Barry Zito and 10 Pitchers Who Won't Finish as Well as They Started

Vinny Messana@v1nsaneCorrespondent IApril 17, 2012

Barry Zito and 10 Pitchers Who Won't Finish as Well as They Started

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    While it is easy to look at the league leaders in April and be excited about the resurgence of your favorite player, it's important to realize that 95 percent of the season still remains. A lot of players have fooled people into believing their early season success was the start of a breakout season, only to see their performances drop back to their career averages.

    Some pitchers will actually continue to put up incredible numbers (ahem, Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander). However, the majority will not maintain their league-leading type statistics.

    Here are 10 pitchers who have gotten off to tremendous starts, but will gradually see their production drop as the months carry on.

Barry Zito

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    While it is possible that Zito has waited until the sixth season of his mega-deal to live up to the hype, it is much more likely that he has simply been the beneficiary of lackluster offensive performances.

    His 1.13 ERA and 0.69 WHIP are entirely unsustainable to begin with, but it seems he is in for a rude awakening considering he has not had an ERA below 4.03 or a WHIP below 1.34 since moving to the National League in 2007.

    To his credit, Zito has not caused a scene regarding his demotions or even his exclusion from the 2010 World Series roster, but at some point performance must be the priority.

    Zito has been known for his incredible lefty 12-6 hook (as well as his curious yoga workout), but it will be his lack of velocity and command which will ultimately cause this early-season success to turn into a midsummer swoon.

R.A. Dickey

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    Mets fans have fallen in love with the cultural, cerebral, intellectual and Mount Kilamanjaro-hiking knuckleballer.

    He has won his first two games of the season, beating two division rivals. Dickey, while baffling the National League with his knuckler, also has sufficient command of his fastball and cutter which allow him to keep batters uncomfortable at the plate.

    He has been a workhouse the past two seasons for the Mets, but the fact that he relies primarily on a "feel" pitch makes him much more likely to suffer through a prolonged slump during the season.

    Any number of factors can diminish the effectiveness of his bread-and-butter pitch, which makes him more susceptible to poor weather conditions. Dickey may be a solid middle-of-the-rotation caliber pitcher, but he will not be a Cy Young candidate and his incredible start will teeter off.

Javy Guerra

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    When your last name is Spanish for "war," you are probably a tough customer.

    Javy Guerra exploded onto the scene last season as he recorded 21 saves for the Dodgers in 23 opportunities.

    He has gotten off to a tremendous start to the 2012 campaign, mainly due to the command of his five-pitch arsenal. Not many relief pitcher boast more than two-plus pitches, while Guerra seems to have a never-ending repertoire.

    While he may have a solid season as a closer, he will certainly not maintain this pace which is on par with another Dodger; Eric Gagne in 2003.

    Most likely, Guerra will hit a midseason slump which is entirely normal for young pitchers who experience a great deal of initial prosperity.

Jon Niese

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    Niese almost began his season by throwing the first no-hitter in the Mets' 51-year existence.

    Just like every other potential no-no, it was thwarted late in the game.

    Nevertheless, Niese has gotten off to a 2-0 start, which has made his offseason rhinoplasty appear to be a genius move. Perhaps Beltran's generosity has also benefited his early-season fortunes.

    Niese had some misfortunes regarding freak injuries early in his career, but hasn't seemed to show any ill effects from his severely torn hamstring in 2009.

    He will have to prove, however, that he can overcome the late-season wall he has hit in the past two years. He has displayed solid command thus far, but he will certainly see a drop-off in success as the weather heats up and his innings total approaches 200.

Aaron Harang

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    Harang nearly broke a 42 year old MLB record by recording nine consecutive strikeouts—just one short of the record held by Tom Seaver.

    The 6'7" monster has had some impressive numbers in the past, namely in 2006 when he recorded a 16-6 record along with 218 strikeouts.

    Harang has not approached those numbers since, and does not possess the velocity he had in his younger days.

    Although he has gotten off to an incredible start with 19 strikeouts in 10 innings, he will eventually fall back near his career average of 7.4 K/9.

Bruce Chen

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    They say as long as you're a left-handed pitcher, there will always be a job for you in Major League Baseball. Bruce Chen has been the perfect example of that.

    The 34-year-old Panama native has bounced around the league and been a part of 10 big league teams. He has seemed to find his comfort zone in Kansas City, having been there since 2009.

    While his first season with the club was horrendous, he has actually proven to be a consistent winner since. This season he has compiled a 1.64 ERA after his first two starts.

    Chen is certainly a viable starter, but will not continue at this Sandy Koufax-esque beginning. He will eventually finish in line with his career numbers of a 4.49 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP.

Derek Lowe

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    Derek Lowe has put together a very impressive career. He is closing in on 200 career wins, and compiled 85 saves while playing in the Boston pressure-cooker.

    He has been a durable and effective starter since his return to the rotation in 2002. Since 2009, however, he has only been one of those. By averaging 33 starts per year, durability is certainly not the issue.

    Last season, he was a major contributor during the Braves' September swoon. He lost 17 games, and compiled a 5.05 ERA. His ERA+ was a dreadful 75.

    This season, he has won both of his starts, and has a 1.98 ERA in the early going. Don't be fooled though, aging pitchers don't generally resurrect their careers by switching to the American League after leading the National League in losses the previous season.

    While Lowe can be counted on for close to 200 innings, do not count on an ERA below 4.50.

Bartolo Colon

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    Despite the fact that Bartolo Colon has never been a huge fan of offseason conditioning, he has managed to remain a solid starter in the American League up to this point.

    He has not accumulated more than 200 innings since his 2005 AL Cy Young award season, but he will be a viable starter for the Athletics as he was for the Yankees last season.

    Thus far, he has compiled two wins and a 3.72 ERA on the young season. Soon, his injury history and lack of durability will catch up to him and prevent him from continuing at this workhorse pace.

Jason Hammel

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    This 6'6" righty has essentially been a league average starter during his seven-year career. He has only once eclipsed an ERA+ over 100 which was in 2009.

    Thus far he has been a major reason the Orioles have gotten off to a quick start in the formidable AL East. He has compiled a 2.08 ERA over his first two starts.

    Hammel does possess sufficient command of his pitches, but does not feature a single dominating pitch which will enable him to sustain this hot start, especially in the American League.

    This righty has shown some potential in short spurts, but eventually he will regress to his career averages.

Kyle Lohse

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    Few pitchers in baseball have been as wildly inconsistent year-to-year as Kyle Lohse has. While his career ERA+ of 95 would symbolize a below-average pitcher, he has experienced some terrific seasons since joining St. Louis.

    There is no doubt that Lohse was aided by the guidance of Dave Duncan during his 15-6 record in 2008 after his switch from Philadelphia.

    That does not explain, however, how the righty has begun the 2012 campaign 2-0 with a minuscule 0.53 WHIP. Duncan is no longer the pitching coach in St. Louis, but perhaps his principles have been cemented in Lohse's mind.

    More likely, the inconsistent pitcher has experienced great success in the early part of the season, but will ultimately regress to his career norms. Do not expect Lohse to continue to pitch like Bob Gibson, but rather like a pitcher with a 4.61 career ERA.