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: A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh PiratesApril record:
Burnett pitched last year like he did before playing for the Yankees, much more relaxed and confident. Not every player is wired to play under the intense New York microscope. Burnett had more command with his fastball in the Steel City and his circle-change was brutal on left-handed hitters. Kevin Correia, Minnesota Twins April record:
Correia 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 early advantage of not being widely seen in the AL and could get off to a hot start. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia PhilliesApril record:
March was not kind to Halladay, who suffered 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.
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia PhilliesApril record:
Hamels is now the ace of the Phillies staff and his low-90s fastball lives at the bottom of the strike zone. The lefty is so effective because his changeup baffles hitters even today and it is a true swing-and-a-miss pitch, which helps him pile up victories. Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee BrewersApril record:
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 previous April successes and last year’s results continue. Ricky Nolasco, Miami MarlinsApril record:
Nolasco is the new ace in Miami and thrives by working both sides of the plate with his fastball. The righty compliments his heater with a split-change and is a bulldog on the bump.David Price, Tampa Bay Rays April record:
Price is one of the elite left-handed pitchers in the game. His mid-90s fastball forces opposing teams to gear up for the heat and Price fools hitters 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.
CC Sabathia, New York YankeesApril record:
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-90s 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 certainly need their ace early with all the injuries. James Shields, Kansas City RoyalsApril Record:
We are about to find out just how good Shields actually is after he made the move from Tampa Bay to Kansas City. The righty expertly locates his low-90s 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? Jered Weaver, Los Angeles AngelsApril record:
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. He always wants the ball in big games. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
Zito was clutch in the postseason and was a key contributor to San Francisco’s championship run last season. The aging lefty no longer throws very hard, but last season had better overall control, making his looping curveball and changeup more effective. Zito should still contribute this year as a fifth starter. BAD MONTH PITCHERS:Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue JaysApril record:
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 in each season since 2001, but his command is becoming less stable with age. Ryan Dempster, Boston Red Sox April record:
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 topped 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 a .500 pitcher for the Red Sox? Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
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 he’s never found a home because of too many uneven starts over a season. Jackson did post a career strikeout rate in 2012, but playing for the Cubs will not improve his win percentage. Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
A notoriously slow starter, the Cincinnati right-hander’s career record in April is 2-8 with a 5.79 ERA. Once April was out of the way in 2012, Latos went 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 early?Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
The Padres left-hander will put together a group of quality starts, giving hope he’s finally figured how to succeed only to inevitably fail again, frustrating himself and his team. What typically is Richard’s downfall is his inability to pitch inside to right handed batters, who swing too comfortably in the box.
Ervin Santana, Kansas City RoyalsApril record:
Santana is 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 with Anaheim. After a disastrous first four months, Santana was pretty solid last August and most of September after fixing some mechanical issues. Which pitcher will the Royals see in 2013? Joe Saunders, Seattle MarinersApril record:
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 will start the year in the Mariners starting rotation and has good control, but his stuff would be best described as below average.