Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Breaking Down Boston's All-Stars

Betts, Kimbrel, and Sale are in the midst of terrific seasons (
The Red Sox sent three players to the All-Star Game in Miami last night, and all three played a role in the American League's 2-1 victory. Chris Sale started and tossed two scoreless innings, Craig Kimbrel earned the win in relief, and Mookie Betts made a pretty good throw. They were at their best against the National League's best, and I'm sure the American Leaguers were happy to have them on their side.

So are the Red Sox, given how well the trio has performed this year:

Chris Sale (3.9 bWAR)
Sale has been the best pitcher in the American League this year and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He's gone at least seven innings while allowing three or fewer runs in 12 of his 18 starts and has a dozen starts with double-digit strikeouts, including eight in a row at one point that tied his own (and Pedro Martinez's) record. These strong showings have been reflected in his awesome GameScores, which have exceeded 70 nine times and have averaged 67 (he only has one lower than 54). He's currently leading the Majors in strikeouts (178), FIP (2.09) and K/9 rate (12.5) while also pacing the AL in innings (127 2/3), WHIP (0.90) and K/BB ratio (8.1). Assuming his arm doesn't fall off in the second half, he looks like a lock for his first Cy Young award.

Mookie Betts (4.3 bWAR)
Offensively, the Red Sox have gotten the 2015 version of Betts rather than last year's version who finished second to Mike Trout in the MVP race, but he's compensated by taking his defense to new heights. After winning his first Gold Glove last year with an incredible 32 fielding runs per Baseball-Reference, Betts is on pace to surpass that number with 20 under his belt already. With a glove like that, anything he provides on offense should be considered a plus, except that his bat was nearly as valuable as his leather last year (30 batting runs). He's slipped a bit offensively due to another slow start, but he's still leading the Majors in doubles (29) and has a shot at 30 homers and 30 steals. Betts has also shown flashes of breaking out recently, suggesting he might have another big second half in store. Even if he doesn't, he's still one of the league's 10, if not 5, most valuable players.

Craig Kimbrel (2.3 bWAR)
Kimbrel's numbers had been trending in the wrong direction before he was traded to Boston, and his first season with the Red Sox was a disappointment. He got hurt, struggled with his command (5.1 BB/9) and posted a career-worst 3.40 ERA. Heading into 2017, there was talk that Kimbrel might be a problem rather than a solution in the bullpen. Well, that hasn't been the case this year, as the flamethrowing righty has silenced the critics by reclaiming his status as one of the game's premier closers. You need a microscope to see his 0.50 WHIP, as he's stopped walking people (five of the 134 batters he's faced) and is more unhittable than ever, striking out nearly two batters per inning and limiting opponents to a .110/.157/.181 batting line. He's been lights-out when he gets the call -- converting 23 of his 25 save opportunities -- and he hasn't suffered a loss yet after dropping a career-worst six decisions last year. If he keeps it up, Sale won't be the only Boston pitcher on Cy Young ballots.

So yeah, they've all been pretty good. Any game that Sale starts and/or Kimbrel finishes is as good as a win, and with Betts always a threat to have a monster day at the plate, he's capable of winning ballgames all by himself, too.

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