Every MLB Team's Pitcher Who Has To Have a Huge May
We may only be a month into the season, but already we are learning things about the state of each team. Granted, not everything we learn in April is reliable.
The L.A. Angels aren't going to finish last in the AL West with Albert Pujols not hitting a single home run. Likewise, it's highly unlikely the Baltimore Orioles snag a wild-card berth.
However, we can still look at the state of the pitching and pinpoint one pitcher on each team who needs to have a better May.
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
Jair Jurrjens is down at Triple-A now, but it's not because he's hurt. Rather, he was sent down because he was woeful.
He has pitched much better of late, though, and when he returns to the major leagues, he will hope to lower that 9.00 ERA.
Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Phillies
It's very difficult to pick holes in the Phillies rotation. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon have all performed as advertised. The Phils' struggles are solely down to their offense.
However, if you can point the finger at one pitcher, it's Joe Blanton. Philadelphia is probably set for pitching, but they'd like him to be better.
Dillon Gee, New York Mets
The New York Mets are not going to be a good team this season; they project to finish the year in last place in the NL East.
However, they still thought Dillon Gee would be better than he has been, as he has arguably been their worst starter.
Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins
Josh Johnson finished fifth in the Cy Young race two years ago and figured to be the leader of a very good new-look Miami Marlins team.
However, he has been terrible, with an ERA above five. If Miami is to make it to the playoffs for the first time in nine years, that needs to change.
Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have had the best start to the season, in terms of ERA, since the Oakland Athletics in 1977, with four of their five starters pitching to an ERA below two.
Edwin Jackson is the only one with a poor mark.
Adam Wainwright, St Louis Cardinals
The defending World Series champions have not missed their departed slugger Albert Pujols, with brilliant pitching carrying them to a three-game lead in the NL Central. Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn have been huge surprises, each 4-0 with a 1.62 and 1.33 ERA, respectively.
If there was one guarantee for success in the Cards rotation, though, it was Adam Wainwright. The 30-year-old was runner-up in the 2010 Cy Young voting and third in 2009.
However, this season, Wainwright is 0-3 with a 7.32 ERA.
Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
Mat Latos had two very good seasons in his last two years in San Diego. He had a 3.21 ERA and only had a losing record (23-24) because of the Padres' lacklustre offense.
His first season in Cincinnati, though, has not started so well. He is 1-2 with an ERA a tick below six.
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers
Yovani Gallardo has never had an ERA above four, he won 17 games last year and finished eighth in Cy Young balloting.
2012 has had a difficult April, though. In five starts, Gallardo has a 1-2 record and an 6.02 ERA, with a WHIP above 1.6.
James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates have got off to a solid start, only two games below .500, which has come largely on the strength of their pitching.
James McDonald has a 2.97 ERA and a WHIP of 0.55; the Pirates' batting order is so weak, though, they had better hope he can keep that pace up.
Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros
Wandy Rodriguez has been the sole bright spot for the Houston Astros in 2012. He has an ERA of 1.72 and a WHIP barely above 1.00. Compare that with the rest of the Astros rotation: Not a single other starter has an ERA below 4.70.
Houston isn't going to be competitive this season, but they can at least avoid a laughably bad year.
A Closer, Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs have yet to find a reliable closer, with three players finishing at least four games, and two players share the team lead on saves with one.
Other than James Russell, who's yet to allow a run, no Cub reliever has an ERA below 3.95.
Javy Guerra, Los Angles Dodgers
It's hard to find anything to criticise about the Dodgers' spectacular start to the 2012 season. However, if there's a weak link, it's at the back end of the bullpen.
If L.A. thought Javy Guerra would fill the hole at closer, the team is set up for a disappointment. He has an ERA above six and has been on the hook for three of the team's seven losses.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum has taken the mound five times in 2012, and only his most recent appearance was a quality start. He's a 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA.
The 2010 champions need their ace to perform better if they're going to make a run in the competitive NL West.
J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-Backs' pitching has been good this season, which has kept them in a lot of one-run games, and it's hard to pinpoint one pitcher who has performed poorly.
Their closer's 4.70 ERA is a worrying stat, though, and when Arizona is engaged in so many tight games, a good man at the back is important.
Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
It's not that Rafael Betancourt has been poor; on the contrary, he has been wonderful, with an 0.90 ERA and six saves.
However, the Rox rotation has been weak. Only 49-year-old Jamie Moyer has a respectable sub-4.00 ERA.
Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres
Clayton Richard had back-to-back good seasons, with a sub-4.00 earned run average in both. This season, though, he has a losing record and an ERA almost two runs from where the San Diego Padres need it to be.
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay ace James Shields had a great 2011, finishing third in the Cy voting last season. He might be 4-0 this season, but he has only been the Rays' third-best starter.
If the Rays are going to succeed this season, it will be on the back of their rotation, despite the fact that they have experienced a power surge to begin the year.
Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles sitting second in the AL East has been one of the young season's biggest surprises. Jason Hammel has been one of the biggest factors in Baltimore's hot start.
He won't be able to keep his ERA below two all season, but the O's need him to keep it up as long as he can.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
The rotation is the Yankees' biggest weakness and will be their undoing if they don't end up winning it all this season.
You would expect, though, that you can rely on their ace. However, CC Sabathia has started poorly, allowing four-and-a-half runs a game.
A Closer, Toronto Blue Jays
After Sergio Santos failed spectacularly earlier in the year, the Jays have turned to 37-year-old Francisco Cordero to be the anchor at the back of their bullpen.
Cordero might not be the solution at closer, but whoever is better have a good run of form.
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
After a nightmarish 4-10 start, the Boston Red Sox are finally back at perfect mediocrity and a .500 record. Their turnaround has been in large part due to good pitching, but many starters still have poor overall starts.
One such pitcher is Opening Day starter Jon Lester, who has run hot and cold this season. If Boston are going to fight back in the AL East, they will need their ace to have a good run of form in a month in which he has historically dominated.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians
Ubaldo Jimenez was the trade deadline's biggest prize last season, and it cost the Cleveland Indians a good package to get him from the Colorado Rockies. However, the only notable thing he has done this season is behave like a child and take a feud with his former team onto the field.
He is 6-5 with an ERA just below five in his time with Cleveland; that's not good enough, and if they are going to challenge the Detroit Tigers in the Central, they need him and Justin Masterson to perform better.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox
John Danks has had a good run over the last few years, stringing together three 195-inning seasons. Last year was a bit of a step back, though, and 2012 has been a disaster.
He's been the White Sox's worst starter so far.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers came into the season as the favourites for the AL Central crown, largely because of their fearsome lineup. However, their starting rotation also looked good. It hasn't been, and the team is 11-11 as a result.
Max Scherzer is one of the culprits, and would have the worst season of his career if he couldn't turn things around.
Bruce Chen, Kansas City Royals
Bruce Chen was the Royals' Opening Day starter, but has been woeful this year. Winless and with his worst ERA since 2007, it's remarkable that Chen has actually been one of KC's better starters.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins had a terrible 2011 and look to be continuing that into 2012.
Even if they're not going to compete this year, they still need Francisco Liriano to pitch a lot better than he has. His biggest value to the team this year might be as trade bait in late July, but he won't fetch market value if he's as bad as he's been thus far.
Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers starters are lucky that none of the attention has fallen on them. Most is on their fantastic lineup and when people talk about the defending AL champs' rotation, they talk about Japanese phenom Yu Darvish.
Still, that doesn't change the fact that Derek Holland has an ERA above five and has looked shaky all season. Texas probably can get by without much pitching help until the playoffs, but they'd love him to prove he has it this year sooner than October.
Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics
Bartolo Colon surprised many with a great bounce-back season last year with the New York Yankees. The Yanks didn't think he could keep that up in 2012, but he has proven with the Athletics that they were wrong.
Colon has been the A's best pitcher, playing a big role in their being second in the AL West. Oakland would love for him to keep that up if no one else is going to be able to join him.
Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners
Seattle fans know that Felix Hernandez is automatic and he will continue to be dominant. However, they would really like someone else to be good, too.
So far, the most likely candidate for that is Jason Vargas, who has a 3.38 ERA and winning record.
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels had a very disappointing April and are now last in the AL West. The homerless Albert Pujols is batting .217 with only eight extra-base hits.
But the rotation has been good. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren have all been good, but Ervin Santana, the fourth in their Big Four, has been terrible.