Top Boom and Bust for Each MLB Team After 1 Month of Baseball

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IMay 3, 2013

Top Boom and Bust for Each MLB Team After 1 Month of Baseball

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    About one month into the 2013 MLB season, we're certainly deep enough to discuss the top "boom" and "bust" for each team. These are the quintessential overachievers and frustrating disappointments around baseball.

    For this article, we were interested in players whose actual performances (through the games of May 2) don't match up with preseason expectations. Consider Cincinnati Reds starter Tony Cingrani. On the eve of the regular season, the baseball world was largely unaware of him; yet, he has served as an extraordinary placeholder for injured ace Johnny Cueto. That's a "boom" for sure.

    It goes the other way, of course. The Los Angeles Angels believed Josh Hamilton would solidify the heart of their order and propel them to immediate success. However, the team stumbled throughout April, largely because he wasn't making solid contact.

    Any players injured prior to Opening Day were spared from ridicule. Landing on the disabled list once the 162-game marathon got underway, meanwhile, did not excuse poor production.

    So that there's no confusion, "booms" have been listed first in slide titles.

     

    *Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise specified.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Patrick Corbin and Brandon McCarthy

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks named Patrick Corbin to the starting rotation in March. Somebody should let the lefty know he has job security, or else he might never lose.

    In each April start, Corbin made it through six innings and limited the opposition to two runs or fewer.

    The most remarkable stat about the native New Yorker is his one home run allowed in 33 innings. Keep in mind, Corbin has been on the mound at Arizona's Chase Field (twice), Miller Park and Yankee Stadium.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brandon McCarthy was wooed to the desert with the assurance that he would pitch every fifth day. At this rate, the D-Backs can't continue letting him.

    His 27 earned runs and 53 hits allowed—both National League worsts—suggest that pounding the strike zone is only good in moderation.

Atlanta Braves: Chris Johnson and Jason Heyward

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    A throw-in from the Justin Upton trade, corner infielder Chris Johnson is steadily settling into human form. He previously spent a couple weeks leading the NL batting-title race.

    The Atlanta Braves left spring training with plans to use Johnson in a platoon role. Taking advantage of Freddie Freeman's stint on the disabled list, he has already started 22 of 28 games this season.

    Jason Heyward took a huge step forward last summer by batting .269/.335/.479 with 27 home runs. Moreover, both sabermetricians and traditionalists acknowledged the impact of his defense in right field.

    It's only May, but 2013 looks like a lost year for him. Due to miserable luck on balls in play (.114 BABIP), Heyward owns a pathetic triple-slash line. Improving upon those numbers could take weeks, writes Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because the 23-year-old is cautiously aiming at a late-May return from his emergency appendectomy.

Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis and Jake Arrieta

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    Chris Davis' numbers speak for themselves: .337/.438/.704, nine home runs and 29 RBI. Most of that production came during the first four Baltimore Orioles games.

    Looks like that mediocre postseason performance isn't bugging him anymore.

    Meanwhile, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado have quiet made strong cases for All-Star recognition.

    Based on spring training performance, the O's had reason to believe that Jake Arrieta belonged in their starting rotation. This was supposed to be the year where he learned to command his lethal stuff.

    Instead, the right-hander walked 16 batters and plunked two others in only 19 innings to earn a demotion back to Triple-A. What an enigma.

Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz and Joel Hanrahan

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    To nobody's surprise, Evan Drellich of MassLive.com tweets that Clay Buchholz was named American League Pitcher of the Month for April. He fueled the Boston Red Sox as they ascended into first place with six victories in as many starts and an outstanding 1.01 earned run average.

    Buchholz pitched effectively down the stretch in 2012 but has never been known to overpower opposing hitters like he did this past month (.178 BAA, 9.5 SO/9).

    Was his dominance honest? Some Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters have their doubts:

    Clay Buchholz accused of cheating, denies doctoring baseball. What do you think? bit.ly/133qXUs twitter.com/LBSports/statu…

    — Larry Brown (@LBSports) May 2, 2013

    First-year Red Sox reliever Joel Hanrahan ought to pay close attention whenever Buchholz takes the mound because his way ain't working. The club relinquished Mark Melancon (0.60 ERA,13 SO, 0 BB) to acquire Hanrahan and undoubtedly regret it at this point.

    As the highest-paid member of the bullpen, this bearded fire-baller shouldn't cough up more than a hit per inning.

Chicago Cubs: Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson

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    Carlos Villanueva's two-year, $10 million contract was finalized in late January. That means Joe Blanton, Dan Haren and Brandon McCarthy had already signed better deals.

    And Villanueva is clearly out-performing all of them. He finished an awesome April with a 2.29 ERA and 0.82 WHIP (five starts). Baseball-Reference.com gives him a 1.4 WAR, the same as Madison Bumgarner.

    It was a surreal month for a guy who has never spent a full season in a major league rotation.

    Switch up the connotation and we could say that Edwin Jackson is amid a surreal experience with the Chicago Cubs, too. His 1.61 WHIP is worse than any he has posted in a calendar month since the beginning of 2011.

    By comparison, the former Scott Boras client received $52 million from the front office spread evenly across the next four seasons. Just one of his first half-dozen appearances met the prerequisites for a "quality start."

Chicago White Sox: Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppinger

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    Conor Gillaspie played 29 forgettable games with the San Francisco Giants prior to changing teams this past February. Understandably, the trade went largely unnoticed.

    But he's now a staple in the lineup, allowing Gordon Beckham to take his time recovering from a broken hamate bone.

    His batting average and OPS rank first among all Chicago White Sox. Moreover, according to FanGraphs, Gillaspie's four defensive runs saved at third base put him in pretty exclusive company.

    Keppinger received a $12 million guarantee this winterfar more than any of Chicago's other newly signed free agentsand has been totally counterproductive. His defensive versatility is important, but not nearly enough to compensate for an anemic .194/.189/.215 batting line. The only qualified MLB batter with a lower OPS is overmatched Minnesota Twins rookie Aaron Hicks.

    Meanwhile, team captain Paul Konerko isn't far behind in terms of crappiness. The aging slugger has played less first base than ever and whiffed nearly once a night.

Cincinnati Reds: Tony Cingrani and Manny Parra

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    The diagnosis of Johnny Cueto's strained lat muscle must have been disconcerting news for the Cincinnati Reds. After all, the last time their ace spent time on the disabled list, the team finished below .500.

    But 23-year-old Tony Cingrani is wholly replacing Cueto. He owns a 1.50 ERA and 7.0 SO/BB through three starts. Moreover,  he's improving each outing, which bodes well if another rotation spot opens in the near future.

    It's usually a bad sign when the Milwaukee Brewers non-tender a reliever. Any team-controlled, experienced pitcher that they deem inadequate probably has serious issues.

    Nonetheless, Cincinnati agreed to terms with Manny Parra on a major league deal.

    On April 26, he landed on the disabled list with a strained pectoral. Opposing batters combined for a .441/.486/.765 batting line against him in six appearances prior to that.

Cleveland Indians: Carlos Santana and Brett Myers

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    Carlos Santana's five-year, $21 million contract is in the running as one of the team-friendliest in all of baseball.

    Entering May 2, he led the American League in each of the triple-slash categories. The catcher spent his first three major league seasons posting low batting averages against right-handed pitching. Fortunately for the Cleveland Indians, that hasn't held true so far.

    The 27-year-old is a legitimate AL MVP candidate...who's earning only $550,000.

    Last season, the Tribe saw how effective Brett Myers could be when he limited them to one run in four appearances (1.80 ERA). That motivated them to sign him in free agency.

    Alas, the veteran brought in to solidify the starting rotation has been one of its least effective members. While Scott Kazmir is a disappointment through two starts, Myers came to Cleveland with a more consistent track record (and much larger guaranteed salary).

    The right-hander surrendered 10 home runs before landing on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.

Colorado Rockies: Dexter Fowler and Chris Nelson

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    There's no shortage of good "boom" candidates for the Colorado Rockies. Whenever a cellar-dweller unexpectedly vaults into first place, there has to be a handful of players responsible.

    Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs agree that Dexter Fowler edges out Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in 2013 WAR. He also was less established entering the regular season and somewhat disrespected as an error-prone center fielder.

    However, with a 1.016 OPS and zero defensive blunders and highlight-reel catches (via MLB.com), Fowler cannot be denied.

    The Rockies won't settle for deficiencies that may derail their thrilling ride. Though they would have preferred that Chris Nelson assert himself at third base and give Nolan Arenado more time to incubate, that simply wasn't realistic.

    Luckily, the New York Yankees agreed to trade for him despite a .242/.282/.318 batting line.

Detroit Tigers: Anibal Sanchez and Phil Coke

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    Anibal Sanchez is second only to Yu Darvish with 50 strikeouts in 2013, 17 of which he tallied in a single start (video courtesy of MLB.com).

    The $80 million contract he signed to remain with the Detroit Tigers was widely dubbed an overpay. He has done everything possible to debunk that consensus, tossing more innings than even Justin Verlander and maintaining a better WHIP without giving up any home runs.

    Phil Coke, on the other hand, has quickly gone from postseason hero to late-game liability. He suffered three losses for Detroit in April before going on the disabled list with a left groin strain.

    Prior to the injury, the quirky 30-year-old was struggling against right-handed batters (.333/.429/.667 in 21 PA).

Houston Astros: Brandon Barnes and Erik Bedard

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    Not many legitimate "boom" candidates on a Houston Astros squad that's still stuck at single-digit wins.

    Despite recording a hat trick on Thursday, the honor goes to Brandon Barnes.

    He made his long-awaited major league debut last August at age 26 and has since made noticeable improvements at the plate. The outfielder owns the highest batting average on the Astros in 2013, which is pretty impressive when you're teammates with Jose Altuve.

    Erik Bedard's 8.20 ERA and 1.93 WHIP—9.98 ERA and 2.28 WHIP as a starter—would've resulted in a DFA if he were employed by a competitive team. However, no change is imminent at this point.

    He has not survived more than four innings in any of his first five outings.

Kansas City Royals: Luke Hochevar and Mike Moustakas

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    Many Kansas City Royals fans pleaded with the club to non-tender Luke Hochevar over the winter. Then, they hoped K.C. would find a taker in preseason trade discussions.

    But keeping him around now looks like the correct move.

    The former No. 1 overall pick is arguably Kansas City's best reliever (0 ER since April 4). It's worth noting, however, that he primarily enters in noncompetitive situations.

    Somehow, the Royals are sitting pretty atop the AL Central while third baseman Mike Moustakas continues to stink in all areas.

    He booted a grounder during the second week of the season to end a record-breaking team errorless streak (via MLB.com). He has since committed four other miscues. This is especially disappointing from someone who prides himself on great defense and led all MLB third basemen in ultimate zone rating a year ago, according to FanGraphs.

    Moustakas also has career-worst numbers in each of the triple-slash categories.

Los Angeles Angels: Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton

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    Before succumbing to a hamstring injury toward the end of April, Peter Bourjos was the MVP of the Los Angeles Angels.

    As usual, he patrolled center field with terrific range. The big change in his game, however, was offensive. His .313/.370/.458 batting line dwarfed last year's .220/.291/.315.

    The Angels went through some dark times early in Albert Pujols' debut season, but at least he helped in subtle ways. For example, they could rely on him for solid fielding and a positive clubhouse influence.

    By comparison, Josh Hamilton is embarrassingly out of sync. Opposing pitchers look forward to facing him, getting ahead in the count and putting him away by inducing ugly swings. Entering May 3, Hamilton rides an astonishing streak of 16 straight games without an extra-base hit.

    It gets worse. The $125 million man bats .093 with runners in scoring position and .095 in the ninth inning or later.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Carl Crawford and Luis Cruz

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers have the second-fewest runs scored in Major League Baseball, though Carl Crawford isn't to blame. He leads all the team's everyday players in slugging percentage and OPS, while sharing the top spot in stolen bases with Matt Kemp.

    We witnessed Crawford's immense potential during his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays, but this return to excellence comes following Tommy John surgery.

    Less than eight months removed from the procedure, trainers cleared him to throw with "no limitations," according to Ron Cervenka. Typical recovery time is 12 months (for pitchers, at least).

    Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tries to take us back to 2012, when Luis Cruz notched extra-base hits once in a while. When he used to start regularly.

    The left-side infielder has been totally inept in the batter's box one season after contributing a .297/.322/.431 line. Through 61 plate appearances, he's still yet to draw an unintentional walk.

    Now that Hanley Ramirez is in uniform, Cruz will be seldom appear in meaningful situations.

Miami Marlins: Kevin Slowey and Giancarlo Stanton

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    Pitching with negligible run support, Kevin Slowey has kept the Miami Marlins competitive in each of his six starts. A 2.15 ERA puts him in the same neighborhood as Adam Wainwright, Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish.

    After a nightmarish season with the Minnesota Twins, he bided in the minors for all of 2012. Now Slowey is a staple in the rotation who's accumulating whiffs at the best rate of his career.

    The schedule-makers let the Fish play the majority of their opening month at home. That meant they had an opportunity to showcase budding superstar Giancarlo Stanton and potentially post an acceptable record.

    To put it lightly, things didn't unfold as Miami would have liked. Stanton adopted a patient approach. He stuck out often, walked nearly as much and didn't hit anything out of Marlins Park until April 27. And just as the 23-year-old found his groove, a strained hamstring sent him to the disabled list.

Milwaukee Brewers: Jean Segura and John Axford

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    It's pretty clear that the Milwaukee Brewers came out better in the deadline deal that sent Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels in July.

    L.A. came up short of a playoff berth and the right-hander opted for free agency. He then moved across town, leaving the Angels with starting-pitching concerns.

    Jean Segura was the centerpiece who headed east in the trade. The shortstop immediately satisfied a glaring need for the Brew Crew, and in his second major league season he has blossomed into a potential All-Star.

    Segura's speed contributes to his .347 batting average—tops among MLB middle infielders—and enables him to rack up triples and stolen bases. Combined with his athletic fielding, the 23-year-old has "gone beyond expectations," general manager Doug Melvin tells Andrew Wagner of the Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com).

    Milwaukee made significant changes to its bullpen over the winter but wasn't ready to cut ties with former closer John Axford. That loyalty is holding them back from true contention.

    The lanky right-hander has suffered 11 losses since 2012, which is as many as any reliever in that span (via FanGraphs). And this year specifically, opponents have locked in on his fastball, culminating in a hideous 10.32 ERA.

Minnesota Twins: Kevin Correia and Aaron Hicks

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    Don't look now, but the Minnesota Twins look sort of decent. After never reaching the .500 mark last summer, they sit even at 12-12 entering May 3 entering a weekend series with the Cleveland Indians.

    Once again, their starting rotation is questionable as a whole. The difference so far in 2013 has been that there's a member of it pitching like a trustworthy ace: Kevin Correia.

    It hardly matters that his already laughable strikeout rate worsened further with a move to the American League. He's locating low in the strike zone and making it a priority to never get too far behind in the count. As Baseball-Reference.com points out, only one of 141 plate appearances have gone to a 3-0 count.

    Consequently, Correia is getting through innings with minimal effort and providing above-average length as a starter for the first time in his professional life.

    The early season offensive struggles of Aaron Hicks baffle us because he excelled in spring training, even toward the end when the regular players didn't leave to go golfing. Now, he's being bullied by some of those veterans he had preseason success against.

    Minnesota felt the prospect was well-equipped to skip a level and graduate straight from Double-A to the majors, but Hicks simply isn't making the necessary adjustments during his plate appearances. He owns an unsightly .091/.163/.114 batting line when a battle begins with strike one.

New York Mets: John Buck and Shaun Marcum

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    Until Travis d'Arnaud shows some durability and consistency, John Buck will keep on serving as the most unstoppable stopgap we've seen around the majors this season.

    Replicating his Miami Marlins mediocrity in his walk year might have meant the beginning of a journeyman phase. Instead, the catcher has driven in more runs than anybody else in the entire National League through the first month of 2013.

    He's producing equally well against left-handers and right-handers. Moreover, Buck bulks up to a .304/.346/.826 hitter in high-leverage situations (via Baseball-Reference.com).

    Shaun Marcum represents the largest free-agent investment made by the New York Mets this past winter, and definitely their worst investment.

    Initially, he was sidelined with shoulder and neck pain. Then, following appearances versus the light-hitting Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, he boasts a 7.94 ERA and .409 BAA.

    It's been very discouraging for New York. Not only was his availability limited, but Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports that "everything felt pretty good" when he posted those numbers.

New York Yankees: Vernon Wells and Ivan Nova

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    Every "expert" in the baseball industry teased the New York Yankees for believing Vernon Wells would improve their lineup. Specifically, the biggest criticism against GM Brian Cashman was that we would accept responsibility for about a third of the veteran's remaining contract.

    To our amazement, he's being mentioned in the same breath with the top right-handed sluggers in the sport. Beyond Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton, Wells stacks up relatively well to all others who swing from that side of the plate.

    Perhaps the biggest challenge has been finding opportunities to rest him.

    The Yankees figured Ivan Nova could revert to the form that led to a fourth-place finish in 2011 AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    So far, no such luck. Similar to last season, his strikeout rate has improved at the expense of his overall effectiveness. When accounting for the three batters he plunked with errant pitches, Nova allowed more than two baserunners per inning during April.

    Midway through yet another taxing performance, he departed early with what was ultimately determined to be triceps inflammation. New York still searches for a dependable No. 5 starter.

Oakland Athletics: Seth Smith and Jarrod Parker

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    The Oakland Athletics have reason to be excited about Josh Donaldson (.892 OPS) and Jed Lowrie (.931 OPS), both of whom continue to produce for an inconsistent offense. Yet neither fit into the "boom" group because they enjoyed comparable hot stretches in 2012.

    But how about Seth Smith? The seventh-year slugger is on pace to match his 2009 season, and back then, he got help from the high altitude of Coors Field.

    A longtime platoon guy, Smith saw considerable action against southpaws during a month when Oakland's outfield couldn't stay completely healthy. He batted .435/.480/.739 with two home runs in 25 such matchups.

    Likewise, Jarrod Parker has very different statistics in his second campaign with the A's...but not in a good way.

    He can't locate properly, which is resulting in more meatballs over the heart of the plate and other offerings that miss badly. Parker owns a 2.01 WHIP in 2013 and has yet to deliver back-to-back quality starts.

Philadelphia Phillies: Kyle Kendrick and Ben Revere

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    If asked in March to predict the most effective Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher of 2013, most of us would've said Kyle Kendrick...with our third or fourth guesses.

    But he's exceeding all expectations. Following a loss to the Kansas City Royals on April 5, Kendrick has torn through the National League. The right-hander is one of only eight guys around the majors to have thrown a complete-game shutout so far.

    His ERA is a full run-and-a-half lower than last season.

    In Ben Revere, the Phillies felt sure they were getting an affordable leadoff hitter and regular center fielder for years to come. The speedster is leaving a weak first impression.

    On top of the expected lack of power, he has a .204 batting average and .245 on-base percentage. He's even striking out significantly more than in 2012.

    With Revere failing to ignite the offense, the club is scoring fewer than four runs per contest.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Starling Marte and Jonathan Sanchez

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    If you haven't noticed, there are two dynamic athletes patrolling the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield. The lesser-known Starling Marte is much hotter out of the gate than 2012 breakout star Andrew McCutchen.

    With this full-extension dive and this clutch two-run bomb (both via MLB.com), it's no wonder his early season WAR value ranks first on the Bucs. He'll obviously remain in an everyday role.

    Ending the Jonathan Sanchez experiment was another no-brainer. Pitching to an 11.85 ERA and surrendering long balls every other inning squeezed him out of the starting rotation within a month.

    He must have showed some promise in spring training to persuade Pittsburgh to allot him regular-season appearances. That ultimately fell by the wayside, however, as the club recently designated him for assignment (h/t The Washington Post).

San Diego Padres: Nick Hundley and Edinson Volquez

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    The San Diego Padres learned of Yasmani Grandal's suspension in early November, early enough so that they could have pursued a veteran catcher in free agency. Of course, as MLB Trade Rumors verifies, it isn't like the organization to spend big bucks on available position players.

    Instead, Nick Hundley received the starting nod. There were tempered expectations with the 29-year-old coming off an abysmal campaign (.157/.219/.245, 56 SO in 225 PA).

    With Grandal still ineligible, Hundley has reminded us why the Padres bothered to buy out his arbitration years. A modest seven-game hitting streak bumped his 2013 batting average up to .325.

    For the second straight season, Edinson Volquez looks completely incapable of succeeding away from Petco Park. But so what? The Padres kept him in the rotation throughout 2012 despite the glaring disparity in his home/road splits.

    The present issues are 1) reduced dimensions at Petco; 2) increases in fly balls and line drives; and 3) a higher contact percentage. We can attribute those trends to Volquez's sub-replacement-level pitching. 

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Crawford and Matt Cain

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    The San Francisco Giants knew they could rely on Madison Bumgarner and Sergio Romo to get off to All-Star-caliber starts. Not Brandon Crawford, though.

    He's just the latest homegrown player to become an integral member of the club. With five home runs, the 26-year-old has already set a new career high. His .271/.349/.521 batting line is dramatically improved from last year's .248/.304/.349.

    Always an asset with the glove, Crawford has been at shortstop for all but four innings of San Francisco's season.

    Since Matt Cain's breakthrough in 2009, he's been the epitome of consistency. But as the table illustrates, the right-hander hasn't looked like himself in 2013:

    Matt Cain (2009-2013)
    Year OPS Against ERA WAR
    2009 .670 2.89 6.3
    2010 .646 3.14 4.5
    2011 .597 2.88 3.7
    2012 .635 2.79 3.9
    2013 .804 6.49 -0.8

    Cain stunned supporters with one of his messiest months ever. He and Ryan Vogelsong have been equally weak links in the Giants rotation.

Seattle Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma and Aaron Harang

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    Hopefully, Hisashi Iwakuma is enjoying the ride. He obviously won't maintain a .180 BABIP, so we can expect him to eventually pitch poorly.

    But challenging Felix Hernandez for the title of Seattle Mariners ace for any length of time deserves admiration.

    The right-hander has lasted at least five innings in each of his starts and six-plus frames in all but one of them. His performance is also ridiculously efficient at fewer than 14 pitches per inning. Manager Eric Wedge ought to give him a longer leash!

    Entering his May 4 matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays, Iwakuma has issued only five walks.

    Aaron Harang, meanwhile, has given out just as many free passes and allowed more hits...in half as many innings.

    The back end of Seattle's rotation was a mess from the opening week. Even after Harang's quality start contributed to the win on May 1, he still owns a hideous 8.68 ERA since being acquired from the Colorado Rockies.

St. Louis Cardinals: Jake Westbrook and Mitchell Boggs

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    Jake Westbrook's earned run average spiked up to 1.07 after pitching six decent innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. It's still the best mark in the National League.

    Every other St. Louis Cardinals starter has filthier stuff and a sexier strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he's using the sinker to escape jams. Facing Westbrook with runners in scoring position, the opposition is merely 2-for-23 (.087).

    Mitchell Boggs nearly cost Westbrook his latest win by entering midway through the seventh inning, walking two Brewers and bringing the go-ahead run up to bat. For the second time in 2013, he left the mound without recording an out.

    The Cardinals hoped the right-hander would be their closer in place of the injured Jason Motte. However you slice the numbers, Boggs was awesome the previous season and seemingly capable of filling the void.

    Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Boggs is being sent down to get his act together:

    #cardinals option Boggs to Class AAA Memphis, promote prospect RHP Carlos Martinez to big-league bullpen. News up at StlToday.com.

    — Derrick Goold (@dgoold) May 3, 2013

    Deteriorating from dominance into someone who seldom provides a clean inning makes him the king of "busts." 

Tampa Bay Rays: James Loney and Jake McGee

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    James Loney won't ever participate in a Home Run Derby or produce against left-handers on a consistent basis. And the Tampa Bay Rays are fine with that.

    He's wreaking havoc at the plate during their current road trip (.500/.520/.625 in 25 PA). In 2013 as a whole, Loney has been putting more balls in play than ever before. Here's the best part for the Rays: regardless of performance, they won't owe him more than $3 million for this season.

    If not for thriving first basemen Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Mike Napoli, Loney would get serious All-Star consideration.

    Nearly 73 percent of the time, Jake McGee does his job and gets Tampa Bay out of an inning without surrendering a run.

    Unfortunately, we can't ignore the implosions. The lefty doomed his teammates on April 2 (0.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB) and similarly on May 1 (0.2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB). He also served up a home run to Steve Pearce on April 18, extending a contest that the Rays had seemingly secured.

    It's been disappointing; he was their top middle reliever last summer.

Texas Rangers: Ian Kinsler and David Murphy

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    Pessimism about the 2013 Texas Rangers centered around the tall task of replacing Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young in the aggregate.

    Well, as of May 3, the two-time American League champs have thrived.

    Ian Kinsler edges several very qualified teammates in this instance (e.g. Yu Darvish, Nelson Cruz). He quietly underachieved last season in every facet of the game, from contact ability and power-hitting to defense and base-stealing.

    His fiery stretch of play early this year has him a close third behind Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia for the distinction of baseball's best second baseman.

    At the same time, David Murphy is regressing to his career norms.

    In 2012, he batted .347 when at a platoon disadvantage. Leaving the infield against lefties might be too much to expect from Murphy during his current funk.

    The outfielder didn't start once during Texas' three-game series vs. the Chicago White Sox.

Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Cecil and Josh Johnson

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    Former first-round draft pick Brett Cecil worried that the Toronto Blue Jays had given up on him, writes Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun. Coming off his worst MLB season yet, there was no assurance that there would be room in the bullpen for the underachieving southpaw.

    But he's been outstanding for the Jays, particularly against left-handed batters. According to Baseball-Reference.com, his overall strikeout-to-walk ratio is best on the club's pitching staff (min. 10.0 IP).

    GM Alex Anthopoulos admitted that Josh Johnson's potential sparked trade discussions between Toronto and the Miami Marlins (via MLB Trade Rumors). Of course, those talks eventually expanded into the 12-player blockbuster that transformed both organizations.

    The free-agent-to-be pitched horribly in his first four starts of 2013. Though his 8.7 SO/9 was encouraging, American League lineups pounded him for a 6.86 ERA and 1.88 WHIP.

    And now for the third time since 2010, Johnson has been placed on the disabled list:

    .@bluejays have placed RHP JOSH JOHNSON on DL with right triceps inflammation. RHP BRAD LINCOLN has been recalled from @buffalobisons (AAA)

    — Blue Jays-Official(@BlueJays) May 2, 2013

    The Blue Jays might be better off. He's largely responsible for them owning one of the worst rotation earned run averages (via MLB.com).

Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann and Adam LaRoche

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    We all knew Jordan Zimmermann was a legitimate starter, but through one month, he belongs with Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw in those way-too-soon NL Cy Young Award debates.

    He's among the league leaders in every category that matters, including WAR, WHIP and ERA. Plus, by inducing more ground balls than ever, Zimmermann leads his position in defensive assists.

    The No. 3 guy behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez deserves the most credit for keeping the Washington Nationals afloat (Bryce Harper is a very close second).

    Manager Davey Johnson and plenty of Nats fans pleaded for the front office to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche. They got their wish at the fairly modest cost of two years and $24 million.

    However, it's been painful to watch LaRoche at the plate. His batting line .136/.216/.261 is far inferior to those of all other everyday players at his position. The 33-year-old has contributed just one home run since April 10 and two hits in his past 40 at-bats.