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Condor’s Revenge - A Boston Red Sox preview

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A look ahead at Chris Sale and his new teammates

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox
what is going on here
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

With Yoan Moncada destroying Triple-A pitching and Michael Kopech taking his next steps toward becoming a big league ace, it’s safe to say that so far, the White Sox are winning the Chris Sale trade.

The Red Sox, however, are really really winning the Chris Sale trade.

There aren’t a whole lot of statistical comps for what Chris Sale has been doing for the Boston Red Sox this season. Here’s some Condor facts to munch on:

  • Sale’s Deserved Run Average is 1.26. The lowest full season Deserved Run Average on record (back to 1951) is Dean Chance’s 1.60 in 1968. For a more familiar name, Sandy Koufax ranks fourth and sixth on that leaderboard at 1.80 and 1.85, respectively.
  • Sale’s FIP of 1.72 is more mortal, but only just. The guys who’ve surpassed that are Pedro Martinez in 1999 (1.45), Dwight Gooden in 1984 (1.71), and a handful of players from before Woodrow Wilson was a household name.
  • Sale is on pace for 323 strikeouts, assuming he makes 32 starts. Randy Johnson posted two seasons with more strikeouts per game, but no one else has done that.
  • As was widely publicized, Sale had double-digit strikeouts in eight straight games
  • In 1873, Bill Stearns threw 283 innings and struck out just five hitters. This is irrelevant, but fun nuggets like this tend to emerge when you’re on a research binge.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to post numbers like this over two months than over a full season, so we’ll see where Sale winds up. The larger point is that this has been the best two-month stretch of Sale’s superb career thus far. He’s on the Hall of Fame path at this point and 2017 could be the otherworldly season that makes his accomplishments hard to ignore.

However, there’s one significant drawback to Sale’s quest for enshrinement. That’s his lackluster postseason resume, shown below:

Too soon?

Anyway, playing in Boston will probably help that situation. The Red Sox have a very talented roster and it’s one that should largely remain intact through the duration of Sale’s deal. They’re getting some of that talent back from the disabled list on Monday as David Price is set to make his season debut against the White Sox. Price is coming back from an elbow injury so he’ll likely be a bit of a wild card in this first start, but there’s no questioning that Price is an ace when healthy.

Behind these two guys in the rotation is the reigning AL Cy Young winner. That’s less intimidating than it sounds; Rick Porcello had a great season in 2017, but he had a ton of good fortune in his chase for the hardware. Not only did he have the benefits of batted balls finding gloves and the fly balls staying in the park, but he racked up a 22-4 record to secure votes from the out-of-touch contingent of the BBWAA. He’s 3-5 thus far this year, so there’s no threat of a repeat.

The Boston rotation is rounded out by Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz. Both are left-handed, which makes a total of four portsiders in this rotation. Rodriguez and Pomeranz have very similar peripherals; both are fly ball pitchers with plenty of strikeouts and walks. Of the two, Rodriguez has managed to keep the ball in the park, hence the considerably rosier 2.77 ERA.

On the other side of the ball, the Red Sox have plenty of young and exciting bats in their lineup. You may remember Andrew Benintendi from a multitude of awful White Sox / Red Sox trade proposals over the past twelve months. Benintendi isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but as a good contact hitter with plate discipline, he’s already an average hitter at age 22 with some room to grow, particularly in the power department.

The Red Sox are strong all over the outfield. In the other outfield corner is Mookie Betts, a stellar defender who struck out on April 19, 2017. That last bit is significant because it snapped a streak of 129 straight plate appearances without a strikeout, which is an amazing feat in this era of power pitching. With plenty of pop and speed to go along with his hit tool, Betts is one of the best players in the game. In center, Jackie Bradley has hit a bit of a wall after his breakout 2016 season, but a lot of the issues can be traced to a BABIP far too low for someone with his wheels. Better days are on the horizon.

Elsewhere, 24-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts has his OBP up around .400 and Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia continue to age gracefully by providing at least league-average offense. Where the Red Sox have struggled is over at third base, where a washed-up Pablo Sandoval and a handful of replacements have failed to provide anything remotely respectable. Boston has been rumored to be checking out Todd Frazier, and sadly, even Frazier’s down season would constitute an upgrade.

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President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has a keen eye for major league talent and has a long history of successful player acquisitions. The list of executives as well-suited as Dombrowski to build around an established core of young players is extremely short, so if the Red Sox find themselves in need of a player to push them over the top, he’s a pretty great bet to get his guy. Despite the major haul dealt away to acquire Sale, the Boston farm system still has enough of Dombrowski’s favorite currency to land another big fish or two. The New York Yankees figure to be a stiff test in the division for the next several years, but even if the Red Sox have to settle for a Wild Card, they have a certain hungry lefty champing at the bit for a chance to dominate in a do-or-die game. Both the White Sox and Red Sox have to be thrilled with the early returns on their offseason megadeal, but the biggest winner of the Chris Sale trade may have been Chris Sale.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Monday, May 29: David Price vs. David Holmberg

Tuesday, May 30: Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana

Wednesday, May 31: Drew Pomeranz vs. Mike Pelfrey

Key Personnel

Probable Lineup Pitching
Probable Lineup Pitching
1. Mookie Betts - RF SP1. Chris Sale - LHP
2. Dustin Pedroia - 2B SP2. David Price - LHP
3. Xander Bogaerts - SS SP3. Rick Porcello - RHP
4. Andrew Benintendi - LF SP4. Eduardo Rodriguez - LHP
5. Hanley Ramirez - DH SP5. Drew Pomeranz - LHP
6. Mitch Moreland - 1B CL. Craig Kimbrel - RHP
7. Jackie Bradley - CF RP1. Matt Barnes - RHP
8. Pablo Sandoval - 3B RP2. Heath Hembree - RHP
9. Christian Vazquez - C RP3. Joe Kelly - RHP