on the way. Simply speaking, by whatever name, Hernandez and his 4.71 ERA is not getting it done.
Lincecum, Tim • 5-11
Though Lincecum has generally thrown better this year compared to last, chances are this will be the third straight year he will finish with a record below .500. San Francisco will have to make a decision about the undersized state of Washington native, who will likely never again reach 220 or more strikeouts, which he did from 2008 to 2011. Strictly a 50-50 proposition these days.
Maholm, Paul • 5-10
After a quick start with the Braves, Maholm has settled into career pattern of being ordinary ball chucker. His only saving grace is being on Atlanta who can hit home runs in bunches. Right-handed batters are hitting .301 against his deliveries in 2013.
Ohlendorf, Ross • 2-9
Starting the season at Triple-A Syracuse, Ohlendorf was advanced to the Washington roster in June and has pitched mostly in relief except for a couple a good spot starts for the Nationals. The more he starts, the more the righty will be exposed.
Saunders, Joe • 5-11
At this juncture of his career, Saunders is a back of the rotation hurler who can eat up innings. This year his splits are incredible, and probably should be used accordingly. The lefty has a 3.62 Safeco Field ERA, compared to 5.53 in away games. And the time of day Saunders pitches have day and night results, literally. His ERA is 3.80 after dark and an unsettling 6.58 during the day.
Re: August Good Month - Bad Month Pitchers
Pitchers to Watch
By Matt Zylbert
As the pro baseball season comes to a close, I’ve identified three starting pitchers who are very much on the rise and merit your attention over the last six weeks. Also, I strongly believe that two pitchers are on the verge of a downfall in the near-future and potentially should be avoided.
For those unfamiliar with my work, I study only totals (over/under), as you can even see in my game log, without ever taking a day off, and the root of my work lies in my feelings on the starting pitchers involved, as it is they who dictate the pace and outcome of a game more than any other position in professional sports, which makes baseball totals a very winnable endeavor - if you put the time and work in. That being said, here are three pitchers to pay close attention to that the oddsmakers may not have noticed yet, and two that they still might be overrating down the stretch.
Let’s start with the emerging starters…
Three Ascending Starting Pitchers
Brett Oberholtzer – Houston Astros
This first choice really doesn’t apply as much to those who focus on sides, as it’s hard to bank on any pitcher from the lowly Houston Astros for a victory, given how atrocious their bullpen is and the tendency of their lineup to not show up on a lot of days, but when it comes to unders, Brett Oberholtzer is a very intriguing name to be aware of. After a couple of cups of coffee at the Major League level earlier this season, Oberholtzer was recalled at the very end of July when a spot opened up in the Houston rotation, and the rookie left-hander hasn’t looked back since. Up to this point, the former 8th-round pick has made three starts - against the Rangers, Red Sox, and Orioles, no less - all of which resulting in quality outings. In fact, Oberholtzer has surrendered just two runs combined in those three assignments, while working against some of the top lineups in all of baseball. The remarkable thing about Oberholtzer, though, is that he’s not just simply limiting the damage done by these potent bats - he’s overpowering them with conviction, as evident in his 14:4 K:BB ratio in 20 innings of work. In other words, he’s been dazzling.
If I had to make a comparison, I would equate Oberholtzer to J.A. Happ circa-2010 when he was first acquired by Houston that summer. As soon as he came over from Philadelphia, Happ went on to string together a really nice stretch of solid pitching, in amassing a 5-4 record in 13 starts with a 3.80 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, while striking out 61 batters in 71 innings of work. Oberholtzer reminds me of that same type of lefty, and appears to have already locked down a spot on the pitching staff for years to come. Another fellow starter who will be a big part of their future, Jarred Cosart, also deserves honorable mention as their potential No. 2 guy in the future, but it looks like Vegas has already caught on to him. Thus, Oberholtzer is the guy to watch closely, as well as the lines related to his starts, over these next several weeks.
Henderson Alvarez – Miami Marlins
Believe it or not, the Miami Marlins are shaping up to be my biggest Over Win Total bet in 2014 (Much like the Cleveland Indians were for me this season), although that’s another lengthy discussion for a later time. In the meantime, it is their starting pitching as a group that has me absolutely wowed and thinking that they can compete as early as next year. Obviously, everyone already knows about Jose Fernandez, who looks like he’s going to be one of the National League’s top aces for the next ten years, if not more (Or less, depending on when Jeffrey Loria decides to hold his next fire sale), so that would defeat the purpose of this article if I was to focus on him here. Jacob Turner, slotted right behind him, has pitched considerably well in a Miami uniform after coming over from Detroit in the Anibal Sanchez trade a season ago, but by this point, with 20 starts as a Marlin under his belt, Vegas has taken notice of his delightful work and reacted accordingly, based on his typical over/under lines. Behind them are Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, and while I do really like both, I feel it is Alvarez who has the highest ceiling in solidifying himself as an upper echelon starter for years to come.
I noticed the right-hander as soon as he debuted two years ago with the Blue Jays, and while he’s been mostly up-and-down since breaking into the big leagues, I’m confident that Alvarez is on the verge of permanently turning the corner and developing into the ultra-consistent starter that I always pegged him to be. It certainly looks like he has for the time being, as the 23-year old is 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.16 WHIP this year through his first eight starts with his new club, while allowing no more than four runs in any of his outings. Aside from possessing good stuff in his arsenal, I just feel like he has all the “little things” down to pat, which you can only notice by watching him. I’m impressed every time I see him - his attitude and composure - and reading more on him, it all begins to make sense: Alvarez has always idolized Felix Hernandez, and if you’ve watched him pitch, you’d recognize that he actually mimics the former Cy Young winner very closely, from his mannerisms down to his demeanor on the mound. It’s very fascinating, and to me, it’s also a main reason why I know Henderson Alvarez will be a successful starter for quite some time.
Chris Rusin – Chicago Cubs
It’s awfully hard to get excited about anything within the Chicago Cubs organization, as most Cubs fans might even attest to, but based on his early work this season since being recalled, it looks like left-hander Chris Rusin is here to stay as a big-league starter. Thus far, Rusin has only made five starts in 2013, and while his overall statline hasn’t been overly impressive or anything (2-1, 3.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 18:9 K:BB ratio in 26 innings), I still feel there’s enough evidence here to warrant a “sleeper” label for the youngster. Yes, if you look at his stats, you’ll notice a very ugly rookie campaign for the southpaw a year ago, when he registered a 6.37 ERA and 1.65 WHIP (Yikes) in seven starts, but I’m telling you: This is someone who is on the rise, and because of how opposing hitters drilled him for a .314 batting average in 2012, Vegas may not catch on until it’s too late. Although he’s only produced modest work in just five starts this season, this is someone who looks poised to be a part of the Cubs’ pitching staff for the foreseeable future.
In his most recent assignment, Rusin contributed the brightest outing of his still-very-young Major League career, when he went into St. Louis and beat the mighty Cardinals by shutting them out over six terrific shutout innings, scattering seven hits and striking out five. Two starts prior, he went into San Francisco and blanked the defending World Champions over seven innings, while out-dueling the seemingly unbeatable-at-home Madison Bumgarner. And right before that, his assignment was in Arizona, where he proceeded to keep those dangerous D-Back bats at bay, en route to an impressive victory. Yes, the sample size is small, and yes, Rusin is only a former 23rd-round pick, but I see something here. And when I latch on to a new pitcher very early on, good results usually follow. Vegas might not even be giving much thought to Chris Rusin, which potentially makes them very vulnerable if they provide a higher-than-anticipated line on an under he’s in.
Honorable Mention: Jarred Cosart, Liam Hendriks, Dan Straily, Tyson Ross, Tyler Thornburg (When he’s permanently in Milwaukee’s rotation)
Two Descending Starting Pitchers
Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
While still quite young and relatively inexperienced, I believe Corey Kluber has already peaked and contributed the best pitching we may ever see from him. That might be a bold statement, considering Kluber is just 27-years old and in only his second year as a big-league starter, but from what I’ve seen while watching him on the hill, his ceiling is very low. At the moment, the right-hander has very desirable numbers - a 7-5 record, 3.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and an outstanding 116:26 K:BB ratio in 122 innings - but I just don’t see him keeping it up. Not only that, I don’t even envision him coming close to resembling that type of a marvelous pace, as I have him clocking in as a guy who consistent sits with a mid-4’s ERA year in and year out.
In my opinion, Kluber’s unusual high strikeout rate is just that: unusual. Without question, it’s a large contributing factor in his 2013 success, something of which he wasn’t doing much of last year, and as long as those whiff numbers decline, which I anticipate, Kluber should go back to getting clobbered again (5.14 ERA, 1.49 WHIP in 2012). Admittedly, I might be a little biased, as I latched on to him as soon as he was called up last year and used him as an overs machine, which worked out nicely, with 7 of his 12 starts resulting in the total score surpassing ten combined runs, but at the end of the day, I’ve watched him numerous times now and I just don’t see him keeping up what he’s done this year. At the moment, the Cleveland right-hander currently sits on the disabled list with a sprained finger (And it’s on his throwing hand, which could also be crucial in halting any potential progress), adding even more fuel to the fire. Pay attention to when he comes back from injury and see how Vegas treats his games; if they keep showing him respect, such as offering over/unders of 8 or lower with him involved, then that’s money to be made, as far as overs are concerned. You can bet I’ll be watching as close as anyone, obviously.
John Lackey – Boston Red Sox
There’s no denying that John Lackey has done some pretty special things this season, made even more remarkable by the fact that he didn’t even pitch last year, not to mention how he was one of the unfortunate scapegoats of that infamous 2011 Red Sox squad when he had the worst campaign of his career, and was seemingly on his way out of Boston. Alas, two years later, Lackey is pitching like his old self again out of nowhere in posting a true renaissance season, as he currently carries a very pleasant 3.32 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a fabulous 123:29 K:BB ratio in 133 innings. He’s provided quality steady pitching all season long, while helping the Red Sox attain first-place in the always-tough AL East, but that’s exactly my point: Exactly how much longer can he keep it up?
You obviously have to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge what a model of consistency Lackey has been this entire year (He’s gone six innings or more in 17 of his 21 starts, including 11 straight), and that’s certainly indicated in his over/unders record, as all but three of his games have resulted in unders, which is an astounding one-sided record in that department. In fact, it’s the best record by a pitcher - by far - for unders in all of baseball. But again, that just adds to my feeling here that there has to be some sort of decline sooner rather than later. Not only do you have to consider the vastly underrated Law of Averages, which should bring his over/unders record more towards the norm, but also consider that Lackey is starting to get hit a bit, as three of his past five outings have seen the right-hander yield four runs or more. Even if the wheels don’t completely come off his splendid campaign, as long as Vegas continues to show him respect for what he’s done from his whole body of work in 2013 in terms of offering a relatively low line for his games, there’s money to be made in his overs down the stretch. Keep an eye out for those.
Honorable Mention: Randall Delgado, Kris Medlen, Chris Tillman