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By Mike Ivcic
As promised, the good news. This week, I’m looking at some of the studs and duds of the pitching world, and today it’s time to examine those who have risen above the others so far this season.
Top Five – Starters
1. Zack Greinke (KCR) – The talk of the season thus far, Greinke has been absolutely lights out for the Royals. A simple run-through of his stats proves it: 8 GS, 7-1, 60 IP, 40 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 10 BB, 65 K, 0.60 ERA. Just look at the runs and the ERA again. He has become everything the Royals hoped and expected him to be, and their playoff hopes rest on him continuing his dominant ways.
2. Johan Santana (NYM) – If Greinke is the runaway favorite for the AL Cy Young, Santana is the same in the NL. He’s 5-2 with a 1.36 ERA and leads the world in strikeouts with 67. If not for some poor run support (21 runs in 8 starts, 16 while he was in the game) and almost as many unearned runs (6) as earned runs (8) he would look even better… which is scary.
3. Roy Halladay (TOR) – While his ERA (2.78) might not match some of those on the honorable mention list, Roy’s 8 wins tops all pitchers, and his 57 strikeouts are second in the AL behind Greinke. Toronto is nowhere near the top of the AL East without him, and his 8 walks in 68 innings is borderline ridiculous, though not surprising after so many years of seasons just like this one.
4. Edwin Jackson (DET) – Jackson’s inclusion is more because he came out of virtually nowhere to become the Tigers best pitcher. He’s allowed only 43 hits in his 8 starts, and opponents are hitting just .222 against him, over 50 points lower than his previous best BAA. He’s also on pace for 175 punch outs, which would also be a career best.
5. Johnny Cueto (CIN) – Of the two rookies last season, Edison Volquez got most of the publicity for the Reds, but this season it’s been all Cueto. His 1.93 ERA is second in the NL behind Santana, and he’s 4-1 for the surprising Reds. He’s given up 34 hits and 13 walks in 46.2 innings pitched, leaving his WHIP a hair over 1.00, and he’s picked up the slack for struggling teammate Bronson Arroyo.
Honorable Mention: Zack Duke (PIT); Wandy Rodriguez (HOU); Jair Jurrjens (ATL); Erik Bedard (SEA); Kevin Millwood (TEX)
Top Five – Relievers
1. Francisco Rodriguez (NYM) – The MLB leader in saves for the second straight season, K-Rod has been everything the Mets expected when they signed him in the offseason. He’s currently posting a 0.96 ERA, having allowed only 2 runs in 18.2 innings, while striking out 19. Most importantly though, he’s a perfect 11-for-11 in saves, making Mets fans wonder how ’08 would have turned out with him on the team.
2. Heath Bell (SDP) – Speaking of Mets, the former New York prospect has done a more than admirable job replacing the iconic Trevor Hoffman in San Diego. Bell has yet to allow a run in his 14 appearances and 15 innings. He’s walked only 5 and struck out 18, finishing off all 9 of his save opportunities as well, making the Padres look smart from a baseball standpoint, if not a PR standpoint, in letting Hoffman go.
3. Trevor Hoffman (MIL) – It’s almost like I set it up this way, isn’t it? The man who got replaced in San Diego has found a home among the brats and beer, having thrown 10 scoreless innings and saving all 9 games he’s been asked to close. Combine those numbers with 0 walks and 3 hits, and it seems like Hoffman is on a mission to prove to everyone – no one more than the Pads – that he’s not done.
4. Frank Francisco (TEX) – It’s rare to find good pitching from Arlington, but they had Millwood as honorable mention and now here’s the closer, Francisco. He’s thrown 14.2 innings, allowing only 7 hits and 4 walks to go with his 13 strikeouts. Like the two men above him, he’s also a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities, and he has yet to allow a run, helping Texas stay in the AL West race.
5. Andrew Bailey (OAK) – The only non-closer on the list, Bailey leads all AL relievers in IP with 23.1, and he’s allowed only 7 hits in those innings. Also in those 17 appearances, Bailey has struck out 28 batters, again tops among AL relievers. He has a 1.54 ERA, allowing only 4 runs, and his 3-0 record has shown how effective he has been in close games out of the ‘pen.
Honorable Mention – Octavio Dotel (CHW); Jonathan Broxton (LAD); Rafael Soriano (ATL); Ryan Franklin (STL); Renyel Pinto (FLA)
Be sure to check back later this week for a preview of the first round of interleague series beginning this weekend.
Look for my column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday for the UltimateCapper
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