Like Carlos Zambrano, big-time pitchers Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy, and Josh Beckett are off to awful starts. They are not alone. Names like Jon Lester, Aaron Harang, Javier Vazquez, Chad Billingsley, and Jeremy Bonderman join them on this list of the Top 10 worst pitchers in 2010.
Virtually all of these pitchers have two things in common: 1) They were expected to be aces, stoppers, shutdown grinders, and strike-one dealers, and 2) They are all disappointing.
Let’s take a look at how bad they all really are, see if they’re improving, and ask ourselves:
Is this just an April shower? Can they turn it around?
Or is it the beginning of a season-long thunderstorm?
Boston’s 26-year-old southpaw spent 2006 to 2009 establishing his credentials as an up-and-coming lefty ace.
During that span, Lester has gone 42-18 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. What’s better for the Fenway Faithful is that all the right numbers have been shrinking.
In 21.2 innings this year, Lester has gone 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP. While Lester’s K/9 ratio is up from a career 7.89 to an 8.7, his BB/9 ratio has risen from a career 3.37 mark to 5.40.
Both numbers reveal Lester’s true problem thus far.
He has been throwing too many pitches. Strikeouts and walks both indicate deep counts, and those are draining the talented lefty and exposing him to huge innings.
The good news?
Lester started the season facing the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays—three teams with good or excellent lineups. Those teams can knock around an ace.
In his most recent start against the Baltimore Orioles, Lester crafted his best outing yet: 5.2 innings, seven strikeouts, zero earned runs.
Again, Lester threw too many pitches, but he was much more effective overall. Frankly, a lot of calls didn’t go his way. Terrible calls.
Will Lester turn it around?
A number of 6.95 is not what Justin Verlander or the Motor City faithful are accustomed to seeing on the scoreboard next to the his name and the letters ERA.
Surely the Detroit brass weren't expecting ever to see such a number associated with the "ace" they just extended.
Yet, that's exactly what Verlander has given them— a 6.95 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP against the dominant Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles Angels.
What will happen when Verlander faces C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees?
Will Verlander turn it around?
This doesn't look good, but let's not panic yet.
Verlander really is an ace.
Yes, he'll turn it around, but it may take time.
Jeremy Bonderman is one of those quiet, but relatively dominant pitchers you don't hear a lot about. Since 2008, Bonderman's been sidelined with one problem or another.
So in a sense, you haven't heard a lot because there hasn't been much to talk about.
In 2010 we have an apparently healthy, ready-to-return-to-form Bonderman.
Although he's been hit or miss so far, Bonderman looks like he has the stuff to put together another solid season.
His 6.97 ERA belies the hills and valleys of his April journey. Bonderman began the year recording a dominant performance against the lowly Cleveland Indians, only to be knocked around in his next start by the Seattle Mariners.
After returning to form against the Los Angeles Angels, Bonderman was again battered by the Texas Rangers.
Inconsistent describes him best.
Still, handling the Angels leaves ample room for optimism.
Will Bonderman turn it around?
A guy with a career 4.83 ERA doesn't have far to go, but yes, he'll be the Bonderman of old.
Josh Beckett's potential future shoulder woes were the number one topic of discussion during Spring Training's contract-extension talks.
No one ever stopped to ask if the ace was really an ace.
Monday night Beckett was roughed up by the Blue Jays for eight runs. His 2010 ERA is 7.22 and his WHIP is 1.48.
His second start of the year, against Tampa Bay, was shutdown. Seven innings, zero earned runs.
Every other start has been a disaster. Usually struggling right out of the gate, Beckett just hasn't had the life to his pitches necessary to be Zen-master Josh.
Along with Jon Lester, Beckett is doing everything he can to ruin Theo Epstein's vision of a run-prevention Red Sox squad.
Will Beckett turn it around?
Yes. There's no way you shutdown the Rays without having great stuff. He's inconsistent now, but Beckett will find his rhythm.
Before Carlos Zambrano was shunted off to the Chicago bullpen, he had posted a 7.45 ERA over four April starts for the Cubs.
Yet, that number is inflated by Zambrano's disastrous Opening Day start against the Atlanta Braves. In that game, Zambrano surrendered eight earned runs in just 1.1 innings.
It was a bad start.
The Reds, Brewers, and Mets saw the real Zambrano, who went on to give up eight runs over his next 18 innings, and no more than three runs per start.
Why is this guy in the bullpen?
Honestly, I don't understand why anyone even thinks Zambrano is struggling that much. I'm not saying this to get a reaction.
Seriously, someone explain it to me.
Will Zambrano turn it around?
He already has since his second start, and he's wasting in the pen.
Chicago is a mess.
A few years ago Chad Billingsley, not Clayton Kershaw, was the up-and-coming ace of the Dodgers' organization. Everything seemed to rest on his bright future backed by the likes of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and James Loney.
Now Chad is continuing his experiment in missed potential that he began last year.
The pressure is on Billingsley to lead a staff decimated by the McCourt's divorce. No joke.
Unfortunately, Billingsley has responded by posting a 5.40 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over 20 meager innings of work.
These early season troubles wouldn't be so disconcerting if it weren't for the fact that they've come against teams from Arizona and Cincinnati.
Those teams shouldn't be knocking you around if you've got good stuff.
Billingsley doesn't have good stuff.
He's held the likes of Pittsburgh and Washington at bay, but he can't build a successful season around dominating guys who get themselves out.
Will Billingsley turn it around?
No. He's overrated and always has been.
Brilliant. That's how one should describe San Diego's move to rid themselves of the astronomically priced Jake Peavy.
Shipping him off to Chicago while Peavy was still on the disabled list was a stroke of sheer genius. They knew something Chicago didn't want to know.
Peavy is washed up.
At least Peavy's 2010 numbers thus far would indicate that he's no more than San Diego's driftwood washed up on the shores of Lake Michigan—2.54, 2.85, 3.45, and 7.66. Thus reads Peavy's ERA's from 2007 to the present.
Anything unusual pop out at you? Notice a progression?
Now, doubtless, Peavy's ERA will not stay as high as it is now all season, but with a 1.84 WHIP and identical 6.04 K/9 and BB/9 ratios, he's sure doing everything he can to enrage Ozzie Guillen.
Ask yourself this: If you were the Padres last year when Peavy went down to injury and you knew he'd recover soon, wouldn't you keep your franchise player a little longer?
Peavy is contracted through 2013. Trading him last year was hardly the time to trade away your ace.
If you knew he was starting a serious decline, well, then you might ship him off without pause.
Will Peavy turn it around?
Chicago, welcome to an unloadable contract and three years of purgatory.
Under no circumstances.
Right now all the Cincinnati front office can think is, "Why didn't we trade Harang during the offseason?"
Aaron Harang. The name used to sound like a rising Reds franchise. It used to ring with burgeoning talent and, in 2007, of dominant stuff.
That was then. This is hell.
Aaron Harang is 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP through 21.2 innings to start the 2010 "campaign."
While his BB/9 ratio lives at a respectable 2.49, Harang's pitches float in like so many watermelon-sized meatballs for opposing hitters.
Granted, Harang has had to face lineups from St. Louis, Chicago, Florida, and Los Angeles. None too shabby.
Still, Harang's worst outings have been against the Marlins and Dodgers, the former an eight-earned-run affair that lasted just four innings (why did it last that long?).
Will Harang turn it around?
The Reds certainly hope so...so they can trade him.
But no, he won't.
Gavin Floyd has long been overrated in my book.
2008 and 2009 marked anomalously good years for Floyd, whose 8.38 ERA through four April starts is one of the worst in the Majors.
That statistic in itself wouldn't condemn the 27-year-old Maryland native if it weren't for his horrifying 2.02 WHIP and 5.59 BB/9 ratio.
While he strikes out 8.38 batters per nine, Floyd is merely effectively wild.
Throwing too many pitches with little relying on the defense behind him, Floyd is in real danger of transforming into the worst bust since Mark Prior.
Wait, that's the other Chicago team.
Put it this way: Floyd has faced Cleveland twice and given up two and seven earned runs, respectively. When the pathetic Indians figure you out from start to start, you're in for a new line of work.
In any case, 18 earned runs over 19.1 innings won't seduce even the most desperate Cubs fans to like you.
Floyd better shape up or ship out.
Will Floyd turn it around?
The last two years were a phantom. This ship was never right.
Brian Cashman is not a genius. Watching Javier Vazquez throw up a career-best 2.87 ERA with the 2009 Atlanta Braves, Cashman thought he'd gotten away with armed robbery when he pried Vazquez from Georgia and back to the Empire State.
Vazquez wasn't good his first time in pinstripes. In 2004, Vazquez put up a 4.91 ERA and was knocked around by the Red Sox in the ALCS.
Welcome back to the AL East, Vazquez.
In 2010, Vazquez owns a 9.00 ERA in just 20 innings. Vazquez is 1-3 on a team with only six losses.
Say no more.
Will Vazquez turn it around?
When pigs fly.