March 30, 2013
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 (and their team start record) 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, let's play ball!
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Burnett, A. J. (9-4) - The Pittsburgh right-hander this past season pitched like he did before the playing for the Yankees, much more relaxed and confident. Not every player is wired to play under the intense New York microscope and Burnett had more command with his fastball in the Steel City and his circle-change was brutal on left-handed hitters.
Correia, Kevin (10-5) - The former Pirate has moved to the American League and is now with Minnesota. Corrieia is a control pitcher and has to keep his below 90 MPH fastball and cutter down in the zone to be successful. He will have the advantage early of not being widely seen in the AL and could get off to a good start.
Halladay, Roy (12-4) - March was not kind the veteran hurler, suffering from a dead arm and a virus which cost him 10 pounds. But Halladay is a "gamer" and his repeatable delivery allows him to throw four different pitches for strikes. Expect the 35-year old to answer the bell and help Philadelphia win early.
Hamels, Cole (10-4) - Hamels is now the ace of the Phillies staff and his low-90's fastball lives at the bottom of the strike zone. Why the lefthander is so effective is because his changeup baffles hitters even today and it is a true swing and a miss pitch, which helps him pile up the victories.
Lohse, Kyle (11-3) -Free agent Lohse recently signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee. His last two years in St. Louis saw him become successful by getting ahead of hitters, avoiding walks and using an improved slider to fan more batters. The Brewers hope his April successes and last year's results continue.
Nolasco, Ricky (10-4) - The new ace of the Marlins is Nolasco, who works both sides of the plate with his fastball, fashions a curveball with a tight spin and downward movement, complimented by a split-change. The righty is a bulldog on the bump and seldom gives into hitters even when he lacks his best stuff.
Price, David (10-5) - One of the three best lefty's in baseball, Price is the real deal. His mid-90's fastball forces opposing teams to gear up for the heat and Price fools them frequently with a diving cutter or a power slider. If a hitter wants to sit on certain pitch, forget it, he'll throw the change which moves away from right-handed hitters.
Sabathia, CC (10-5) - Few pitchers in the big leagues are as reliable and consistent as Sabathia. His durability is virtually unmatched in today's game and he still can reach the mid-90's with complete command, moving the ball in-and-out or up and down. His slurvy breaking ball will often be his out pitch. The Yankees will need their ace early with all the injuries.
Shields, James (14-2) - We are about to find out just how good Shields actually is, playing with a poorer team in Kansas City, compared to Tampa Bay. Shields expertly locates his low 90's fastball and his change is so effective because the release point on this pitch is the same as his fastball, making it very deceiving. Can Shields lift his new teammates to his previous levels or does he sink to theirs?
Weaver, Jered (12-3) - While there are concerns about Weaver's drop in velocity in 2012, he still won 20 games with his ability to add or subtract speed off the fastball. Batters are continually off-balance with his assortment of high-spinning sliders, slow curves and changeups. Always wants the ball in big games.
Zito, Barry (8-4) - Zito was clutch in the postseason and was a factor why San Francisco won another World Series. The port-sider no longer throws very hard, but last season had better overall control, making his looping curveball and changeup more effective. Zito should still contribute as a fifth starter.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Blackburn, Nick (4-9) - Not expected to pitch for Minnesota this month and quite possibly longer after underdog surgery on his right wrist in January.
Buehrle, Mark (4-11) - Part of a blockbuster trade with Miami, Buehrle returns to the American League, looking to resurrect his career at 34 in Toronto. The lefty has thrown 200 or more innings each season since 2001, but his command is less stable as he has gotten older.
Danks, John (5-10) - Still recovering from 2012 season-ending shoulder surgery last August and is not expected to be with White Sox until his previous velocity returns.
Dempster, Ryan (4-10) - After spending his entire career in the National League, Dempster went to the American League and did little to help Texas last season, casting doubts about his potential success in Boston. Last year the 35-year old infrequently top 90 MPH, as opponents started to sit on the slider and drove it. Though Dempster has experience in playing in a small park, can he be more than .500 pitcher for the Red Sox?
Jackson, Edwin (5-10) - Though he doesn't turn 30 until September, this will be Edwin Jackson's eighth different Major League team. His greatest attribute is durability, but has never found a home because of too many uneven starts over a season. Jackson did post career strikeout rate in 2012, however, playing for the Cubs will not improve his win percentage.
Latos, Mat (4-9) - A notoriously slow starter, the Cincinnati right-hander's personal record in April is 2-8 with a 5.79 ERA lifetime. Once April was out of the way in 2012, Latos was 13-2 with a 3.09 ERA in his final 28 starts. Will he be able to clear the next hurdle in his career and pitch well this month?
Richard, Clayton (5-11) - The Padres left-hander will put together a group of quality starts giving hope he's finally figured how to succeed and will inevitably fail again, frustrating himself and his team. What typically is Richard's downfall is his inability to pitch inside to right hand batters, who swing too comfortably in the box.
Santana, Ervin (5-11) - Santana is wholly confident he can be the hurler he was before last season. To do so, he will be wearing a Kansas City uniform and no longer pitching in key contests like he did on Anaheim. After a disastrous first four months, Santana was pretty solid last August and most of September after it was discovered his release point flattened out his fastball and stole velocity from his slider. Which pitcher will the Royals see in 2013?
Saunders, Joe (4-10) - The 31-year old Virginia native is trying to keep up with Edwin Jackson, pitching for his fourth different team in four years with the move to Seattle. Saunders is in the Mariners starting rotation and has good control, but his stuff would be best described as below average.
Volstad, Chris (4-9) - Now with Colorado, if he makes the 25-man roster, he will likely not be in the starting rotation and instead be used as a middle reliever.