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Capping the calendar: May's best and worst pitchers

The running of the Kentucky Derby each year signals the fact that MLB enters its second month of play, and with it, a handful of surprise teams take center stage. The key to sustaining will be the success, or lack of it, from the pitching staffs. With that thought in mind, let’s zero in on pitchers that will look to keep their team in the race and those that may pull up before they hit the wire.

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 May. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in May 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 May over the last three years.

I’ll be back next month with June’s Good Month Pitchers. Until then, it’s batter up!

GOOD MONTH PITCHERS

Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
May record:
15-2

The Phillies' best pitcher recorded his first win of the season on Apr. 28 and brighter days are ahead. His low-90’s heater is almost always down in the zone and his changeup is a true swing-and-miss pitch which baffles opposing hitters. His walks are up so far in 2013 and if he improves his overall command, this May should be like many others of the past.

Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
May record
: 13-3

The Washington lefty started this season slowly after winning 21 games in 2012, but appears to be rounding into form. Gonzalez is a sturdy strikeout pitcher with a mid-to-low 90’s fastball that tails away from right-handed hitters. He also likes to go up in the zone with this pitch when ahead in the count. He will freeze left-handed batters with a tightly spun curve, which drops from above the belt to below the knees.

Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays
May record:
12-3

JJ was a scratch from his last April start because of tightness in his right triceps muscle. An MRI did not reveal any structural damage. Johnson has annually been a fast starter and Toronto need the 6’7 Minneapolis native to be the dominant pitcher he was from 2008-10, not the one everyone has seen since.


BAD MONTH PITCHERS

Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers
May record:
4-12

Fister played on a number of bad Seattle Mariner clubs before joining Detroit in 2011. Since taking residence in Mo-Town, the 6’8 hurler with a clean delivery has quit nibbling and gained confidence in his curve, which has become his main swing-and-miss pitch. It is worth watching to see if he breaks his past tendencies in baseball’s second month.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs
May record:
3-10

Garza was supposed to be one of the fixtures in the Cubs starting rotation, but was hurt in Spring Training and is only now throwing on flat ground. The earliest he is expected to return is at the end of this month and some in the Chicago organization think this is optimistic.

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