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.

Orioles catcher Jesús Sucre retired the White Sox in order last night

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The Orioles don’t yet have the worst record in baseball. They’re tied for the most losses with 16, but they have two more wins than the Marlins and one more than the Royals, so let’s say that they have overachieved to this point. Kudos to being a bit plucky in the early going!

But make no mistake: the Orioles are not a good team and I suspect they will soon be the worst in the league. When they are, they will likely get blown out quite often and when they are blown out they will put position players on the mound more than almost any other team. Heck, they’ve done it three times already this year and the season is only three weeks old.

The latest Orioles position player to pitch was catcher Jesús Sucre, who took the mound in last night’s 12-2 loss to the White Sox. And he wasn’t half bad! He retired the side in order and needed only nine pitches to do so:

There once was a time when it was a novelty to see a position player pitching. It happens all the time now, partially because of blowouts, partially because teams have decided it’s better to get embarrassed a bit than to burn a bullpen arm in a game they’ve given up trying to win.

I suspect the Orioles will take the practice to a whole new level in 2019, though. For better or for worse.