By: Andrew Tashian
The Boston Red Sox hold a 4 game lead in the AL east with just 7 games left to play, they have the same record (91-64) through 155 games as 2016, but top of their rotation is vastly different. The Sox now have the two best left-handed pitchers in the AL, who coincidentally were the first two LHP to be taken in the 2010 MLB Draft, and are ready to forget the 2016 ALDS entirely.
Not since 2004 have the Sox had a quite the two-headed monster at the top of their rotation as they do in 2017. Of course, back then, it was two future Hall of Fame right-handers, Curt Shilling and Pedro Martinez, who racked up the wins -- now the Sox feature the two best left-handed pitchers in the American League in Chris Sale & Thomas Andrew "Drew" Pomeranz.
Like Schilling and Pedro, both Sale & Pomeranz were acquired via trade. It still seems unfathomable that the Sox were able to turn Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge de la Rosa, Michael Goss, Carl Pavano & Tony Armas Jr into Schilling & Pedro. Time will tell how Boston did this time around, trading at-the-time number 1 prospect Yoan Moncada, the organization's number 3 prospect Michael Kopech & two other potentially good prospects in Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz, to the White Sox, for Chris Sale.
Drew Pomeranz was acquired during the 2016 season for Anderson Espinoza who was 14th on baseball's 100 Top Prospects list at the time of the deal. It was well publicized that San Diego Padres' GM AJ Preller was suspended by Major League Baseball for 30 days, without pay, for directing Padres’ trainers to deprive other teams of critical information. Major League Baseball gave Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox GM, an opportunity to rescind the trade, a chance he let pass by. It seems to have paid off for the him & the Red Sox -- especially Drew Pomeranz.
Just 1 start shy of tying a career high, Drew has started 30 games to this point in the season & owns a 3.15 ERA. If he finishes with an ERA of under 3.32 it'll be his best mark when starting at least 18 games in a season. The 6'6 lefty is 16-5, surpassing his career high in wins by 5 & his 5 losses are the least he's had in a season when making at least 13 starts. The Red Sox are 22-9 in games Pomeranz pitches, but he's also been a streak-starter for them. Boston is 7-2 in games started by Big Smooth after suffering a defeat in the game prior.
Drew has raised his career record to 41-41 with his performance in 2017, which shows you how his luck fared out West. Certainly he has benefited from being on a contender, but he's also been a big reason why the Red Sox are contenders in the first place. He's been resilient, clutch & Boston's most consistent pitcher since July 1st. Yes, even more consistent than The Condor.
Since July 1 Pomeranz is 9-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 87.2 IP in 15 games. Opponents are hitting .238/.328/.352/.680 while Pomeranz has held teams to 2 runs or less in 10 of those games. While Sale's splits are a little better over this particular span [.208/.259/.352/.611] he has an ERA of 2.73 & a record of 7-4. Drew has the better record, ERA & Boston has won more of his starts than Sale's, 12-3 versus 10-5.
Dissecting the numbers since August 1 only makes Pomeranz look better. In 9 games, Drew is 6-1 with a 2.45 ERA, opponents' splits are 2.36/.321/.354/.675 & he's only allowed 14 runs. Boston owns an 8-1 record in his starts compared to a still-very-good 7-3 in Sale's outings. However, Chris Sale is just 4-3 with a un-Sale-like 3.69 ERA. He's given up 25 runs and opponents' splits are /.230/.279/.391/.670. If you compare their season totals, 17-7/2.75 ERA & 16-5/3.15 ERA, they really don't seem that different.
Run support is not much of a factor -- this season Boston scores 5.52 runs per game in Pomeranz starts & a close 5.37 runs per game in Sale starts. When the Sox score 5 or fewer runs in a game, Pomeranz is 6-4 in 17 games. He is 10-1 in 13 games when Boston scores 6+runs. If we're being fair, Chris Sale is 6-6 in 17 games where Boston scores 5 or less times and 11-1 in 14 games when the offense puts up 6+ runs.
Similar records against divisional opponents -- Pomeranz going 9-3 vs the AL East while Sale is 9-4. The Red Sox are 21-9 in games that Pomeranz starts and 22-9 in games Chris Sale starts. Their home/away splits are even alike: Sale is 7-2 at Fenway -- Pomeranz is 9-2. Sale is 10-5 away from home, Pomeranz is 7-3. Drew has been there, every step of the way, with Chris Sale.
The difference between the two that stand out to me is we expected Chris Sale to dominate. We expected to see two top LHP at the helm of the Sox rotation. We just didn't expect one of them to be Drew Pomeranz. Acquired to be Boston's 4th starter, nobody expected Big Smooth to be a top pitcher in the American League.
Pomeranz is pitching the best season of his career. With names like Chris Sale & David Price, along with the reigning 2016 AL Cy Young Rick Porcello, as well as one of the league's best closers Craig Kimbrel, on the roster -- standing out for positive reasons isn't an easy thing for a pitcher to accomplish. Pomeranz knows he's having a good year, but he's not satisfied, he knows he can be better.
“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA 2016 campaign, between the Padres and Red Sox, and his first All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?” The ability to stay healthy as been greatly beneficial to Pomeranz's confidence.
"So it starts with health" manager John Farrell said back in August "and he's come along here and strung quality starts together." Adding "We're seeing a guy that's much more confident than any other time that he's been in our uniform."
The Red Sox are a confident bunch, never wavering when faced with large deficits or multiple, concurring injuries. They're a no excuse, scrappy and resilient team whose magic number stands at just 3 to clinch their second consecutive AL East title. Some are concerned how the Red Sox starting rotation will fare in October, but Drew Pomeranz is not part of that discussion.
Drew Pomeranz is an Ace.
Photo Credit (MLB.com)