It’s no secret: James McDonald has been flat-out dominant this season for the Pirates. He pitched another great game on Thursday night vs. Minnesota, giving up just one run on six hits while going the distance. It was the first complete game of his career and he struck out five while walking none. J-Mac lowered his ERA to 2.19 and now has six wins on the season.
McDonald could easily have at least eight wins; the Bucs went on to win three of his five no-decisions and lost some winnable games. He lost on May 11th while surrendering just one run in eight innings, but the Bucs couldn’t solve Bud Norris and lost 1-0. He pitched well in Cleveland on Friday, giving up just one run on three hits, but the Pirates were shutout by Justin Masterson and the Tribe.
Only the All-Star Game starting position players are determined by fan voting, so it’s up to National League manager Tony LaRussa to decide if he wants J-Mac as part of his pitching staff. LaRussa, who led the Cardinals to the World Series title last year, is coming out of his retirement to manage the ASG; he’ll also have Terry Collins of the Mets and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers as part of his coaching staff. Although McDonald is still relatively unknown, he’s certainly deserving of a roster spot. Here’s how he ranks among National League starting pitchers:
– He’s a little lower in the wins column, but could certainly be in the top ten (tied for third or fourth) if the Pirates could have picked him up in those winnable games. R.A. Dickey leads with 11, Lance Lynn and Cole Hamels have 10, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain have nine, five pitchers are tied with eight, three are tied with seven (including A.J. Burnett), and J-Mac now has six.
– He’s ranked fourth in ERA at 2.19. Only R.A. Dickey (2.00), Brandon Beachy (2.00), and Ryan Dempster (2.11) have lower earned run averages. Beachy just underwent Tommy John surgery and Dempster has one less start than McDonald.
– He’s given up the fourth-lowest amount of home runs, as he’s surrendered just four long balls in 90.1 innings. Only Gio Gonzalez (1), Wade Miley (2), and Zach Greinke (3) have given up less homers, but they have all pitched less innings than J-Mac.
– He’s given up the sixth-lowest amount of hits, as he’s surrendered 62. He was in third place until he gave up six hits to the Twins. Still, he’s pitched in one more start than the first five pitchers.
– He has the fourth-lowest opponent batting average at .195. Gonzalez, Beachy, and Dickey are all in front of him.
– He has the second-lowest opponent batting average against the curveball at .102. Only Gonzalez is ahead of him at .079; Matt Cain is behind him at .111.
– He has the third-lowest WHIP at 0.95. Dickey (0.89) and Cain (0.91) are ahead of him.
The list goes on and on, and there are a myriad of stats that prove the J-Mac is one of the best National League starters this season. The guys that have been in the same area as J-Mac have been REALLY good:
– R.A. Dickey (11-1, 2.00 ERA); he’s thrown two consecutive one-hitters.
– Matt Cain (9-2, 2.34 ERA); he threw a perfect game last week and almost had a perfect game against the Bucs in April- the only hit he surrendered was to the one and only James McDonald.
– Brandon Beachy (5-5, 2.00 ERA); he’s out for the season, however.
– Gio Gonzalez (9-3, 2.55 ERA); he’s been dominant for the Nats all season.
McDonald seems like an obvious choice to go to the ASG, but you never know. It’s a meaningless roster spot but it’d be great for J-Mac to get the national attention that he deserves. Hopefully he’ll be heading to Kansas City in a few weeks.