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Over the past few weeks, we’ve featured likely second-half drop-off candidates among hitters and pitchers. Last week we profiled some hitters who are due for a big second half and today we turn our attention to the league’s young hurlers. As with every season, there have been some surprising stat lines around the league and more than a few perennial All-Stars have found themselves struggling.
As you’ll see below, however, their ERAs don’t necessarily tell you the whole story. Even halfway through the season, numbers can be deceiving and many a pitcher has been burned by a couple of bad starts. Others, by injury. Let’s take a look at some pitchers who are due for a big second half turnaround.
David Price: 2-4, 62 IP, 4.65 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 59 K/14 BB
Price got off to a tough start, putting up a 5.24 ERA over his first nine starts before going down with a triceps injury. He returned to face Houston on Tuesday and spun a gem as he threw seven scoreless innings, surrendering just three hits and striking out 10. It was Houston but still a good sign that he’s back on the right track. I would be shocked if David Price doesn’t have a great second half. He put up an American League-best 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 205 K. Over his last three seasons, he owns a 2.93 ERA and 1.14 WHIP and I expect him to be in that ballpark once again this season.
Fearless Prediction: 12-7, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 165 K
Matt Cain: 5-4, 109 IP, 4.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 101 K/30 BB
Cain has been one of the most consistent guys in the league, owning a career 3.34 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Last season was by far his best yet as he went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 193 K which is why it was so surprising to see him to a big step backward this season. The WHIP and the strikeouts are right where they should be but the ERA has been hurt by an uncharacteristic amount of surrendered home runs (16 in 109 IP this year, 21 in 219 IP last year, 9 in 221 IP in 2011). Luckily, this is the result of a few crazy games, not a trend. Cain surrendered three homers at Milwaukee, another three at Arizona, and another three at Colorado. That’s nine of his 16 home runs in just three games. He has given up just three in his last eight starts.
Cain is already righting the ship with a 1.82 ERA, .174 BAA, and 30 K/6 BB in his last five games and should have a stellar second half to get his numbers down to what we are used to.
Fearless Prediction: 13-7, 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 197 K
Cole Hamels: 3-11, 113 IP, 4.38 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 107 K/33 BB
His numbers aren’t terrible but he still leads the league in losses, losing all six decisions in May. Like Cain, his season has really been tainted by just three starts, two of them in the first week of April. Hamels gave up five runs to Atlanta to start the season and another eight runs to Kansas City the following start. Since then, he owns a 3.69 ERA and 100 K/28 BB. If you go a step further and forgive his six runs allowed to the Brewers back on May 31 as well, he has a 3.30 on the season. Of course, if you just keep crossing out bad starts you can make even Dan Haren look like a good starter, the point is he hasn’t been bad, just hurt by a few games. Hamels owned a 3.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP last season and a 2.97 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over his last three seasons so outside of losses I don’t think there’s much to be concerned about going into the second half.
Fearless Prediction: 9-16, 3.20 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 210 K
Josh Johnson: 1-3, 53.1 IP, 4.89 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 54 K/20 BB
After an off year last season, Josh Johnson has looked downright terrible this season. His ERA, WHIP, H/9, and HR/9 are far higher than anything we’ve seen from Johnson in the past. But, unlike Hamels, this isn’t the result of a few bad starts, this is the result of a few bad innings. In his second start of the season, Johnson gave up six runs over 1.1 IP to the Tigers. Subtract that from the ERA and he has a 4.03 the rest of the season. He had another snafu last week when he surrendered five runs over 3.1 IP to the Red Sox. Take that out of the equation and Johnson has a 3.36 ERA the rest of the season. I don’t think we see the return of 2.30 ERA Josh Johnson but he’ll certainly finish out the year better than this.
Fearless Prediction: 9-9, 3.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 155 K
Jeremy Hellickson: 7-3, 104.2 IP, 4.90 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 80 K/26 BB
Though he has the most wins on this list, Hellickson has struggled this season. He put up a 3.10 ERA last year and a 2.95 the year before and is about two runs per nine over that right now. Like most players on this list, Hellickson’s biggest problem can be boiled down to two bad starts. He gave up eight in 7.2 IP against Baltimore on May 17 and another eight to Kansas City on June 13. Take those two out of the equation and he has a much more passable 4.05 ERA the rest of the season. He’s also showing signs of improvement, pitching brilliantly in his last three starts as he went 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, .209 BAA, and 14 K/7 BB. We’ve never seen him put up a bad season. Or even a mediocre one. And I don’t think this will be the first.
Fearless Prediction: 14-6, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 155 K
Tommy Hanson: 4-2, 47.2 IP, 5.10 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 33 K/17 BB
After putting up a 3.28 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over his first three years in the league, Hanson struggled last season as he put up a 4.48 and 1.45. This year his struggles have grown worse after moving to the American League but I’m not ready to give up on Hamson yet. He got injured on June 20, giving up seven runs over just two innings. Coming into that game, he had a very serviceable 3.94 ERA through eight starts. More so, over his previous six starts he had a 3.12 ERA. So Tommy Hanson really hasn’t been that bad this season and unlike some other guys on this list he’s only given up more than four runs just twice this year. Assuming he has no lingering effects from his current forearm injury, I think Hanson is due for a big second half.
Fearless Prediction: 11-7, 3.98 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 100 K
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