Chad Billingsley (SP - LAD) - Billingsley struggled at Wrigley Field, allowing four runs on eight hits (one home run), walking three and striking out four. He has pitched well so far this season, but continues to struggle with the gopher ball, having given up at least one in every start since his first (which was at Petco Park). His flyball rate is slightly up this year and he pitches in a good park for left-handed home runs, but his HR/FB% is almost twice his career average. Consider Billingsley a solid-above average option going forward, and he'll get the ball Wednesday at home against the Giants.
Johnny Cueto (SP - CIN) - Cueto threw a complete game in Pittsburgh, allowing just a run on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks to lower his ERA to an outstanding 1.31. Over his career, Cueto has gradually changed from a strikeout pitcher to a control-groundballer, and that has continued into this season. It's a wise move considering he pitches half his games at the launching pad of Great American Ballpark. Cueto's velocity is a little down this season, but it's nothing to worry about this early in the season as it should rise with the temperature. He draws a matchup in Milwaukee Wednesday afternoon.
Stephen Strasburg (SP - WAS) - Strasburg had a very disappointing outing by his standards, giving up three runs on three hits (two home runs) in six innings, striking out four and walking one. He only threw 76 pitches, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth as the Nationals were trailing. The home run he allowed to Hunter Pence in the fourth inning was his first allowed in 63 innings dating back to 2010, and the combination of his increased groundball rate this year to go along with his excellent strikeout rate will prevent a lot of big flies. He pitches next on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Zack Greinke (SP - MIL) - Greinke had a typical line for when he struggles, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, fanning five and walking one. He has dramatically underperformed his peripherals the last two seasons and the trend has continued into 2012. He has given up a career-high percentage of line drives and the Brewers infield defense with Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez haven't done his groundball tendencies any favors. With Mat Gamel out for the season, the Brewers would vastly improve their infield defense by calling up Taylor Green to play the hot corner and moving Ramirez across the diamond, but they have opted for the time being to give Travis Ishikawa the bulk of the first base time, much to Greinke's detriment. He'll match up with Johnny Cueto in Milwaukee Wednesday.
Tim Lincecum (SP - SF) - Lincecum struggled again Friday, allowing three runs on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts in five innings. He came into the outing having only allowed one run in his last two starts, but he walked nine in those 13 innings. On the bright side, he has not allowed a home run since his first outing and his groundball rate is consistent with his career. With his strikeout rate in a two-year decline (although it's back up a little bit so far this year) and his walk rate on a similar path (and up to 4.39 this year), Lincecum is clearly no longer the ace he used to be, but his strikeout and groundball rates still make him a very good option. He'll match up with Chad Billingsley in Los Angeles Wednesday.
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