Lester, Kershaw and Sanchez on pace to join exclusive club

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In the 50 years since the expansion era began in 1961, just 17 different left-handers have struck out over a batter an inning while qualifying for the ERA title. This year, three of them are on pace to do it for a second year in a row.
If things hold up, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester and Jonathan Sanchez will join Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell, Johan Santana and Sid Fernandez as the only southpaws to have multiple seasons with at least 9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Here’s the list through 2009:
1. Randy Johnson – 12
2. Sandy Koufax – 4
2. Sam McDowell – 4
2. Johan Santana – 4
5. Sid Fernandez – 3
6. Rick Ankiel – 1
6. Erik Bedard – 1
6. Jorge De La Rosa – 1
6. Cole Hamels – 1
6. Scott Kazmir – 1
6. Clayton Kershaw – 1*
6. Jon Lester – 1*
6. Mark Langston – 1
6. Oliver Perez – 1
6. Jonathan Sanchez – 1*
6. Frank Tanana – 1
6. Bob Veale – 1
Lester is essentially a lock. With 208 strikeouts in 190 innings, he’s on pace to lead the majors in strikeouts per nine innings this year (if only because Brandon Morrow was shut down and won’t qualify for the ERA title). Kershaw has fanned 201 in 192 1/3 innings. Sanchez has struck out 176 in 169 2/3 innings.
It also looks like there will be a newcomer to the list. Francisco Liriano has fanned 189 in 178 1/3 innings, so he’s set to go over 9 K/IP for the first time.

Adrian Gonzalez might retire after his contract is up if his back isn’t any better

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Despite dealing with back trouble for five years, Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers recently made his first ever trip to the disabled list. Then he made another trip there. All of it has him contemplating his future. As he tells Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, his baseball future may be a short one if his health doesn’t improve:

“I want to get back this year to help the team and for me to be healthy,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m thinking more long-term about being able to play more years.

“Because if I have to deal with this next year again? That’ll probably be it. My contract will be over, that’ll probably be it. I won’t play any more. If I can heal it and my body feels good? Now I can go out there and do the things I can do. Then I’ll keep playing.”

Backs are one of those things that don’t get better as you get older. At least not without a lot of work and effort and good luck. Gonzalez is 35 now, so he’ll need all of that to keep playing beyond his current deal.

The Cubs send Kyle Schwarber to the minors

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Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.

Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.

Now this:

The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.