With two true perfect games, one pseudo-perfect game, and two no-hitters, many people are dubbing 2010 as, “The Year of the Pitcher.” While these individual feats are incredible in their own right, there is another pitching trend building steam.
Young pitchers are having breakout years all over the board. And it’s affecting fantasy baseball as much as it is Major League Baseball.
A breakout year is not defined by ERA, WHIP, Wins, Strikeouts, or Walks. But, rather, when a pitcher really comes into their own as an ace. They figure out that pitching is about more than just striking a batter out. They begin to see the full picture; Keeping their pitch counts down, putting confidence in their defense, and pitching later into games to help their team win.
Last year, Ubaldo Jimenez had what many thought of as a breakout year. After a rocky start in April, he was able to put it together and consistently last more than 6 innings, keeping the Rockies in nearly every game he pitched. He was a huge reason why they won the NL Wild Card.
This year however, he’s broken out from the Rockies’ staff ace to the league’s best pitcher. In his 15 starts thus far, he has gone 6+ innings in 14 of them, and he has pitched through at least 7 innings in 10 games. All while maintaining a 1.60 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. From 2009 to 2010, he’s gone from a respectable 16.37 Pitches per Inning Pitched to an elite 15.50 Pit/IP. This year, he was a huge reason the Rockies made the playoffs. This year, he could be only reason they make the playoffs.
Yovani Gallardo has been the Brewers best pitcher since C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets left the team. That doesn’t mean he’s been ready to anchor their staff. Ken Macha didn’t want to declare Gallardo as the opening day starter last year, because he thought it would add too much pressure to the young 23 year-old’s shoulders.
He struggled with pitch counts, averaging 17.24 Pit/IP, and under 6 and 1/3 Innings per Start. He lived and died by the strikeout. He would get in front of hitters 0-2, before walking them. Instead of pitching for his team to beat the opponent, it seemed as if he was only pitching to beat the batter he was currently facing.
This year, Gallardo has done a much better job of pitching to contact. He has shown much more confidence in his pitches, and has attacked batters like never before. Because of it, he’s been pitching later into games, and saving the bullpen. Something, as I noted in a previous (http://mlbsoup.com/?p=397)article, the Brewers definitely need.
Over his first 10 games, Yovani threw a whopping 18.12 pitches per game. Over his last 6 games, he’s thrown just 15.68 Pit/IP, including 2 CG SHO. The man appears to be solidifying himself as the one of MLB’s elite aces for years to come.
Last year was a tale of two halves for Ricky Romero. After a solid first half, Romero went on to post a 5.54 ERA after the All-Star Break. He’s off to a hot start once again in 2010, and hopefully he’ll be able to keep it up.
In 15 starts, he holds an ERA of 2.85. His K/IP ratio is up to .97 from .79 last season. He’s only allowed more than 3 runs just 4 times all season, and averages 7 full innings per start. Romero is a big reason that the Blue Jays started off so hot, and just as he’s a big reason they haven’t fallen even farther than they have in the standings.
As a number 1 over all draft pick in 2007, the world has always been expected of David Price. In 2008, as a September call-up, he was thrust into important relief situations amid the World Series chase. The Tampa Bay Rays were so confident in his ability and poise that he actually picked up a save in the ALCS vs. Boston.
In 2009, The Rays delayed his arbitration by bringing him to the majors in late May. From there, he pitched very inconsistently. When he was on, he was one of the toughest in the league. But he was only on about every other game. Ten of his 23 starts were QS. However, he also had 10 starts where he couldn’t make it through 6 innings, and he finished the season with a 4.42 ERA.
This year, however things are different. The 24-year old carries a 2.44 ERA over 15 games. His control is much better. His K/BB ratio is 2.21, compared to 1.88 in 2009. He’s been helping the Rays out by keeping his pitch count in check, and lasting deeper into games. He’s averaging 16.1 Pit/IP, and 6 2/3 IP per start. But even when he exits early, he’s still managed to keep the Rays in every game he’s pitched. He has yet to allow more than 3 runs in a single game all year. Incredible! It’s tough to ask for anything more from a sophomore Starting Pitcher.
It’s been the year of the no-hitter and the perfect game. Those feats will receive a majority of the attention, and rightfully so. But even in such a huge year for single-game feats, watching so many pitchers have breakout years remains one of the most encouraging and riveting aspects of the game.