It is quite fitting that the Red Sox’ best position player and best pitcher bookended yesterday’s game by reaching the century mark for their respective milestones. Mookie Betts led off the game by hitting his 100th career homerun and Chris Sale ended the game by earning his 100th win.
These two, like most people expected, have anchored the Red Sox offense and pitching, respectively.
Betts is an MVP frontrunner and has even been put in the conversation with Mike Trout at times this season. No, I’m not saying he’s better than, or even as good as Trout, but he just may be closer than anyone in the league. This season, he’s leading the league in OPS and slugging percentage, and before yesterday’s game, he led the league in average as well. He’s also currently on pace for 40 homeruns and 38 doubles.
Yesterday’s leadoff homer was Betts’ fifth this season and the 16th of his career. This just shows how prolific he is from the leadoff spot. There has been talk at times throughout the season that he should be moved closer to the middle of the lineup, but he’s showing that he’s adept at setting the tone for the rest of the game from the leadoff spot.
Mookie hasn’t spent much time in other positions in the order throughout his career, but his slash line from each batting order position shows that he’s best utilized from the leadoff spot.
The argument could be made that he should be hitting fourth based on those numbers, but the Red Sox already have three or four other guys who are more than capable of hitting from that spot.
Meanwhile, with his 12 strikeouts yesterday, Sale leads all of baseball with 176 total. He is also second in innings pitched, seventh in ERA, third in opponent average, fourth in WHIP and first in strikeouts per nine innings. Sale wasn’t in the Cy Young discussion the way many expected him to be after the first month of the season, but he’s certainly vaulted himself back into that discussion.
Since June 8, Sale has started six games. He has reached double digit strikeouts in all but one of them. And the one in which he did not strike out 10, he struck out nine while going six innings and only giving up one run. He’s been their go-to pitcher this year.
Sale also leads all American League pitchers in bWar with 5.1 wins above replacement. He’s also sixth in all of baseball in this measure (Betts is fifth, to make for the only teammates in the top-10).
One more place where Sale has been extremely effective is in his durability. As I mentioned, he’s second in baseball in innings pitched and is one of only four pitchers with 19 starts. Every fifth day, he’ll be out there on the mound. He will almost always give the bullpen a rest – only four starts under six innings – and rarely ever has a stinker game – only two starts with more than three earned runs. Sale has been worth the steep price the Red Sox paid for him.
Having the best pitcher and position player in your division would benefit any team. It has with the Red Sox, as they lead the division by two games 10 days before the All-Star Game. Their milestones just further prove how good they actually are. Now let’s hope they each get 100 more.
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