James McDonald: July 13, 2012, to September 14, 2012
The 2012 season is one that most fans likely aren’t too fond of, at least the second half. The Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2012 All-Star Break with a 48-37 record with a firm grasp on a Wild Card spot and pushing for the division. Right-handed starter James McDonald was a big reason for the team’s first-half success.
McDonald entered the All-Star Break as an All-Star snub. In his first 110 innings of the season, Mcdonald had a 2.37 ERA, 3.00 FIP, and a WHIP below 1.00, coming in at 0.97. Mcdonald held opposing batters to a batting average below the Mendoza Line (.196) and OPS well below .600, at .570. He was pitching like a low-key Cy Young candidate.
McDonald had the fifth best ERA in baseball and 9th best FIP. Only 24 pitchers reached the 2+ fWAR mark by the 2012 All-Star Break and McDonald was one of them with a +2.7 mark (which ranked 11th in MLB and 7th in the NL at the time).
However, just like the rest of the Pirate roster, McDonald imploded in the second half of 2012. His next 61 innings yielded a 7.08 ERA, 6.06 FIP, and 1.74 WHIP. After keeping opponent bats almost utterly silent in the first half, they put up a .907 OPS vs. the right-hander in the second half. On average, he nearly gave up two home runs every nine innings with a 1.92 HR/9 rate.
McDonald’s ERA- of 185 is nearly as bad as Bob Walk’s 186 ERA- in a 60-game stretch that lasted from July 24 through September 24 in 1993. While McDonald’s strikeout rate is nearly twice that of Walk’s, his walk rate is 3% higher at 13%, and his FIP- is 12% worse. 2012 was a very disappointing year all around, especially for McDonald. He came out of the gates looking like a top 10 pitcher in baseball, only to fold in the second half, along with the rest of his team.