Chris Sale is Creeping Back Into the Cy Young Conversation

Believe it or not, but Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young award. Since entering the league, Boston’s ace has been nothing short of dominant year in and year out. His highest earned run average came in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox, when he posted a 3.41 with 13 wins and 11 losses. And he still messed around and placed fourth on the Cy Young ballot and earned an All-Star selection.

In his eight seasons as a starting pitcher, Chris Sale has appeared on the Cy Young ballot Chris Salesix times and finished as the runner-up last year in his first season with the Red Sox. He’s been named to the All-Star team in each of those seasons as well, and it’s only a matter of time before he takes home the most coveted pitching award in the MLB. On Sunday, Sale was announced as an All-Star for the seventh straight year. While he came out of the gates a bit shaky this year, Chris Sale’s recent performances has him right back where he belongs: firmly in the conversation for the best pitcher in the American League.

Last season, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians took home the honor, and he deserved it. He went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and led his club to a first place finish in the AL Central. Kluber had the lowest WHIP (0.869) of any starter on the ballot, and the second most strikeouts (265). Who had the most strikeouts you ask? That would be Chris Sale, whose 308 punchouts comfortably led the entire MLB. The next closest was NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer with 268.

Chris Sale’s Competition

Sale’s competition this year will feature some familiar, and talented, names. Yankee ace Luis Severino, who placed third in voting last year, is building a strong case with his 14-2 record, 143 Ks, and 2.12 ERA, the second-best in the American League. Justin Verlander is emerging as an early favorite to take home his second career Cy Young with his 2.15 ERA and 154 strikeouts. Kluber, at 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA, will likely return to the ballot as well.

In comparison, the Red Sox ace leads the American League in strikeouts with 176, 18 ahead of Gerrit Cole’s tally of 158. His 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the American League, and his WHIP of 0.89 is good for third, with Kluber (0.88) and Verlander (0.84) just edging him out. Lastly, Sale leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.0, and if it holds this would be the fourth season he has done so.

Where Chris Sale will falter to his competition will be his record, as he is just 9-4 on the year. However, his wins and losses serve as a poor reflection of his performance this year. The Red Sox seemingly hate giving their ace any sort of run support. On the year, the Red Sox average 4.65 runs in games started by Sale, and it’s reflected in his four losses and an additional six no-decisions. Granted, I’m not saying Chris Sale has been perfect, but I am saying some more runs would go a long way.

Back in Form

Sale truly returned to form in June, striking out 60 and going 3-2 with a 1.76 ERA. The Red Sox scored a combined three runs in those two losses. His lone start in July follows the same positive trend, as he punched out 12 and secured a win behind 10 runs from his offense. He has won his last three starts, and, in those games, the Red Sox have scored 26 total runs.

Chris Sale still has some work to do if he wants to take home the honor this year. His slider is still one of the deadliest pitches in the league. He must sustain his recent dominance to keep pace with his competition. This offense has shown they are more than capable of providing run support, and if they simply do so when Sale is on the bump, his case for the American League Cy Young will continue to strengthen.

Fans See a Discombobulated Red Sox Team

I love to bake but I’m not very good at it. That’s my sister Mary’s expertise. It doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying. Mary gives me her recipes and I follow them precisely. Despite my attention to detail, my creations often come out of the oven on fire. Needless to say that’s frustrating. The Red Sox front office and management must feel the same way about the lineup they assembled this season. After all, they have all the ingredients for a

Discombobulated Red Sox

championship team but no matter how careful they are they can’t catch first place. In some cases, like my cookies, they game catches fire, and not in a good way. Their offensive is inconsistent, and so is their pitching. Unlike recent years where the Red Sox were just bad, fans are watching a discombobulated Red Sox struggle on the mound and the plate.

First and foremost I will reiterate that the Red Sox need to break up with John Farrell. He knows how to rally the troops when his job is on the line, but then they become complacent and start losing again. But replacing Farrell isn’t the only thing the Sox need to focus on.

Porcello Can’t Get It Together

Rick Porcello ran away with the Cy Young Award last year after going 22-4 last season. That’s an .846 winning percentage. So it was only natural fans and management alike expected Porcello to do the same, of not better, this year. But as of June 16th Porcello is 3-8 and leading the league in losses. Seven of his eight losses came as a result of a lack of run support. Red Sox hitters didn’t score more than four runs in any of those losses. But it doesn’t help with Porcello gives up a lot of runs either. If Porcello can find a consistently reliable pitch then we’ll start seeing more wins out of him. But for now he’s part of the reason we’re seeing a discombobulated Red Sox team on the field.

Hitters Aren’t In Their Prime Yet

It’s exciting to see Jackie Bradley Jr. blast a home run 450 feet. But don’t forget he’s only hitting .232 so far this season. Everyone loves Andrew Benintendi but he’s just a rookie and has a long ways to go before he reaches his prime. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are strong hitters but still struggle to maintain consistency throughout the season. It’s going to be another season or two before these hitters are an ever-present threat to opposing pitchers. When they enter their prime though they’ll catch fire. Hopefully David Price stays healthy, Porcello shakes his slump, and Sale becomes better than ever.

The Idleness of Clemens’ Number 21

As I cover college baseball games this weekend in Waco, Texas, my attention is drawn Roger Clemensaway from the 10 players on the field. The Texas Longhorns are in town, which means, for the only time all season, I am more focused on the parents section. I’m looking for a certain number 21.

Penciled in the Longhorn lineup at both DH and First Base is a familiar name: Clemens. With the potential to meet their dad, Roger, this weekend, it got me thinking about one of the most tumultuous careers in baseball history. Roger Clemens will always go down as a Red Sox legend, but would you guess that his number is retired?

No, you wouldn’t. Nestled on the facade in Fenway Park’s right field lies 10 retired numbers, but not number 21. What you might not know, however, is that 30 Red Sox wore that number before the Rocket, but none since. Are the Red Sox hiding behind their own tradition?

For over a decade, Clemens was revered in Boston. From 1984-1996, the Rocket racked up 192 wins, tying him for the franchise record. Whom is he tied with? A guy by the name of Cy Young—you may have heard of him. Clemens knows him well, winning the Cy Young award three times in Boston as well as an American League MVP award in 1986. He was the unequivocal ace who led the Red Sox to the World Series that year as well. Before he came to Boston, no one had struck out 20 batters in a game. By the time he left, he had done it twice. It wasn’t Clemens’ time in Boston that made him a villain, it was his time away.

After Dan Duquette’s prognostication of his demise, Clemens went to division rival Toronto. It was his time north of the border where things became fishy. After injuries wore down his final few sub-par years in Boston, Clemens began to defy logic. Even as he aged, he was recovering even faster from these injuries and was pitching as well as ever. In two seasons with Toronto, he won the Cy Young Award both years and earned the elusive pitching Triple Crown each season.

To further push the buttons of Red Sox fans, Clemens traded in his Jays uniform for pinstripes. As a Yankee, he won four AL Pennants, two World Series titles, and the Cy Young yet again in 2001. After a combined record of 27-18 in his first two seasons in New York, he went 20-3 in 2001. Coincidentally enough, it was revealed his trainer Brian McNamee was injecting him with anabolic steroids at the time. Now, it’s no wonder Clemens was always butt hurt.

Why The Fans Don’t Want To See The Number 21

The final middle finger to Red Sox Nation came in the winter of 2005. Upon Curt Schilling’s endorsement, the Red Sox were in the sweepstakes to sign Clemens as a free agent. In a little-known attempt to bring him back, a third grade class in Rockland, MA, made a video for the Clemens family. In it, the kids begged him to “come home, Roger”, apparently bringing his wife to tears. At the end of the video, a number 21 was glowing on that right field facade, if the Rocket were to re-enter Boston’s atmosphere. Instead, Clemens re-signed with Houston and in 2007, ended his career with a return to New York.

Once revered in Boston, Clemens is now reviled. His number 21 is retired only at Disch-Faulk Field at the University of Texas. While there, Clemens was the ace for their 1983 National Championship team. No, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time till we see Clemens’ number up there with Williams and Yastrzemski. It won’t take touchdown to bring us round again to find he most certainly is the man he is at home. Sir Elton John will not be doing any serenading over the Fenway speakers any time soon. For all the things Clemens has done to Boston fans on and off the field has certainly made the Rocket public enemy number 21.

 

Is David Price Paying Off for the Red Sox?

David Price’s 7-year $217 million contract thrilled Red Sox Nation. After all, five All-Star appearances and the 2012 Cy Young Award is more than enough to prove one’s worth. Not to mention John Farrell can depend on him to have 200+ strikeouts a season. But people in Boston are all asking the same question: Is David Price paying off for Boston?

Price had a strong debut year with the Red Sox. He led the American LeagueDavid Price paying off in game starts, innings pitched, and batters faced. These numbers are a testament to his longevity and ability to go deep. His 17 wins didn’t hurt either. But there were a few games where Price’s performance made some question his abilities. There was the May 7th game against the Yankees where Price gave up six earned runs in 4.2 innings that ended in an 8-2 loss for Boston. Then there was the June 29th game against the Rays where Price gave up four earned runs in six innings. Losing those games to teams at the bottom of the standings was more than disconcerting.

Then there’s the issue with his injury. Best case scenario, Price will be ready to pitch by May. Worse case scenario though is he’ll need Tommy John surgery, which will put him out of action for a year. In that case, we might see him come back in mid-2018. When you’re injured it’s important not to come back too soon. Eduardo Rodriguez is a perfect example. Then again, Rodriguez isn’t getting the money Price is. After Pablo Sandova’s dismal 2016 season, another player Boston paid big bucks for, the front office is likely more than worried about David Price paying off their investment in him.

Don’t Write Off Price Just Yet

Every pitcher has a bad day and Price certainly has had his fair share. A few of his losses in 2016 ended in one-run defeats. One in particular ended with a 3-2 loss to Baltimore, in which Price struck out eleven in 8.1 innings. So it’s clear that when Price is effective when he’s healthy, except for the occasional bad game. But given the growing concern with his injury it’s understandable why the front office might have its own concerns.

Time will tell.