By Marc Lawrence of Playbook.com
If you think the Belmont Stakes is a long race for horses on the Triple Crown trail, wait until you get a load of MLB hurlers during the stretch in the month of June. It’s where many either hit a wall and fold-up or find a second-gear and a become crucial cog in their team’s hopes of being in a pennant chase during the dogs days of summer.
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 June. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in June, 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 June over the last three years. And for your convenience alongside each record, we break down each pitcher’s greatest success or greatest failure rate 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 June list.
Carrasco, Carlos • 11-5 (5-2 H)
After a tough May, Cleveland’s Carrasco will try and get back on track like he usually does in June. What the Indians right-hander has to do is keep the ball in the park, because his WHIP of 1.11 is solid and so is his strikeout-to-walk numbers (70-16).
* Kershaw, Clayton • 13-4 (6-1 H)
Kershaw made his first start in 30 days on the last day of May and should be ready to dominate like in the past. Though his numbers this season are not awful, they are not what we are used to seeing from the future Hall of Famer. His fastball location has been inconsistent and chances are he will get that resolved this month.
*Lester, Jon • 12-5 (5-2 H)
The Cubs Lester has pitched like an ace all year and his 2.71 ERA to this point is three-quarters of a run lower than his career average. He continues to mix his pitches which has kept opposing hitters off balance. The left-hander is one of those rare hurlers who hasn’t had a drop in production while losing a few miles per hour on the fastball now that he’s in his 30’s.
Sale, Chris • 11-5 (6-1 H)
In the prime of his career at 29, Sale is a beast. Thus far in 2018, opponents have a .193 batting average against him, compared to .220 in all prior years. One might think he would devour lefthander hitters, but because he can spot his mid to upper 90’s heater on the outside cover and bury the slider on the hands of righties, they are at a feeble .180 average. Sale provides very few opportunities in most starts with a 5-to-1 K-to-W ratio.
Strasburg, Stephen • 8-3 (5-1 H)
After a mediocre April, Strasburg got back on track last month and is ready for his typical stellar June. Over the years, the Nats right-hander has gone from hard fastball and big breaking curveball chucker to being able to spot the heater and have more angles on the breaking ball. That along with greater mental toughness has made him one of the premier starters in the National League.
Hellickson, Jeremy • 4-11 (1-6 A)
Once being a good back of the rotation pitcher with Tampa Bay early in his career, Hellickson lost his ability to place his pitches where he wanted and has bounced around since. After two months hanging around Max Scherzer and Strasburg, the 31-year old has found a great groove. His 2.30 ERA after two months is a career-low, though he did have somewhat similar results in Arizona three years ago. Most will expect a return to normal results, but thus far Hellickson has been excellent. Stay tuned.
Shields, James • 4-9 (0-6 A)
In the twilight of his career and on a bad club, Shields is winding down what was a quality career. Because his fastball has lost considerable velocity, the difference between that pitch and his change-up is no longer that great and hitters sit on the off-speed stuff. With less deception and 1.5 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Shields is now more hittable.
Contributions from Doug Upstone of VegasProInsidersDaily.com