It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a chance to get an article up, so in lieu of a long, drawn-out intro, let’s just get right to some pitching talk! Here we go!
Right now, it seems like Complete Game / Shutouts (CG/SO) are the “norm”, as we’ve seen a handful of them over the past week and a half or so. Here’s a list of some of those starters and their stat lines in their CG/SO outings.
Shelby Miller (SP/RP - STL) & Adam Wainwright (SP - STL) - The Cardinals duo pitched back-to-back CG/SO vs. Colorado on 5/10 and 5/11, and held the Rockies to only 3 H in 18.0 IP. Here are their lines:
Miller (5/10/13): 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K, W
Wainwright (5/11/13): 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W
What’s more impressive about Miller’s start is that he nearly pitched a Perfect Game, as the lone hit came from the first batter he faced before setting down 27 batters in a row. Miller also followed up his near-perfect performance with another solid outing against the Mets on Wednesday, but came away with a No Decision. Meanwhile, Wainwright notched a quality start against the Mets yesterday, pitching for 6.0 innings with 8 K, but he took the Loss after giving up 3 ER in the game.
Justin Masterson (SP - CLE) - Masterson has been a little up-and-down this season, but for the most part, he’s been a reliable source of productivity. He threw his second CG/SO of the season in the first game of a double-header vs. the Yankees this past Monday, notching 9 K to only 4 H and 3 BB.
Jon Lester (SP - BOS) - Lester turned in his best performance of the season last Friday against Toronto, pitching a 1 H, CG/SO with 5 K and 0 BB. Lester has bounced back very well from a down 2012, and continues to shine in the Boston rotation.
Chris Sale (SP - CWS) - Sale flirted with Perfection last Sunday night at home against the Angels, allowing only 1 H in his CG/SO. Sale also notched 7 K in the game, and faces the same Angels squad tonight in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate that performance tonight, as the Angels have not lived up to expectations yet this season.
Honorable Mention: Here are a couple household names of guys that haven’t hit the CG/SO threshold in the past couple weeks, but have come very close to doing so:
Clayton Kershaw (SP - LAD) - Kershaw actually does have a CG/SO to his credit this season, as he pitched one in L.A.’s first game of the season against the San Francisco Giants on April 1st. Kershaw is no joke, though, as he missed a CG/SO by just one out Tuesday night against Washington, going 8.2 IP with 5 H, 1 BB and 11 K. He also pitched 8.0 IP of shutout ball against the Brew-Crew on April 28th, allowing only 4 H and striking out 12 in the game.
Felix Hernandez (SP - SEA) - King Felix has been on his usual tear this season, and while he hasn’t pitched a CG/SO yet this season, he had a stretch of 8.0 IP in four of five games from April 17th to May 8th, allowing a total of only 3 ER and notching 40 K in those appearances. If that doesn’t scream “Ace Material”, I don’t know what does! On the flip-side, the heavy workload could lead to an eventual breakdown later in the season. But, heavy workloads are nothing new to Felix, so until it happens, start him with confidence and enjoy the ride!
Yu Darvish (SP - TEX) - Darvish is another “Ace” starter that has yet to throw a CG this season, let alone a CG/SO, but he’s come very close in two starts, one of which came last night against Justin Verlander and the hot-hitting Detroit Tigers. Darvish’s performance last night (8.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) was somewhat pedestrian compared to what his owners expect from him, but compared to Verlander’s Triple-A-like outing, his owners shouldn’t be too upset. Darvish also flirted with a CG/SO in his first outing of the season, going 8.2 IP with 0 ER, only 1 H and a ridiculous 14 K in a win over Houston. Darvish owners should note that after starting the season allowing only 3 ER in two of his first five starts, he has now giving up 4 ER, 3 ER, 3 ER and 4 ER over his last four outings. His ERA still sits at a very respectable 2.97, but if he maintains this pace, I can easily see it ballooning up into the mid-to-high 3.00’s, especially when that Texas summer heat sets in and the balls start jumping out of Rangers Stadium! Something to keep an eye on, but it also could be time to start thinking “sell high” on Darvish.
Justin Verlander (SP - DET) - As mentioned above, Verlander had a horrific outing last night and took the Loss against the Rangers, lasting only 2.2 innings while giving up 8 ER on 6 H and 2 BB. Verlander also only managed to get 3 K before exiting the game in the 3rd Inning. This is now two (2) bad starts in a row for the Tigers workhorse, as he took the Loss against Cleveland last Saturday after lasting only 5.0 innings. Like last night, Verlander gave up 6 H in that outing, as well, but he also let up 5 BB, which is two more than he’s given up in any game this season. He was able to get a decent 7 K against the Tribe, but the 3 ER (4 total) was enough to seal the loss for Verlander. Currently, Verlander sits at 4-4 in 9 GS on the season, but all four of his Wins have come against lesser competition (2 vs. MIN, 1 vs. OAK, and 1 vs. HOU), while his losses have come against mixed competition (1 vs. NYY, 1 vs. TEX, compared to 1 vs. CLE and 1 vs SEA). I fully expect Verlander to come out guns a-blazin’ in his next start, but he faces the same Cleveland team that has already beat him once this season. You still have to start him regardless, but if he continues this downslide, it may be time to think about benching him unless the match-up is in his favor.
Cole Hamels (SP - PHI) - Hamels has had a very rough start to the season so far, and it hasn’t been too much better as of late. Hamels currently sits at 1-6 on the season, and has gone 1-4 in his last five outings. Hamels had been pitching “better” lately (allowed only 2 ER in four straight games, and five of six before his last outing), but he got shelled by Cleveland (hmm, where have we heard this before...) earlier this week, allowing 5 ER on 6 H and 2 BB while only getting 4 K in 5.0 innings of work. Hamels has been a bit unlucky in his starts, as well, as the Phillies offense has not given him much run support at all, so if the offense can get going, I can see Hamels turning his season around as the summer comes along. He’s still worth starting every week, and faces a weak Miami team in his next start. Hamels has pitched well against Miami in 2 GS this season already, so I expect more of the same.
Francisco Liriano (SP - PIT) - After starting the season on the DL, Liriano has pitched nearly identical games in his first two starts for the upstart Pirates. In his first outing last Saturday, Liriano notched a Win against the Mets after going 5.1 IP and allowing 1 ER on 6 H and 2 BB while striking out 9 batters. He followed up that performance by notching another Win against a much tougher Milwaukee team last night, going 5.2 IP and allowing 1 ER on 6 H and 3 BB while striking out 7 batters. While the ERA sits at only 1.64, Liriano’s WHIP is currently sitting at 1.55, which suggests some eventual regression if he cannot keep the basepaths clear, however, even with the somewhat high WHIP, he’s still only allowed the 2 ER. Liriano faces the Cubs in his next outing, so the success could easily continue for the former Cy Young candidate. I think he’s still a strong candidate to pick-up and ride while he’s hot.
David Price (SP - TB) - Price was put on the DL yesterday with a left triceps strain, and according to Rays Manager, Joe Madden, the Cy Young winner is only expected to miss 2-3 starts. I don’t know if I actually buy that because this injury can definitely linger and keep pitchers out for longer than the standard 15 days, but it will depend on how Price reacts to the injury itself. This DL-stint could actually be a blessing in disguise for the struggling Price, as he has not lived up to expectations so far this season, so the added rest might be just what he needs to get back on track. Keep an eye on the situation, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he remains on the DL for longer than the minimum 15 days.
Alexi Ogando (SP - TEX) - Ogando was also put on the DL yesterday due to biceps tendonitis after pitching a gem against the A’s on Wednesday. There isn’t much information on Ogando’s injury at this time, but he’ll miss at least the next 15 days.
Wei-Yin Chen (SP - BAL) - Chen notched a win last Sunday against Minnesota after throwing 5.0 innings of shutout ball, but he ended up straining his right oblique in the process. At this point, Chen is slated to miss 3-4 weeks of baseball with the injury, and won’t even be able to touch a baseball for the next two weeks. Jair Jurrjens is slated to start in Chen’s absence this Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, and has a fairly favorable match-up, as the Rays will have Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) on the mound. Hernandez has already faced Baltimore’s hot offense twice, and suffered the Loss in each outing. Proceed with caution with Jurrjens, but he is someone to keep an eye on, being a former All-Star that has pitched well in the minors so far this season.
Zack Greinke (SP - LAD) - Greinke came off the DL earlier this week and pitched a very solid outing against a strong Washington team. Over 5.1 IP, he only gave up 1 ER on 5 H and 0 BB and had 4 K in the Win. Greinke should be deployed in all formats from here on out.
Jered Weaver (SP - LAA) - Weaver is slated to throw at least two rehab games before rejoining the Angels rotation, so he should be out at least another week or so. He wanted to skip the rehab assignment altogether, but the Angels brass wanted him to throw a couple times in the minors, so look for him to return in late May.
Johnny Cueto - Cueto is set to return from the DL on Monday, and will face the Mets in his first game back in the Reds rotation. Feel free to start him with confidence!
Roy Halladay (SP - PHI) - Halladay underwent successful surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff on Wednesday, and is slated to start a throwing program in 6-8 weeks. After that, it will still take more time for Doc to build his arm strength and stamina back up, so I wouldn’t expect to see him back for the Phillies before late July. Halladay is only owned in 31.4% of leagues right now, but he may end up being a nice stash candidate in late June if he remains available. With his age and recent injury issues, I still don’t think we’ll see the dominant Halladay of a few year back, but being a fan of his, I’m still holding out hope that he can recover from this latest setback and pitch effectively for the Phillies in the 2nd half of the season.
Chris Carpenter (SP - STL) - Carpenter is currently lined up to throw on Saturday, and then will have a side session on Monday, as well. According to sources, Carp is potentially conditioning himself to be a starter again, as he is following a rehab plan designed for starters, and he plans to sit down a few times during his Saturday throwing session in order to simulate the breaks a starter would take between innings. Carpenter is another stash candidate, as he could potentially return in late June or early July, depending on how the rehab stint goes.
Michael Pineda (SP - NYY) - Pineda is slated to throw 50 pitches today in what will likely be an extended spring training game. The Yankees are looking to get him to at least 100 pitches before bringing him back to the big leagues, so he still has some stamina to build back, but I would anticipate seeing him pitch for the Yankees as early as June.