Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee on pace for historically-great seasons

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In a piece posted last night, ESPN’s Christina Kahrl notes that lefties Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Cliff Lee of the Phillies are on pace for historically-great seasons, using Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference:

3. Just one pitcher in 10 years has produced a season worth 9.0 WAR or better

And that would be Zack Greinke for the Royals in his Cy Young season of 2009. But this season two pitchers might challenge that mark: Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (4.5 WAR) and Cliff Lee of the Phillies (4.6 WAR and counting).

For pitchers, piling up big stacks of value from on-field performance is tough, especially in today’s workload-conscious era as teams mitigate risk. But even allowing for that, while there have been 182 pitching seasons worth 9.0 WAR or more, just 30 of those seasons have come since divisional play started in 1969.

Lee came close to crossing the 9-WAR threshold with an 8.6 effort in 2011 with the Phillies. Kershaw’s career-high was 6.5 in 2011.

Kershaw and Lee head a very stacked group of talented National League arms. They are two of eight in the league with an ERA of 2.51 or better. Comparatively, only two starters in the American League have an ERA of 2.51 or better (Clay Buchholz, Hisashi Iwakuma). It will be interesting to see who gets the honor of starting for the National League in the upcoming All-Star Game.

Fernando Rodney gives up walk-off homer to Gary Sanchez

AP Photo
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The Fernando Rodney Experience hasn’t been a good one for the Twins thus far. The veteran closer served up three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, erasing a 4-1 lead and blowing his third save in five opportunities.

In the ninth, Didi Gregorius reached on a throwing error by Miguel Sano. Giancarlo Stanton then singled, and Gary Sanchez followed up with a walk-off three-run home run.

Rodney, 41, now sports a 6.75 ERA on the year. He inked a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Twins back in December. The club has an option for next year worth $4.25 million. If things keep going the way they’re going, the Twins aren’t going to want to pick up that option.

The Twins may even want to think about moving Ryan Pressly or Addison Reed into the closer’s role, even if just temporarily. Pressly has been terrific, tossing 13 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts. Reed has a 2.25 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 12 innings.