Red Sox: How does Chris Sale match up with peak Pedro Martinez?
By Damian Dydyn
Chris Sale is the A.L. pitcher of the month for the second straight month. That puts him in elite company. How does he stack up with the other guys to do it?
The month of July was kind to Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale. He had a 0.36 ERA, his lowest by month all year, and struck out 44.8% of batters he faced, walked just 4.2%, and didn’t give up a single home run. He was about as dominant as it’s possible to get. And here’s the crazy part. He did all of that with a BABIP of .340 as opposed to the .277 he’s posted on the season to date. So he wasn’t even getting lucky with that ERA.
And then it gets even more nuts. Since the pitcher of the month award has started being handed out for both leagues, the only American League pitchers to win it in back-to-back months are Bret Saberhagen in 1989 (who Sean Penney interviewed recently), Pedro Martinez in 1999, Johan Santana in 2004, Dallas Keuchel in 2015, and Corey Kluber last season.
And now we can add Chris Sale to that list. Keuchel won it in April and May and would add a third month in August of 2015. Santana ran off three straight from July through August of 2004. Pedro won it three months in a row in 1999 from April, through June. Then won a fourth that season in September.
While all of those were great seasons, only one stands out.
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Martinez’s 1999 season may be the most dominant of all time. While his 2000 season had a higher ERA+ (291 vs 243) his 1999 season had a higher K/9, a lower HR/9, a lower FIP and a higher fWAR. (I like fWAR better for pitchers because it is based on FIP and not runs allowed.) And since Pedro pulled off the back-to-back-to back months of winning A.L. Pitcher of the Month in 1999, we’re going to use that as a comparison for what Sale is doing this season.
Pedro’s 1999 was just ridiculous. Over 213.1 IP, he managed a 2.07 ERA, a 1.39 FIP, with a 13.20 K/9 and a 1.56 BB/9.
Sale so far this season? A 2.04 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 13.21 K/9 and a 2.11 BB/9. While not quite matching Pedro’s 1999 season, it’s not a bad imitation. And his 216 OPS+ probably accurately captures the difference between their two years.
But the similarities don’t end there. Both HR/9’s are absurdly low with Pedro at 0.38 and Sale at 0.64. ERA- also looks a lot alike. Pedro was at 42 and Sale currently boasts a 47. ERA- is a park and league adjusted ERA metric similar to ERA+, only better than league average figures will be below 100 instead of above it. For context, anything lower than 70 is considered excellent.
It’s been a heck of a year for the Red Sox ace. He is the clear front runner for the Cy Young award this season. The hope is that his DL stint is more about getting him some rest for the stretch run than anything that might linger. But either way, he has been absolutely spectacular so far. Can you think of a better non-Pedro season in Red Sox history? If so, let us know in the comments!