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MLB pitchers in July: Who's Hot and Who's Not

Steve Makinen  
Point Spread Weekly

July 8, 2018 12:15 AM

It's July when most Major League Baseball teams have just passed the halfway point of their 2018 schedules. That means we have a lot of data to learn from, yet we still have plenty of time to take advantage of it going forward.

Not everything is so obvious as it seems, however, especially when it comes to starting pitchers. It's easy to get caught up in a game of backing the pitchers you’ve relied on the last few years for their greatness, or fading those you have had success going against, but often things change. 

Take Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance. Neither has been a great bet lately for MLB handicappers for return on investment, but they are still hard to overlook anytime they take the hill. Meanwhile, for the Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester has come through big-time for bettors of late even though he may have been on an avoid list in recent years,. 

Oftentimes, it’s a game of “What have you done for me lately?” With that mind I thought I’d take a snapshot this week of the hottest and coldest starting pitchers.

I looked at all 127 pitchers in the league who have started six games or more since May 15  with games through Sunday. I used a rather crude way of ranking the pitchers, taking a “combined rank” of six different key statistical categories. This combined rank is what I used to determine the overall hottest and coldest pitchers.

Keep this list handy as all these pitchers will be starting by this weekend, including some on Wednesday, July 4.

HOTTEST RECENT PITCHERS

#1: LUIS SEVERINO (NY YANKEES)
Combined Rank: 11.17
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 2.25 units - #22 of 127
Individual Record: 5-1 (83%) - #8 of 127
Innings Pitched: 40.34 - #7 of 127
ERA: 1.34 - #3 of 127
WHIP: 0.892 - #7 of 127
K's/9: 10.26 - #20 of 127
Analysis: Severino, who has been dominant all season, culminated with a huge start against Boston on Sunday night. The anchor on the rotation of the league’s best team, he is expected to go next on Saturday at Toronto.

#2: BLAKE SNELL (TAMPA BAY)
Combined Rank: 13.33
Team Record in Starts: 4-2 3.45 units - #16 of 127
Individual Record: 4-1 (80%) - #11 of 127
Innings Pitched: 38.33 - #14 of 127
ERA: 1.64 - #5 of 127
WHIP: 1.044 - #22 of 127
K's/9: 11.04 - #12 of 127
Analysis: With all the fuss about the “bullpen starts” being made by the Tampa Bay staff, Blake Snell has rather quietly come up big for the Rays of late. He won his last three starts, two of them as a rather sizable underdog. Snell goes next on Friday at the Mets.

#3: MICHAEL FOLTYNEWICZ (ATLANTA)
Combined Rank: 13.33
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 5.2 units - #6 of 127
Individual Record: 3-1 (75%) - #16 of 127
Innings Pitched: 36 - #42 of 127
ERA: 1.00 - #2 of 127
WHIP: 0.778 - #4 of 127
K's/9: 11.25 - #10 of 127
Analysis: Foltynewicz spent a recent stint on the DL but was not shelved for long, thankfully. The Braves are 5-1 in his last six starts and his WHIP of 0.778 is #4 in the league in that span. His next chance to impress comes Friday in a key clash at Milwaukee.

#4: DYLAN BUNDY (BALTIMORE)
Combined Rank: 15.17
Team Record in Starts: 4-2 2.2 units - #24 of 127
Individual Record: 4-1 (80%) - #11 of 127
Innings Pitched: 42.33 - #2 of 127
ERA: 2.55 - #15 of 127
WHIP: 0.969 - #10 of 127
K's/9: 9.57 - #29 of 127
Analysis: Bundy has been one of the few bright spots for the Orioles in 2018, as they literally have minimal chance to win when he is not starting. He has been solid and deserves your attention as a bettor. He is now usually an underdog when he takes the hill. That doesn’t figure to be the case, however, on Friday when he is scheduled to go at home versus San Diego.

#5: AARON NOLA (PHILADELPHIA)
Combined Rank: 18.5
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 4.6 units - #9 of 127
Individual Record: 4-0 (100%) - #2 of 127
Innings Pitched: 37.67 - #18 of 127
ERA: 2.87 - #28 of 127
WHIP: 1.062 - #24 of 127
K's/9: 9.56 - #30 of 127
Analysis: Nola is making a legitimate run at being an all-star in a couple of weeks and should be able to solidify that spot with another strong start or two. Nola is scheduled to go on the 4th of July against Baltimore at home.

#6: LANCE MCCULLERS (HOUSTON)
Combined Rank: 19.5
Team Record in Starts: 6-0 6 units - #3 of 127
Individual Record: 3-0 (100%) - #3 of 127
Innings Pitched: 38 - #16 of 127
ERA: 2.84 - #26 of 127
WHIP: 1.105 - #31 of 127
K's/9: 9.00 - #38 of 127
Analysis: McCullers is not even the top 1, 2 or 3 starter on the Astros rotation, yet what the team has gotten from him of late has been extraordinary. Houston is 6-0 in his last six starts despite scoring less than 5.0 runs per game in those contests. McCullers also has a 4th of July start scheduled at Texas.

#7: JOSE BERRIOS (MINNESOTA)
Combined Rank: 23
Team Record in Starts: 4-2 2.6 units - #20 of 127
Individual Record: 3-1 (75%) - #16 of 127
Innings Pitched: 38.66 - #12 of 127
ERA: 3.26 - #40 of 127
WHIP: 1.086 - #28 of 127
K's/9: 10.24 - #22 of 127
Analysis: Despite Berrios’ erratic start last time out at Wrigley Field, he has been on a roll. He has emerged as the Twins’ ace largely because he reduced his walks this season. His next start should come Wednesday at Milwaukee.

#8: JAMES PAXTON (SEATTLE)
Combined Rank: 26.17
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 4.15 units - #12 of 127
Individual Record: 4-1 (80%) - #11 of 127
Innings Pitched: 37 - #28 of 127
ERA: 3.65 - #58 of 127
WHIP: 1.162 - #43 of 127
K's/9: 12.16 - #5 of 127
Analysis: Paxton hit a rough patch in early May but has come back with Seattle winning five of his last six starts. His K’s/9 rate of 12.16 is #5 in the league since May 15. Paxton’s next start will be Saturday at home versus the Rockies.

#9: GERRIT COLE (HOUSTON)
Combined Rank: 27
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 3.15 units - #17 of 127
Individual Record: 4-1 (80%) - #11 of 127
Innings Pitched: 37 - #29 of 127
ERA: 3.41 - #49 of 127
WHIP: 1.108 - #33 of 127
K's/9: 10.22 - #23 of 127
Analysis: If Justin Verlander has been 1A for the Astros, then Cole has been at least 1B. While not as dominant as he was in April, Cole remains solid as a rock for the Astros as the season wears on. He figures to be a massive favorite at home versus the White Sox on Thursday night.

#10: JON LESTER (CHICAGO CUBS)
Combined Rank: 27.67
Team Record in Starts: 6-0 6.45 units - #1 of 127
Individual Record: 6-0 (100%) - #1 of 127
Innings Pitched: 37 - #27 of 127
ERA: 1.46 - #4 of 127
WHIP: 1.054 - #23 of 127
K's/9: 6.08 - #110 of 127
Analysis: While not striking out a lot of hitters, Lester is simply getting them out lately and winning games. The Cubs have scored 37 runs in his last four starts and they are undefeated with Lester pitching since May 29.  His next start isn’t till Sunday at home versus Cincinnati.

#11: CHRIS SALE (BOSTON)
Combined Rank: 28
Team Record in Starts: 3-3 -3.35 units - #107 of 127
Individual Record: 3-2 (60%) - #44 of 127
Innings Pitched: 41 - #6 of 127
ERA: 1.76 - #6 of 127
WHIP: 0.756 - #2 of 127
K's/9: 13.17 - #3 of 127
Analysis: Sale has been almost untouchable lately; however, his record doesn’t show it. Boston’s bullpen has failed him a couple of times of late, and he has been the victim of cold Red Sox bats on a couple of other occasions. Makes it tough laying big numbers despite his great stuff. Next chance to back Sale comes Friday at K.C.

#12: ZACH EFLIN (PHILADELPHIA)
Combined Rank: 28.67
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 6 units - #2 of 127
Individual Record: 5-1 (83%) - #8 of 127
Innings Pitched: 34.67 - #57 of 127
ERA: 2.86 - #27 of 127
WHIP: 1.096 - #30 of 127
K's/9: 8.57 - #48 of 127
Analysis: Eflin is the second Phillies pitcher on our hot starters list, a big reason why the Phillies find themselves right in the hunt for the NL East lead as we head to the All-Star break. Bettors typically don’t have to pay a high price for Eflin, thus the reason his ROI is ranked #2 in MLB in his last six starts.

#13: MIKE LEAKE (SEATTLE)
Combined Rank: 29.33
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 4.55 units - #10 of 127
Individual Record: 3-1 (75%) - #16 of 127
Innings Pitched: 42 - #3 of 127
ERA: 2.57 - #16 of 127
WHIP: 1.000 - #13 of 127
K's/9: 5.79 - #118 of 127
Analysis: Leake has come out of nowhere to become a real solid contributor to the Seattle rotation, and one of the reasons the Mariners are performing better than expected at this point. Leake is starting to resemble the pitcher he was back in the early part of his career at Cincinnati.

#14: CLAYTON RICHARD (SAN DIEGO)
Combined Rank: 31
Team Record in Starts: 5-1 4.4 units - #11 of 127
Individual Record: 4-1 (80%) - #11 of 127
Innings Pitched: 40 - #9 of 127
ERA: 3.15 - #35 of 127
WHIP: 1.000 - #14 of 127
K's/9: 6.3 - #106 of 127
Analysis: Richard’s first half of the season for San Diego has probably landed him on a short list of trade targets for contending teams as the deadline approaches at the end of the month. Richard has gotten deep into games for the Padres and has simply gotten hitters out, proving to be a fruitful wager all season long.

#15: TREVOR BAUER (CLEVELAND)
Combined Rank: 31.67
Team Record in Starts: 3-3 -2.5 units - #100 of 127
Individual Record: 3-3 (50%) - #55 of 127
Innings Pitched: 41.34 - #5 of 127
ERA: 2.18 - #10 of 127
WHIP: 1.016 - #18 of 127
K's/9: 13.5 - #2 of 127
Analysis: Bauer is part of a loaded starting rotation in Cleveland and has gotten better each and every year. Lately he is striking out hitters better than any time previously, perhaps signaling the beginning of a rise into elite pitcher status. The Indians have only scored 18 runs for him in his last six starts, thus the 3-3 record.

COLDEST RECENT PITCHERS

#113: CHAD KUHL (PITTSBURGH)
Combined Rank: 95.83
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -4.25 units - #115 of 127
Individual Record: 1-3 (25%) - #98 of 127
Innings Pitched: 29.33 - #114 of 127
ERA: 5.22 - #93 of 127
WHIP: 1.602 - #108 of 127
K's/9: 8.59 - #47 of 127
Analysis: Starting our list of coldest pitchers of late is none other than Chad Cool, rather Chad Kuhl of Pittsburgh. Kuhl is having trouble getting guys out recently and thus not getting deep into games. He is now on the DL with a forearm issue.

#114: DALLAS KEUCHEL (HOUSTON)
Combined Rank: 96
Team Record in Starts: 3-3 -2.65 units - #102 of 127
Individual Record: 1-2 (33%) - #87 of 127
Innings Pitched: 33.33 - #81 of 127
ERA: 5.94 - #103 of 127
WHIP: 1.680 - #116 of 127
K's/9: 7.29 - #87 of 127
Analysis: Perhaps the lone disappointment in the entire Houston pitching staff, Keuchel has gone from Cy Young candidate to un-bettable this season. His stats aren’t all that bad, but the price you have to pay to back Keuchel makes it a risky wager.

#115: WEI-YIN CHEN (MIAMI)
Combined Rank: 99.17
Team Record in Starts: 3-3 1.95 units - #34 of 127
Individual Record: 1-3 (25%) - #98 of 127
Innings Pitched: 26.33 - #124 of 127
ERA: 7.18 - #122 of 127
WHIP: 1.861 - #126 of 127
K's/9: 7.18 - #91 of 127
Analysis: Chen had a career record of 53-38 coming into 2018 so it’s easy to see why bettors might have flocked to him often in the early part of the season. He has been getting lit up lately though, as his WHIP of 1.861 in his last six starts is second worst in the league.

#116: BARTOLO COLON (TEXAS)
Combined Rank: 100
Team Record in Starts: 3-3 0 units - #62 of 127
Individual Record: 3-3 (50%) - #55 of 127
Innings Pitched: 29.33 - #111 of 127
ERA: 7.36 - #123 of 127
WHIP: 1.841 - #125 of 127
K's/9: 4.91 - #124 of 127
Analysis: Colon was one of the feel good stories in all of baseball in April. In May and June, his advanced age is showing. Opponents’ bats are connecting early and often.

#117: ANDREW CASHNER (BALTIMORE)
Combined Rank: 101.17
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -3.15 units - #105 of 127
Individual Record: 0-3 (0%) - #117 of 127
Innings Pitched: 33 - #88 of 127
ERA: 4.09 - #68 of 127
WHIP: 1.606 - #109 of 127
K's/9: 5.73 - #120 of 127
Analysis: Other pitchers might have worse stats than Cashner, but currently he is combining less than his best stuff with bad run support. The O’s have scored just 11 runs in his last six starts and he is collecting losses.

#118: JAKE ODORIZZI (MINNESOTA)
Combined Rank: 101.67
Team Record in Starts: 2-4 -2.95 units - #104 of 127
Individual Record: 0-3 (0%) - #117 of 127
Innings Pitched: 26.34 - #122 of 127
ERA: 7.52 - #124 of 127
WHIP: 1.784 - #122 of 127
K's/9: 10.25 - #21 of 127
Analysis: Odorizzi has been a mystery as he has proven equally capable of putting together great starts and awful starts. His encouraging strikeout numbers suggest he could return to profitability for bettors later in the season and at good value. But stay away until some consistency returns.

#119: NICK PIVETTA (PHILADELPHIA)
Combined Rank: 102
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -4.35 units - #116 of 127
Individual Record: 0-4 (0%) - #122 of 127
Innings Pitched: 28 - #118 of 127
ERA: 7.71 - #125 of 127
WHIP: 1.786 - #123 of 127
K's/9: 11.57 - #8 of 127
Analysis: Pivetta is a power pitcher whose fastball gets up into the high 90s, and while he is able to strike out a lot of hitters because of it, many other hitters have proven capable of squaring up on him. Lefties are hitting .300 on him for the season. His most recent outing came out of the bullpen after he recorded just one quality start in his prior seven. His next chance should be Friday though as he is slated to start at Pittsburgh.
  
#120: JORDAN LYLES (SAN DIEGO)
Combined Rank: 102.33
Team Record in Starts: 2-4 -1 units - #75 of 127
Individual Record: 1-3 (25%) - #98 of 127
Innings Pitched: 29 - #115 of 127
ERA: 6.21 - #108 of 127
WHIP: 1.621 - #110 of 127
K's/9: 6.21 - #108 of 127
Analysis: Like many of the pitchers on the coldest part of our lists, Lyles of San Diego started the season in encouraging fashion. His recent troubles could be due to inflammation in his elbow, however. If that calms, he could be ready to improve on his recent ugliness.

#121: TANNER ROARK (WASHINGTON)
Combined Rank: 104.5
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -4.8 units - #120 of 127
Individual Record: 1-4 (20%) - #108 of 127
Innings Pitched: 33 - #87 of 127
ERA: 5.45 - #98 of 127
WHIP: 1.758 - #120 of 127
K's/9: 7.09 - #94 of 127
Analysis: A lot of things have been disappointing for Washington in the early going of the 2018 season; count Tanner Roark’s performance among them. He is just not getting guys out and is very deserving of his recent losses. In most cases you have to pay a nice price for Roark & the Nats, too.

#122: JAKE ARRIETA (PHILADELPHIA)
Combined Rank: 105.17
Team Record in Starts: 2-4 -1.75 units - #88 of 127
Individual Record: 0-4 (0%) - #122 of 127
Innings Pitched: 30.66 - #101 of 127
ERA: 6.16 - #107 of 127
WHIP: 1.500 - #104 of 127
K's/9: 6.16 - #109 of 127
Analysis: Arrieta had two brutal starts in a row against the Brewers that are as responsible for landing him on our cold list as anything else. Since then, he has recovered to win two of three games. Perhaps the worst is behind him.

#123: JASON HAMMEL (KANSAS CITY)
Combined Rank: 106
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -3.6 units - #110 of 127
Individual Record: 0-5 (0%) - #126 of 127
Innings Pitched: 35 - #54 of 127
ERA: 6.43 - #111 of 127
WHIP: 1.771 - #121 of 127
K's/9: 5.91 - #114 of 127
Analysis: Jason Hammel is 0-5 in his L5 decisions and has done very little to earn success. While it doesn’t help that the Royals offense has been miserable over the last month or so, Hammel isn’t keeping up his end of the bargain.

#124: GIO GONZALEZ (WASHINGTON)
Combined Rank: 110.83
Team Record in Starts: 2-4 -3.75 units - #111 of 127
Individual Record: 0-3 (0%) - #117 of 127
Innings Pitched: 26.33 - #125 of 127
ERA: 7.86 - #126 of 127
WHIP: 1.747 - #119 of 127
K's/9: 7.86 - #67 of 127
Analysis: In terms of talent, many experts put Gio Gonzalez right near the top of the heap of starting pitchers. It is not showing out of late, though. Gio’s stats are ugly of late. On May 28, he held a season ERA of 5.10. Six starts later that number has climbed to 3.77. Perhaps the signs of an arm health issue?

#125: JAIME GARCIA (TORONTO)
Combined Rank: 113.83
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -4.15 units - #113 of 127
Individual Record: 0-4 (0%) - #122 of 127
Innings Pitched: 26.34 - #123 of 127
ERA: 7.18 - #121 of 127
WHIP: 1.670 - #114 of 127
K's/9: 7.18 - #90 of 127
Analysis: Garcia loved life in the National League. The American League hasn’t been so kind. In Toronto this season, he has been getting lit up, so much to the point where he was put on the DL on June 23. He may or may not return to the Jays’ rotation when he is healthy.

#126: KYLE HENDRICKS (CHICAGO CUBS)
Combined Rank: 115.17
Team Record in Starts: 1-5 -7.2 units - #127 of 127
Individual Record: 1-5 (17%) - #112 of 127
Innings Pitched: 29.34 - #110 of 127
ERA: 6.44 - #112 of 127
WHIP: 1.670 - #113 of 127
K's/9: 5.83 - #117 of 127
Analysis: Hendricks has never been overpowering or dominant, but he has been solid his entire career for the Cubs. That is until recently. Like several of the Cubs’ starters, he has been getting hit hard recently. 

#127: DAVID HESS (BALTIMORE)
Combined Rank: 118.33
Team Record in Starts: 0-6 -6 units - #123 of 127
Individual Record: 0-4 (0%) - #122 of 127
Innings Pitched: 29.67 - #108 of 127
ERA: 6.98 - #120 of 127
WHIP: 1.651 - #112 of 127
K's/9: 4.85 - #125 of 127
Analysis: I personally won a bet going against Hess this past Friday night with the Angels, and I might go all in against him on Wednesday at Philly as well. In that game, it will be a test of hot (Aaron Nola) versus not (David Hess), and the price might not be HIGH ENOUGH. It’s hard to get major league hitters out with minor league stuff. Problem is the Orioles don’t have many better options at this point.

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