By Marc Lawrence
Firecrackers and the MLB All-Star game signal the month of July. It also signifies the start of the 2nd half of the MLB campaign. The key to each and every team's fortune lies on the pitching staff. Can they sustain or will they fold like a deck of cards? Stay tuned. What we do know is certain pitchers love hurling this time of the season while others tend to get lit up like a roman candle.
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 July. On the flip side, we've also listed pitchers that struggle in July 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 July over the last three years. I'll be back next month with August's Good Month Pitchers. Until then, enjoy...
GOOD MONTH PITCHERS:
Beckett, Josh • 8-4
The Red Sox right-hander has been battling a nasty illness which caused him to miss a start in the latter stages of June, otherwise he is having a career year in terms of ERA and holding hitters well below .200 batting for the first time ever and should prosper this month.
Burnett, A.J. • 12-4
Burnett's ERA has been steadily climbing since early May, however the hot summer month's is when the Arkansas native usually flourish's and if he can avoid the hanging breaking pitches, no reason he cannot match previous July's.
Carpenter, Chris • 9-3
It's been all about location for Carpenter this season. He's been catching too much of the plate and has permitted his highest batting average allowed since 2002 as a regular starter. The Cardinals will need him to regain form to stay in NL Central race without Albert Pujols in the lineup.
Hamels, Cole • 12-5
The lefthander added a cutter this season and hitters are batting under .225 against Hamels and he's only surrendered six bombs, with his previous season low total at 19 in 2006.
Johnson, Josh • 11-3
Good news from the doctors, no shoulder surgery necessary. If all goes well with rehab assignments, Florida's ace is expected to return on July 16 for the Marlins.
Lackey, John • 12-4
The former Angels ace always maintained at least a 2 ½ to 1 strikeouts-to-walk ratio throughout his career, however this season he's not even 1 ½ to 1 and has no command of his increasing mediocre stuff. He'll need a major turnaround to be the hurler he's been in the past this month.
Lester, Jon • 10-4
Lester's stats this season are remarkably similar to what he's done in the past and he can be expected to come thru again for Boston this month. The only bugaboo is he's given up as many home runs (10) as he surrendered all of 2010.
Nolasco, Ricky • 12-5
After a sensational start, this Marlins pitcher hasn't been able to close out hitters like he did early in the season. With the lack of strikeouts, more contact has meant more runs by the opposition as Nolasco has suffered. If Florida is going to get back in the wild card hunt, they will need a big second half from Nolasco.
Pineiro, Joel • 12-3
Strictly a back of the rotation pitcher, he has to keep the ball down or gives up hits in volume. For whatever reason, July has been a lucky month for the right-hander.
Rodriguez, Wandy • 11-5
Rodriguez has been steadily lowering his ERA after a brutal start. On a contender, he might be an every year 15-game winner, but stuck with Houston, hard to imagine Rodriguez can match past results unless he throws lights out.
Sabathia, CC • 12-6
Unquestionably talented, the big lefty also benefits from having a team full of run producers and can allow four runs early and still pick up a win. However, Sabathia is a workhorse, always wants the ball and will battle at least for seven innings with or without his best stuff.
Vazquez, Javier • 10-4
This Marlins pitcher will be 35-years old this month and is showing serious signs of decline. Vazquez has a career batting average allowed of .258 and this season opposing clubs are knocking him around to the tune of .300+.
Volstad, Chris • 8-4
Since his rookie season in 2008, Volstad has been very mediocre and the 6'8 pitcher just seems to have mechanical issues of finding a consistent release point to throw strikes and not give up base hits in bunches. Maybe the extreme heat and humidity will help.
BAD MONTH PITCHERS:
Dickey, R.A. • 3-8
If the knuckleballer has his signature pitch dancing and darting, he'll pick up K's and have a good outing. If not, Dickey is throwing batting practice to hitters waiting to light him up.
Galarraga, Armando • 4-9
Has not been picked up since being released by Arizona in May.
Greinke, Zack • 5-10
His record does not belie how average Greinke has pitched this campaign and he's benefitted from generous run support. Milwaukee is counting on him in the second half of the season, which historically has not been a strength of Greinke's.
Wakefield, Tim • 3-8
Think about this one, Wakefield's rookie year he was a teammate of Barry Bonds who would be spending his last season in Pittsburgh. At 44, Wakefield is Terry Francona's security blanket when starting pitchers start falling, however the more the knuckleballer is exposed, the worse the results.
Doug Upstone of 3Daily Winners contributed to this article.