Contextualizing Chris Sale’s Hot Start

Four starts into Chris Sale’s Red Sox tenure, it’s safe to say that he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. While the sample size is very small, Boston is a difficult place to pitch, especially for pitchers coming from smaller markets. For this reason, most pitchers acquired by the Red Sox (and there have been many notable ones in recent years) need time to adjust to their new environment, giving fans all the more reason to be excited about Sale’s hot start. To contextualize just how well Sale has performed, I’ve compiled a list of recent outside pitching acquisitions by the Red Sox and compared some basic statistics from their first 4 starts with the team to his.

 

IP K/9 ERA WHIP
Chris Sale (2017 from CWS) 29.2 12.74 0.91 0.71
David Price (2016 in FA) 21.2 13.29 7.06 1.38
Drew Pomeranz (2016 from SDP) 20.1 9.30 6.20 1.67
Rick Porcello (2015 from DET) 25.0 8.28 6.48 1.44
Jake Peavy (2013 from CWS) 23.2 5.70 4.18 1.18
John Lackey (2010 in FA) 23.0 4.30 5.09 1.65
Josh Beckett (2006 from FLA) 28.1 4.76 2.54 1.02

 

As you can see, these pitchers got off to largely rocky starts as they adjusted to Fenway Park, the AL East, and playing in a bigger market. However, Sale has not seemed bothered by these hurdles and clearly stands out from his competition, and looking at the above list he’s far from the only pitcher to arrive in Boston with a stellar track record and high expectations. While his current statistics won’t quite hold up over the course of an entire season (statistics like his LOB% of 91.8% and HR/FB ratio of 4% are bound to normalize as he pitches more innings), it’s clear that he has thrived in his new environment in a way that most pitchers haven’t. In fact, I could only find one other pitching acquisition whose first four starts with the Red Sox were on the level of Chris Sale’s.

 

IP K/9 ERA WHIP
Chris Sale (2017 from CWS) 29.2 12.74 0.91 0.71
Pedro Martinez (1998 from MTL) 32.0 12.38 0.84 0.72

 

This comparison is sure to get Red Sox fans excited. I’m not saying Chris Sale is the next Pedro Martinez (no one is; Pedro’s unrivaled dominance from 1998-2001 may be the greatest stretch by any pitcher in MLB history), but it’s telling that Pedro is his closest comparison in terms of circumstances and production. While it’s impossible to quantify exactly what this means for Sale’s future, his immediate effectiveness is a very good sign for the Red Sox, and if he keeps it up he could be a huge difference maker for them in both October and seasons to come. Giving up Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and others to acquire Chris Sale had to have been tough, but if what he’s shown so far is any indication, he just might be worth it.

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