Capping the calendar: August's best and worst pitchers
With the MLB trade deadline now in the rear view mirror, 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 pitchers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team starts over 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.
AUGUST'S BEST PITCHERS
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners • 12-6
After lacking a lively fastball in the first part of the season, Hernandez has returned to “King” status in lowering his earned runs average almost a full run since June 12. Though Seattle has given up on the season, the King has clearly not.
Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees • 10-5
The Yankees wanted a dependable starter when they went after Kuroda and after four months the right-hander is right on career norms in ERA, WHIP and ground ball/fly ball ratios. Playing with a lineup that can score runs has helped Kuroda’s win percentage and he’s been tough on right-hand hitters who are batting just .213 against him.
Roy Oswalt, Texas Rangers • 10-5
Oswalt has again been experiencing tightness in his lower back, causing him to miss a start at the end of July. To date, he’s not been much help to the depleted Texas starting staff and you have to wonder if he’s going have similar previous results as he’s had this month in the past.
Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers • 12-6
The Detroit righty is not fooling many hitters this season, with teams batting a crisp .309 against his efforts. On days when Porcello is on top of his game, he still permits a lot of hits but works out of trouble. Otherwise, when the opposing batting order flips a third time, the New Jersey native gives up hits in bunches.
C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees • 14-4
The Yankees ace has gotten into a nice groove (except against the Red Sox) and he’ll look to continue his expert pitching into August. Manager Joe Girardi monitored Sabathia’s pitch counts after he came off the DL, but his groin issue has not been a conundrum and he should be ready for another high quality month.
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels • 13-4
Maybe this month will change the Angels pitcher’s luck, as Santana has been ineffective all season – especially of late. The L.A. righty has always allowed a large volume of home runs, but he’s almost at a career-high with two months to go. If Santana is going to pitch as well as in the past, he will need to improve in two areas immediately. Entering his Monday, July 30 start, with runners in scoring position, his ERA was 19.08 (not a misprint) and with two outs, he’s conceded 35 runs in 33 innings.
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays • 12-6
Have last year’s career-high 249 innings taken their toll on Shields? It seems like it with an ERA 1.70 higher to date compared to last year and opposing batters swatting at .281 versus .218 in 2011. Shields will have to elevate his game if Tampa Bay is going to make the postseason.
Randy Wolf, Milwaukee Brewers • 13-6
The good news is the Milwaukee left-hander has dropped his ERA a half a run in his last five starts. The bad news is Wolf’s earned run average sits at 5.45 for the year. Wolf needs more sink on his tosses as right-handed batters are at a robust .322 average against him.
AUGUST'S WORST PITCHERS
Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers • 5-10
Billingsley has failed live up to the promise he showed in his rookie season of 2006. Since 2009, the Dodgers' hurler has been essentially a .500 pitcher and seldom consistent. If his club is going to catch San Francisco, Billingsley cannot have the type of record he’s shown in the eighth month of the year in the past.
Nick Blackburn, Minnesota Twins • 4-8
Come on, seriously, what is Nick Blackburn even doing pitching in the major leagues? In his previous 10 starts, his ERA is… drum roll please… an 8.83 car-wreck. For left-handed swingers, their batting practice pitcher is harder to hit, as they rip Blackburn all around the yard at a .379 pace.
A. J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates • 4-12
If there is one slinger that could break type for having horrible history this month, it is Burnett. Having arguably the best season of his career, the Pittsburgh chucker is 10-for-10 in starts at PNC Park with a 2.00 ERA and a puny WHIP of 1.05. His secret has been inducing ground ball outs, averaging 13 per nine innings.
Aaron Cook, Boston Red Sox • 2-8
Boston has been so desperate to fill out their rotation; they have been forced to use Cook. To his credit, the former Rockies right-hander does throw strikes, with just four walks in 40 innings. Nonetheless, Cook will not be confused with Aroldis Chapman, with a mere four strikeouts in the same span of time. Twice thru the lineup is about all you can expect from Cook to retire many batters.
Freddy Garcia, New York Yankees • 3-7
After really struggling out of the gate, Garcia has been a reliable option for the Yankees with a 3.32 ERA in his past 10 outings (five starts). His failures this month could be traced to wearing down at his age from a long season. Garcia might not this year since he only has nine starts for the year and could be fresher. Time will tell.
Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves • 3-13
In his career, Maholm has played on several pitiful Pittsburgh clubs, which in part speaks to his woes in August. The Cubs were about the same as those Pirates clubs, yet Maholm could have the first winning season of his career, having not lost since June 23, and sporting a sparkling 2.39 ERA in his last 10 outings. Can a move to Atlanta keep his confidence up to change his prior fortunes?
Kevin Millwood, Seattle Mariners • 4-11
Having a 37-year-old Millwood as one of your main cogs of the rotation tells you how pitching-thin Seattle is. His numbers are better than they were in Baltimore two years ago, nevertheless, Millwood has only four wins and the outlook is like a gloomy Seattle day.
Ross Ohlendorf, San Diego Padres • 4-8
In spite of a 5.05 ERA this campaign, Ohlendorf has a 3-1 record. With opponents hitting .287 against his tosses, the Padres hurler’s winning record in unlikely to last too much longer.