By Marc Lawrence
The running of the Kentucky Derby each year signals MLB enters its 2nd month of play. And with it a handful of surprise teams take center stage. The key to sustaining will be success, or lack of it, from the pitching staffs. With that thought in mind, let's zero in on pitchers that will look to keep their team in the race and those that may pull up before they hit the wire.
Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team starts the last three seasons during the month of May. On the flip side, we've also listed pitchers that struggle in May team starts, winning 33% percent or less of their efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each May over the last three years. I'll be back next month with June's Good Month Pitchers. Until then, enjoy and here's hoping you pick the right ‘horse'...
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Arroyo, Bronson • 12-6
Is one of only three active pitchers with six straight seasons of 200 or more innings pitched. (Mark Buehrle and Dan Haren are the other two) Arroyo is known for funky looking off-speed pitches that break at odd angles and when he is good, he is very good and when he is not, you can figure that out. May qualifies as a good month for this right-hander.
Blackburn, Nick • 11-5
Has one of the better sinkers in the AL, but will on occasion only want to throw that pitch with slight variations. Blackburn is at his best when mixing in the changeup, to the chagrin of earth worms, with all the ground balls.
Cueto, Johnny • 12-4
Cincy starter is expected back this month after experiencing right biceps and triceps irritation in Spring Training. Works both sides of the plate with his fastball, but doesn't strikeout as many batters since his slider has lost some bite.
Gallardo, Yovani • 8-4
Has not been quite as effective to start 2011; however is the ace of the Milwaukee staff and wins should start piling up for this 25-year old hurler who can dominate.
Hamels, Cole • 13-3
Now the forgotten star of the Phillies staff with so many big names, this left-hander has broken thru talk of his brittleness. He's also smart, having added cutter he learned from Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay for out-pitch.
Harden, Rich • 10-3
Injury plagued throughout his career, Harden is presently on the DL and suffered setback on April 15, which could mean he won't see action this month.
Hudson, Tim • 9-3
Because of age and Tommy John surgery, no longer has electric fastball, nevertheless, Hudson's power sinker induces a large amount of ground ball outs, keeping him at high level.
Kershaw, Clayton • 10-4
Starting to fulfill promise as a youngster, this 23-year old lefty has added a slider with other knee-buckling curve and impressive mid-90's fastball and is ready for stardom.
Marcum, Shaun • 11-2
His collection of off-speed pitches has hitters taking terrible swings and he's averaging almost a strike an inning in Milwaukee, helping solidify the Brewers starting pitching. Getting away from AL East should only make Marcum more effective.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Braden, Dallas • 3-9
Currently on the DL with shoulder inflammation, "Mr. Perfect" is 1-1 this season with 3.00 ERA and is a control specialist. Despite lacking a blazing fastball, Braden is very confident, but has to hit his spots or will get tagged.
Floyd, Gavin • 5-10
Since posting 17-8 record in 2008, the Chicago right-hander is 21-24, however the rest of his numbers are largely the same, suggesting run support from teammates make Floyd look better or worse than he pitches record-wise.
Hernandez, Felix • 4-14
It's a given King Felix has to be nearly perfect each start with the kind of offense Seattle has. Though still only 25, let's hope he can play on a winning team to let his abilities shine before his skill begins to erode.
Kennedy, Ian • 3-7
If Kennedy could take same approach to the mound each time out, the possibilities exists he could win 13-15 games a year. His statistical peripherals show solid ground ball numbers, excellent strikeout to walk ratios, but mental aspects do not show up in box scores.
Masterson, Justin • 3-8
Finally starting to show why Cleveland traded for him in the first place with Boston, with a 5-0 start this season and 2.18 ERA. Two reasons why he might be better pitcher this May. First, Masterson's control is better, walking fewer hitters and extracting a few more punch-outs and secondly, his ground ball pitching style has been helped with better Cleveland infield defense.
Doug Upstone of 3Daily Winners contributed to this article.