Red Sox ace Chris Sale has a career ERA of 2.82 or lower for April, May, June and July. But the number rises to 3.16 in August and 3.78 in September, suggesting he tires as the season wears on.
Last year, Sale’s first in Boston, he posted a 4.38 ERA in August and 3.72 in September. Those numbers helped the Indians’ Corey Kluber sneak past Sale in American League Cy Young voting, depriving Sale of the award he never has won in spite of a stellar career with the White Sox and Red Sox.
The solution would seem to be to take a break, catch his breath and hit the refresh button. Whether it was intended that way or not, Sale was dominant Sunday in his first start after a 10-day disabled list stint with shoulder soreness, striking out 12 in five shutout innings while improving to 6-0 with an 0.20 ERA over his last seven starts.
The last pitcher to better that in a seven-start span was the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson (0.14 ERA in 1968). Gibson finished with a 1.12 ERA and won the National League Cy Young Award in what’s known as the Year of the Pitcher.
Sale, scheduled to start Sunday against the Rays at Fenway Park, is having his greatest year and became the seventh pitcher in AL history with 200 or more strikeouts in six consecutive seasons. With the Indians’ Trevor Bauer on the DL and possibly out for the season with a stress fracture in his right fibula, Sale is in good position for his first Cy. His closest competitor is Kluber, so it might depend on whether Sale can stay strong the final six weeks.
Meanwhile, the NL Cy Young debate could test voters’ knowledge of analytics. Jacob de Grom has a 1.81 ERA but is only 7-7 for the Mets, yet he has the same WAR (6.3) as probable favorite Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Fivethirtyeight.com pointed out de Grom’s ERA would be the second-lowest in history for a qualified pitcher with a non-winning record. Tim O’Keefe went 6-6 with an 0.86 ERA for the 1880 Troy Trojans.
Wins have been devalued for several years in the analytics world and aren’t a factor in some voters’ minds. Remember the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez won in 2010 despite a 13-12 record, so de Grom will get some support in spite of his record. The award goes to the “most outstanding” pitcher, not the winningest, and unlike the MVP award, it usually doesn’t matter if your team made the postseason.
Either way it should spark another interesting debate between the old-school dinosaurs and the analytically inclined among the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.
A’s third baseman Matt Chapman made a personal plea on the team’s postgame telecast Monday, asking fans to come out and support the team.
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It was reminiscent of the 1977 movie “Slap Shot” about a factory-town minor-league hockey team that goons it up to create fan interest, though the A’s are far from goons and Oakland is much bigger than Charlestown.
It’s sad to see it come to that, but the Oakland Coliseum is widely regarded as one of baseball’s worst stadiums. The owners can’t seem to get a new one approved, and the A’s go through boom-and-bust cycles in which they get good and then trade off their best players and start over again. Another problem is no one expected the A’s to contend, and there are no real stars on the overachieving team.
But here they are, and this weekend’s series against the division-leading Astros may be the biggest in Oakland since 2014, when the A’s acquired Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija during the season, earned an AL wild-card spot and blew the wild-card game to the Royals.
Chapman said he didn’t mean to upset anyone with his plea, pointing to crowds of less than 18,000 as “sad.”
“It’s how I feel,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was all positive. I want the fans to just come out and support us. We’re out here playing our butts off, playing as hard as we can. A game like last night, for there to be that many people, it’s just sad.
“We want to play in front of our fans. We have faithful fans. We love all the support we could get. We’ve had games where this place is rocking, and it’s unbelievable. Late in the season, it can only help us. I would just encourage them to come out.”
If only they played across the bay at AT&T Park, the A’s would sell out nightly.
Dumb Quote of the Week
Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez, commenting on Marlins pitcher Jose Urena’s plunking of the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., who had homered in five straight games, including three straight to lead off the game: “He’s hit three home runs. You’ve got to hit him. I’m sorry. People aren’t going to like that. You’ve got to hit him; knock him down, at least.”
With 47 saves entering weekend, Mariners closer has chance to break all-time record of 62 set by Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez in 2008. Bobby Thigpen’s 57 for 1990 White Sox ranks second.
Braves rookie tied franchise record by homering in five straight games, leading to unfortunate purpose pitch by Marlins starter Jose Urena, who received six-game suspension.
With 24-4 win over Phillies, became first team since 1894 to score more than 24 runs in a game the same season they allowed 24 or more (25 to Nationals).
Orioles slugger has lowest WAR among qualified players (minus-2.2), leads majors with 36.4 strikeout percentage while hitting robust .163. #Crashed
Red Sox third baseman had committed league-high 21 errors through Thursday and had lowest fielding percentage (.929) among qualified players.
Former Indians setup man signed three-year, $27 million deal with Rockies and has posted 6.31 ERA with four blown saves.
NL position-player WAR through Thursday (fangraphs.com)
Freddie Freeman, Braves 5.0
Nolan Arenado, Rockies 5.0
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals 5.0
Lorenzo Cain, Brewers 4.3
Javier Baez, Cubs 4.2
The Red Sox were on pace for 114 wins entering the weekend and had five players in the top 34 in WAR, according to fangraphs.com: Mookie Betts (2nd, 7.9 WAR), Chris Sale (7th, 6.0), J.D. Martinez (11th, 5.2), Andrew Benintendi (23rd, 4.3), and Xander Bogaerts (34th, 3.8).
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