In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, we look a pair of lefties: one is the biggest bright spot in a down year on the South Side, while the other is a big disappointment in the Big Apple. We also have some fun with All-Star Game voting and look at the rash of injuries in the game over the past week and more observations. Off we go (stats prior to Monday’s games):
Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
To say Sale is on a roll is an understatement. Over his past eight starts, the White Sox ace has fanned 10 more more batters in each start, averaging a dozen punchouts per outing. If that sounds mind-boggling, it’s because it is. Sale’s streak is something that only one other pitcher in major league history has done: Pedro Martinez, in 1999 (which was arguably the greatest single season ever enjoyed by a starting pitcher). That Sale’s win-loss record is only 6-4 illustrates how little support he has gotten from Chicago’s lineup. Most impressive to me is that Sale is consistently pitching deep into games – his shortest start in that stretch is 6 2/3 innings, so he isn’t exhausting himself after five innings of untouchable heat. He is a true ace, dominating the opposition, keeping his team in the game and saving the bullpen for another day (which has been necessary for the White Sox this season). During his eight-game run, Sale’s ERA has dropped from 4.21 to 2.87 and get a load of this: his K/BB ratio is 141/22. That’s 1.5 strikeouts better than his ratio in 2014, which was the best in the AL. He’s on pace for over 250 strikeouts this season, which would shatter his career best. His 2.09 FIP rating is also leads the AL. Quite simply, he has to be in the conversation for the best starter in the American League. As bad as the White Sox have been this year, think about how much worse they would be without him anchoring their rotation. The South Siders might have to waive the white flag this season and trade players like Jeff Samardzjia, Alexei Ramirez (if they can) or others, but Sale is one player who won’t be going anywhere.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
Boy, 2012 seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? That was the last time Sabathia was an elite starter. Since then, he has more like someone who should be deployed as a long reliever or mop-up man. But with a $23 million salary, he remains in the Yankee rotation. That has to be the only reason, because it certainly isn’t based on his results: 3-8 record, 5.59 ERA, 1.40 WHIP. He has allowed four or more earned runs nine times in 16 starts and leads the AL in home runs allowed (19). With Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda fronting the rotation, Sabathia is no longer expected to be an ace, but he isn’t even a league-average innings eater anymore. When Ivan Nova returned to the team, many folks hoped that Sabathia would be sent to the bullpen. Instead, Adam Warren was the one booted down to the bullpen, despite his team-best 112 ERA+ (Sabathia’s is 71). The sad truth is that, at age 34, he may not be suited to a bullpen role, while Warren has recent experience there. So the Yankees stick with their high-priced former ace and hope that he can recapture some lost effectiveness. If you really squint at his stats, you can try and focus on the low walk totals, but that isn’t enough on its own. His stuff is failing him – his fastball rarely hits 90 mph, and he’s allowing more than 10 hits per nine innings. If he could even pitch at replacement level, the Yankees would have a much better shot at staying afloat in the wide-open American League East. Alas, Sabathia is a (sizable) shell of his former shelf, which means New York has to count on Pineda, the fragile Tanaka, Nova and 25-year-old Nate Eovaldi. What if the Yankees decide to acquire a rotation upgrade? Will Sabathia still remain one of the five starters? Could be a fascinating storyline in the Bronx over the next few weeks.
Playing the Name Game
Yes, making a big deal about All-Star Game vote totals is a bit of a pointless exercise, but it’s still an excuse to talk baseball, so we’re gonna do it anyway. Here are a few observations about the final vote totals:
- Anthony Rizzo seems to be underappreciated. Regardless of how many youngsters join the Cubs, Rizzo is going to be an anchor in that lineup for a long time.
- Shortstop in the American League is a barren wasteland. Ugh.
- Nolan Arenado evidently remains the best-kept secret in baseball. Josh Donaldson accumulates the highest vote total ever, while Arenado gets less than a third of that. If Peyton Manning had been on the ballot, Denver fans would have cranked out votes for him like Kansas City did for Omar Infante. Rockies fans are awful.
- Speaking of Infante, fans won’t be put through the absurdity of having him start the game. Although the way baseball sometimes works, he probably would have hit a game-deciding grand slam.
- I’m no Alex Rodriguez fan, but it would have been highly amusing for him to make the All-Star team, just to see all the outrage from the New York media.
Clearing the Bases
- Well, we finally found something that could slow down Miguel Cabrera: a strained calf muscle. It might not sound like much, but it’s expected to keep him out for about six weeks. The big question now is if this might cause the struggling Tigers to become sellers at the end of the month instead of buyers.
- Other notable injuries in the past couple weeks: Starling Marte (in the midst of a breakout season in Pittsburgh), Giancarlo Stanton (the most exciting power hitter in the game), George Springer (the best all-around player for the ascending Astros), and Stephen Strasburg (again).
- Speaking of Strasburg, he seems to be awfully fragile, despite all the careful handling and babying during his first few years in the majors. Is he injury-prone or just unlucky?
- If you had “seven” in your office pool as the number of starts Jaime Garcia would make for the Cardinals before getting injured again, please collect your winnings.
- His injury has me thinking that the Cardinals will acquire a starter before the trade deadline, but I’m personally hoping they acquire a first baseman. As a starter, Mark Reynolds makes a fine bench player. And Xavier Scruggs sounds more like an NFL defensive lineman. Or an MMA fighter. He shouldn’t be on the roster of a first-place team in the toughest division in the game.
- No Giancarlo Stanton, no Bryce Harper in the Home Run Derby, but we still have to listen to Chris Berman belching out his moronic home run calls? No thanks.
- We know this is the Silly Season for trade rumors, but some of them are just flat-out stupid. The New York media continues to love their Troy Tulowitzki-to-the-Mets rumors, despite the Mets’ consistent unwillingness or inability to add payroll. But there are others. For example, Dan Haren to the Dodgers? After the effort they put into getting rid of them last winter? That’s senseless. Or how about Justin Morneau to the Cardinals? Morneau is nowhere close to resuming baseball activities because of concussion symptoms. Nobody is going to trade for him. Asinine idea. It shows which baseball writers are truly paying attention and which ones are more worried about their TV appearances.
- The Rockies crowed about Kyle Kendrick after he spun seven innings of shutout ball on Opening Day in Milwaukee (which has proven to be a terrible team). Since then, he’s allowed 69 runs in 95 innings, 23 home runs (both MLB worsts). He has a 6.00 ERA, 6.02 FIP, and a 1.45 WHIP. But hey, he leads the NL in starts with 17. The scouting book on Kendrick should read: “He’ll take the ball. Unfortunately, he’ll also throw it.”
- Johnny Cueto went from being a potential starter in his home stadium to being in danger of not even making the team at all. Things really are going to you-know-where this season in Cincinnati.
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