Firecrackers and the MLB All-Star Game signal the month of July. It also means the start of the second half of the MLB campaign. The key to each team’s fortune lies on the pitching staff. Can they sustain or will they fold like a deck of cards?
Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a 2-to-1 or better success ratio in team starts the last three seasons during the month of July. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in July 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 July over the last three years.
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Josh Beckett • 10-2
Beckett returns after going on the disabled listed on June 11th with shoulder inflammation. The Red Sox right-hander’s season has mirrored that of his team. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes dreadful and sometimes injured.
If Boston is going to secure a wild card spot and fight for the AL East lead, they will need the Beckett of old starting this month, with a sharp breaking pitches complimented by spotting the fastball on the corners. Mark Buehrle • 12-4
The Miami left-hander has gotten a lot heat for his record, but the numbers tell a different story. Buehrle leads Marlins starting pitchers in almost every positive category and his peripheral numbers compare almost exactly with how he pitched in Chicago.
What has hurt Buehrle more than anything is a lack of run support. The way he holds down lefty hitters (.215 batting average), if the Miami bats start to score runs, July should be terrific like usual for the Missouri native. A.J. Burnett • 10-5
Some people are just not made for the Big Apple and quite possibly, Burnett is one of those types. After three undistinguished seasons with the Yankees, A.J. is having a career year with Pittsburgh. Maybe it’s the cool necklace the 35-year old veteran is wearing, but his batting average allowed and WHIP numbers are his best since he was a Blue Jay in 2007. More than anything, Burnett has regained his confidence and he loves PNC Park, where he has a smokin’ 1.11 ERA. Matt Cain • 11-5
The San Francisco pitcher signed a large contract earlier this year and is making the front office look like it made a wise decision. Cain is on pace to shatter his career win total of 14 in 2009 and as July starts, opposing batters are below the Mendoza Line at .195 (batting average) against. Though his velocity is the same, he’s averaging a strikeout an inning, which is his highest mark as a major-leaguer. Cole Hamels • 12-5
As bad as Philadelphia has been this season, just think where they would be without Cole Hamels. The port-sider has been remarkably consistent for a Phillies offense that has yo-yo tendencies. Hamels is already two-thirds of the way to his career-high in wins of 15 and having survived June (ordinarily his worst month), he and the Phillies should make a move the next 31 days. Josh Johnson • 11-3
It has been coming together for the 6-foot-7 Johnson, whose made five consecutive quality starts and is 4-2 with a nifty 2.56 ERA and a 51/17 KW ratio since May 4. After finding a lot of bats to start the year, the hard-throwing Johnson has been able to spot his fastball low in the zone with movement and his normally hard slider has the late-breaking action once again. Jair Jurrjens • 12-4
After a horrible start to the season, Jurrjens returned from a trip to Triple-A, pitching like the same Braves pitcher from the prior four seasons. Jurrjens' velocity has been down since he suffered a right knee injury in 2010 and his stint in the minor leagues has been about relearning how to pitch, regaining confidence and better utilizing his secondary pitches to throw strikes and induce ground balls. Let’s see how he fares this month.
Clayton Kershaw • 11-5
The 24-year Dallas native has not received much run support and made costly errors at the wrong times. Where this shows up for Kershaw is being taken yard, as he’s permitted 11 homers in 2012, compared to 15 all last season.
Tim Lincecum • 11-5
One of the biggest mysteries of the season has been the Giants two-time Cy Young winner. He went 10 starts without a victory (0-6), putting together a ridiculous 6.23 ERA. There have been more theories as to what Lincecum’s problems have been than an Arthur Conan Doyle book. The fact is he’s made mistakes in the zone that have been hit in the air more than in the past, which suggests less sink on his pitches.
CC Sabathia • 12-5
The Yankees ace has a groin strain and is on the DL. He is presumed to return after the All-Star break and build on another typical Sabathia season.
Jered Weaver • 12-6
The only heavenly aspect of the Angels sickly start of the season was their No.1 pitcher, Jered Weaver. Though right-handed hitters are only batting .236 against Weaver, left-hand batters are a feeble .169 against his tosses. At the Big A in Anaheim, his ERA is an insane 0.70 this season.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:Livan Hernandez • 5-11
Hernandez made 18 relief appearances for Atlanta this season and was picked up by Milwaukee last month, being another pitching staff leaking oil because of injuries. If the Brewers are so desperate they have to start the Cuban native at this point of his 16-year career, an expected result will likely follow. Jason Vargas • 3-12
The Seattle lefty slinger is a fly ball pitcher, which makes him prone to extra-base hits and balls flying over fences. This has been especially true this season, as Vargas has been taken deep 21 times, compared to 22 all of last year.