2011 MLB Predictions: Zack Greinke and the 10 Biggest Pitching Busts
Pitching is an art form that only few have perfected in baseball history.
Last year, we saw a return to the dominance of pitching, highlighted by Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum.
Heading into 2011, expectations are once again high for pitchers.
However, a handful of pitchers that have been hyped up this offseason appear to be prime candidates to flop this year.
Whether it’s new surroundings, injury issues or lack of confidence, these 10 pitchers have the potential to be busts this season.
10. Erik Bedard, Seattle Mariners
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Erik Bedard missed all of last season with a torn labrum, but he finally appears healthy this year.
However, that doesn’t mean Bedard will instantly regain his Baltimore Orioles form.
Though the Seattle Mariners inked him to a lucrative deal prior to the 2008 season, he has only started 30 games the last three seasons. He signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with Seattle this offseason.
On a team that isn’t expected to do much this season, Bedard may be considered more of a flop than he’s already been for Seattle.
At least the bright spot for Mariners fans is that if Bedard struggles, stud prospect Michael Pineda will receive more attention. Pineda will start the season in the No. 5 slot in Seattle's rotation.
9. Pedro Feliciano, New York Yankees
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Pedro Felicano shifted boroughs from Queens to the Bronx, as he will become the lefty specialist for the New York Yankees.
Feliciano signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Bronx Bombers.
However, Feliciano was severely overworked the last three seasons by the New York Mets. He led the National League in appearances with 86, 88 and 92, respectively, the past three years.
Already this spring, Feliciano has experienced triceps soreness and will begin the season on the disabled list.
In a division that includes powerful lefty hitters including David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Luke Scott, Nick Markakis and Adam Lind, a shutdown lefty reliever will be huge for the Yankees.
Feliciano’s overuse may come back to haunt him this season.
8. Mat Latos, San Diego Padres
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Mat Latos is coming off a year that saw him go 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA in 32 starts, which established him as the ace of the San Diego Padres staff—one of the most underrated in baseball.
He is expected to have another big season this year. After the Adrian Gonzalez trade, the Padres will have to pitch well to make up for their lack of offense.
Latos was recently diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder and will therefore begin the season on the disabled list.
When he does return, there may be added pressure on the young righty to duplicate last season’s performance.
The first step for Latos will be to get healthy so he can avoid being a bust this season.
7. Brad Penny, Detroit Tigers
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The Detroit Tigers added veteran starter Brad Penny to provide quality innings in the rotation.
Penny is only four years removed from a 16-4 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007.
However, Penny started just nine games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season after suffering from back issues.
The Tigers signed him to a $3 million deal, despite a string of poor seasons.
Now back in the American League, Penny may be in for a rude awakening, especially against good offensive teams like the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins within the division.
He will start the Tigers' second game of the season.
6. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
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It’s quite difficult for Barry Zito to be considered anything but a bust since joining the San Francisco Giants.
Zito signed a seven-year, $126 million contract after 2006, which made him the highest-paid pitcher in the game at the time.
He's had a losing record in each of his four seasons with the Giants. However, San Francisco gave him a vote of confidence this offseason.
He has looked good during spring training, but it will take more than a few spring starts to get Zito back on track.
Luckily for the Giants, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner will be able to pick up Zito’s slack.
5. Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
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Following his Cy Young season in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, the sky appeared to be the limit for the young Jake Peavy.
However, back issues limited him to an unimpressive 7-6 record in 17 starts in 2010.
ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew expected Peavy to be fully healthy for the start of the season and ready to regain his form.
Though he will start the season on the disabled list, Peavy has been given lofty expectations for 2011. It seems unfair to Peavy, who should be more concerned with returning healthy than dealing with the hype.
He may be considered a bust if he doesn’t live up to those expectations.
4. Baltimore Orioles Starting Staff
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The Baltimore Orioles made a huge splash this offseason by adding four significant pieces to their starting lineup.
Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy should provide some punch to Baltimore’s order.
However, the Orioles will rely on an inexperienced group of starting pitchers.
Jeremy Guthrie has been solid the past few seasons, but he will be viewed as the ace of this young staff.
The O’s signed the injury-prone Justin Duchscherer to fill a rotation spot, but he has already been placed on the disabled list.
Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta will all be expected to contribute, and Chris Tillman and star prospect Zach Britton will be waiting in the wings.
The Orioles may get lucky with these young starters, but they may also waste some strong offensive performances.
3. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
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Boy, that's one mean mug.
Carlos Zambrano rebounded from a tough start in 2010 to finish 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA.
Though he claims his attitude problems are behind him, let’s see if he lives up to that statement.
He has been known for calling out coaches and teammates, which in turn has affected his performance on the mound.
The Chicago Cubs will be relying heavily on Zambrano in their rotation. The Cubs traded for Matt Garza and still have Ryan Dempster, so they have the makings of a strong rotation.
If Zambrano’s emotions get the best of him, he may be a bust this season. If the Cubs struggle, Zambrano would be a likely trade target, though many teams may not want to take on the headache associated with his talent.
2. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
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One of the biggest stories this spring training has been the season-ending injury to St. Louis Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright and Chris Carpenter formed arguably the best one-two punch in any starting rotation in the league prior to the injury.
However, with Wainwright on the shelf, the pressure shifts solely to Carpenter to lead the rotation.
Carpenter will turn 36 in April, so he could be a candidate for a decline, especially if he’s overworked in the absence of Wainwright.
Sadly for Carpenter, anything short of a dominant season will be viewed as a bust, since he will have high expectations all year.
1. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers
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The trade involving Zack Greinke was one of the most notable of the offseason.
Greinke is coming off a forgettable 2010, but a fresh start with the Milwaukee Brewers seemed like a good remedy.
However, he broke a rib while playing pickup basketball this spring, forcing him to miss his first few starts.
A rib injury can be nagging for pitchers, since they use their core to create torque in their delivery.
The Kansas City Royals received some good young talent for Greinke, so this deal, as well as Greinke’s season, may be considered a bust.