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Five MLB Starting Pitchers it May be Time to Give Up On

By Steve Makinen  () 

For the last couple of weeks I have put together top pitcher lists that I have received good feedback on. To keep the momentum going, I thought I’d present another list of top pitchers, only this week I’m not looking at it from a positive perspective, rather I’m pointing out pitchers whose struggles might warrant us bettors giving up on them at the window until further evidence suggests otherwise. For the most part, these are pitchers that had been reliable options in recent years, in some cases, even elite level, but have somehow lost their way and no longer command the respect they either still received or used to receive from those setting the odds. It will take a big change in oddsmaker perspective for me to jump back on these starters.

1. MICHAEL PINEDA (MINNESOTA)

After a scintillating 2-start run to open the 2019 season, Michael Pineda has since fallen apart. It’s only the Twins’ hot start and big run production that seems to have masked it a bit. In those first two starts he allowed just two runs and struck out 10 hitters in nine innings, perhaps signaling a return to the potential that he had displayed while with the Yankees. However, since then, Pineda has gone 38 innings in seven starts, allowing 27 earned runs and 52 hits. Opposing hitters are simply squaring up on his pedestrian 92 MPH fastball. His ERA sits at 5.55, and were he pitching on a team like the Tigers with a lesser lineup, his won-lost mark would look much worse.

2. DREW POMERANZ (SAN FRANCISCO)

Drew Pomeranz started the season in fairly decent fashion, perhaps sparking hope that his return to the National League this season might rejuvenate his career. Instead, after eight starts now, and a brief stay on the DL, he sits at 1-4 with a 5.66 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. While those numbers are ugly, they are actually an improvement on his 2018 season in Boston. That said, any return to his previous Cy Young contender status of a few years ago would seem to be a pipedream. Making matters worse, Pomeranz pitches in a “pitcher’s ball park” yet has walked 18 guys in 35 innings, putting more pressure on an offense that struggles to score runs. Don’t expect much.

3. MICHAEL WACHA (ST LOUIS)

A postseason darling for the Cardinals in years past, Michael Wacha burst onto the scene for St Louis back in 2013. He has enjoyed five of six seasons of quality performance. The 2019 season doesn’t seem to be going the preferred way however. Wacha has walked 26 hitters in 42 innings, and that lack of control has been the primary reason for his 1.64 WHIP to date. Somehow or other, he still owns a 3-1 record, the beneficiary of great run support from the Cardinals’ lineup. His walks/9 innings rate of 5.57 is nearly double his previous career average. While virtually the entire St. Louis starting rotation could be characterized as underachieving at this point, Wacha seems to have plummeted the worst in 2019.

4. FELIZ HERNANDEZ (SEATTLE)

Hopefully by now you’ve recognized that Felix Hernandez is not the King Felix you probably remember from his Heyday. Right now he sits on the DL with a Lat injury, and its probably best, as his 2019 season needs a reset. Unfortunately, his performance so far this spring is just an extension of what happened in 2018. Although he closed last season with a reasonable 1.40 WHIP, his ERA of 5.55 and won-lost record of 8-14 were both the worst marks of his career. He’s continued to sink in his first eight starts this season, going 1-4 with a 6.52 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In one sense, he doesn’t command the prices he used to from oddsmakers. Unfortunately, some bettors still seem to jump on him like he is the old Mariners’ ace.

5. KYLE FREELAND (COLORADO)

What’s wrong with Kyle Freeland in 2019? After a stellar 2018 season in which he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, while pitching halftime at Coors Field, Freeland has floundered this spring. Of most concern are control issues, as he has walked 24 hitters in 52 innings, a big reason his ERA sits at 6.02 after 10 starts. Since a solid outing on April 18 in which he held the powerful Phillies scoreless in six innings, the Rockies’ ace lefthander of a year ago has gone 24 innings in five starts, yielding 22 earned runs with a WHIP of 1.75. Unlike a few of the pitchers named above, oddsmakers have not really abandoned Freeland yet, he still commands some respect. Perhaps it’s time for bettors to abandon him until he shows signs of breaking out of this slump. 

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