Chris Sale is measuring up to peak Pedro, and two other overlooked Red Sox stats

Sale is putting together a season that is an amalgam of Pedro’s two best years.

Chris Sale
Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws to the Orioles. –Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

Three things learned about the Red Sox while poking around Baseball-Reference.com . . .

Chris Sale is having one of Pedro Martinez’s best seasons.

Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season is, by at least one measure, the greatest a pitcher has ever delivered in the modern era. Martinez went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA for the Red Sox, allowing just 128 hits and 32 walks in 217 innings while striking out 284. His WHIP of .737 is the best in baseball history, and his 291 adjusted ERA, which means he was 191 percent better than a league-average pitcher, has also never been topped since the turn of the 20th century. Tim Keefe of the 1880 Troy Trojans had a 293 adjusted ERA, but in just 12 games. And that was so long ago that he predates Bartolo Colon.

Advertisement

What’s amazing is that Martinez’s 2000 season might be the best in baseball history — and yet there’s an argument that it wasn’t even his best season. In ’99, he went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 313 strikeouts, a .923 WHIP, and an astounding Fielding Independent Pitching of 1.39. (FIP is basically what an ERA should be based on a pitcher’s walks, strikeouts and home runs.) He struck out a career-best 13.2 batters per nine innings, and allowed just 9 homers in 213⅓ innings. He was pretty good in the All-Star Game too.

Which brings us to Sale, who currently is putting together a season that is an amalgam of Pedro’s two best years. He is measuring up to peak Pedro, with a 12-4 record, a 1.97 ERA, and a .849 WHIP. He is striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings, allowing just 5.61 hits per nine innings (better than Pedro’s 6.75 in ’99), and has a league-best FIP of 1.95. Sale currently has an adjusted ERA of 222. If that holds over a full season, it would rate as the 18th-best of the modern era (beginning in 1901) and the 10th-best since 1920, just ahead of Martinez’s 219 adjusted ERA with the 1997 Expos.

J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts have truly been splendid.

Entering the games of Aug. 14, Martinez has thumped his way to a .669 slugging percentage in 491 plate appearances. Fans outside of New England might see that number and assume he’s far and away the major league leader. Fans in New England ask one question: How close is Mookie? The answer: Very close — he’s all of .001 behind, at .668. They’re 1-2 in the majors in the category, with the Indians’ Jose Ramirez (.631) and the Angels’ Mike Trout (.624) relatively distant at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Impressive stuff — and in the context of Red Sox history, it gets even more impressive.

Advertisement

Only three players in Red Sox history have had a slugging percentage above .650 in a season in which they compiled at least 500 plate appearances. Babe Ruth (1919, .657), Jimmie Foxx (1938, .704; 1939, when he “fell’’ to .694); and of course, Ted Williams, who did it four times (1941, .735; 1957, .731; 1946, .667; 1949, .650) and came close a bunch of other times. With nine more plate appearances of adequate production, Martinez will join them, while Betts is 39 plate appearances away from 500.

The closest Ortiz ever came was a .636 slugging percentage in 2006. Manny Ramirez’s best is actually the eighth-best slugging season in Red Sox history, checking in at .647 in 2002. But neither, either individually or in tandem, slugged the way Martinez and Betts are in 2018. This is Ted Williams stuff that we’re seeing, folks.

Mitch Moreland has struggled since Hanley Ramirez was dumped.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it’s not necessarily a criticism either. He was basically hitting like 1987 Will Clark (.311/.390/.612, 7 homers in 34 games) when Ramirez was let go. I don’t believe the Red Sox expected that to continue for the full season, and I suspect their decision to move on from Ramirez was mostly independent of Moreland’s excellent performance to that point.

Moreland’s slash line in his nine-year career is .253/.318/.442. After more than 3,600 career plate appearances, he is who he is, and that is as an average offensive player (101 OPS+) with a good glove who will occasionally mash righties and generally be an asset to your team. He’s slumped (.232/.295/.403) since Ramirez departed, which has brought him to .258/.327/.471 for the season. That’s pretty close to what we’d expect his slash line to be for the season.

Advertisement

Moreland is a helpful player, one who has played through injuries with competence and without complaint, and it was cool to see him make an All-Star team for the first time. But let’s just say it was also very wise of Dave Dombrowski to bring aboard Steve Pearce and his .855 career OPS against left-handed pitching when he did.