Sunday, August 12, 2012
One month ago, following his four-hit, 10-strikeout performance against San Francisco, James McDonald's ERA was a minuscule 2.37. The Pirates' right-hander appeared to be the steal of the season, the guy you drafted late or picked up in April who'd lead you to a championship. McDonald's pre-all-star break numbers were more than any fantasy manager could have hoped for: 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 100/31 K/BB ratio in 110 innings. His success was thanks in large part to his new-found control. In 310 big-league innings prior to 2012, McDonald owned a 4.10 walk rate. Through 17 starts before the all-star break this season, he was walking just 2.53 batters per nine. He also picked up a slider, which has been his most dominant pitch. So McDonald entered the all-star break as a legitimate Cy-Young award candidate. He had held opponents to three runs or less in 16 of his 17 starts, and two runs or less in 12 starts. Since the all-star break, McDonald has been a disaster. He's allowed at least four runs in five of his six starts, amassing an unsightly 8.71 ERA, 2.03 WHIP and 26/21 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. What's been the difference?