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.
Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”
Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.
Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.
Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.
He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.
Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.
It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …
Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.
Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.
You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.
There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”
If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.
A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.
Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.
If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?