By Marc Lawrence – Major League Baseball trades places with March Madness 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 over the course of the last three seasons during the month of April. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in April, winning 33% percent or less of their team-start efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each April over the last three years. And for your convenience alongside each record we break down each pitcher’s greatest success or greatest failure either home (H) or away (A) within his good or bad month.
Note: * designates a categorical repeat appearance by this pitcher, maintaining status quo from last season’s April list.
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Colon, Bartolo • 11-4 (6-2 H)
Will be a fifth starter until Zach Wheeler returns. Throws almost exclusively fastball and moves this pitch all around the zone. Places batter under pressure by throwing strikes.
*Gonzalez, Gio • 11-5 (7-1 H)
Tricky delivery and has great motion on fastball and changeup. Has gotten in more trouble the last two years telegraphing curveball. Usually more effective early than late.
*Greinke, Zack • 11-2 (6-0 A)
Premier starting pitcher who adds and subtracts on fastball to get more movement and can spot inside and out. Has late breaking slider and can dial up 12-to-6 curveball when necessary. Tremendous talent.
*Hammel, Jason • 11-4 (7-2 H)
Back of the rotation starter for Cubs who still can throw in low to mid-90’s, but has to keep the ball down or will be knocked around. Slider is second-most effective pitch.
*Hamels, Cole• 10-4 (5-2 H)
Has all the pitches and can throw any for strikes. Still has good fastball but has developed excellent cutter the last four years, which has come at the expense of arguably best changeup in the game. Has half dozen curves, which are different in velocity and shape.
*Kazmir, Scott • 9-3 (6-2 A)
Knows how to pitch with four-pitch assortment he can throw strikes with. Both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs are back in the 90’s, but they have straightened out a bit and do not miss as many bats. Lots of pressure to replace Greinke.
Scherzer, Max • 10-5 (7-2 H)
Teheran, Julio • 13-2 (7-1 A) –
Talented hurler being wasted on bad team Atlanta team, but is still young enough at 25 to be in prime if Braves rebuild quickly. Inconsistent command of fastball hurts, but when he’s right with this pitch, slider and curve are nasty.
Note: These are career marks
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Bailey, Homer • 4-8 (1-6 A)
Recovering from Tommy John, probably a couple months away from pitching for Cincinnati.
*Cahill, Trevor • 2-10 (0-4 A) –
Now working out of Cubs bullpen as setup man, but could be spot starter if needed. Note: 0-7 last seven April starts
Cashner, Andrew • 4-8 (1-5 A)
Have never understood why Cashner does not to throw his mid to upper 90’s fastball more often. Secondary pitches all a little above average, but has spooked himself by tossing heat down the middle instead of going up the ladder with fastball based on count.
Hughes, Philip • 5-10 (2-6 H)
Looks to regain 2014 form with Minnesota after reverting to Yankees numbers in 2015. Has good command of fastball and cutter and curve is tightly spun with excellent dropping motion. Will get into trouble early, seemingly not focused or feeling pressure if all pitches are not working.
Kluber, Corey• 3-9 (1-6 A)
Legit ace who got off to slow start last year trying to live up to winning Cy Young award. Has mid 90’s fastball that darts in or out and he can control at batters knees. Also delivers hard curve and occasional changeup. Return to 2014 numbers expected, but will need some run support like all pitchers.
Samardzija, Jeff • 5-11 (2-7 A)
Is 47-61 with a 4.09 ERA for career, yet is making 9.8 million with San Francisco. Still has good fastball and when he hits his spots, can be hard to hit. All other pitches are ordinary. If he cannot win with Giants, his usefulness is about done.
Weaver, Jered • 4-8 (1-3 H)
Former Angels ace spent the spring throwing fastball in the low 80’s. Not being a Mark Buehrle-type, that renders most of his other pitches almost useless because the differences in speed do not fool batters. Claims to have found arm slot to add velocity and movement. Not a Play On pitcher.
Contributions from Doug Upstone of VegasProInsidersDaily.com