For many Boston Red Sox fans, Pedro Martinez’s 1999 season represents the greatest pitching campaign they’ve ever seen.
But what Chris Sale is doing this year might be even better.
The Red Sox lefty dominated the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out nine in six innings. The performance even prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to compare Sale to Randy Johnson, one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time.
Furthermore, through 21 starts, Sale is putting up numbers that rival — and perhaps even surpass — the stats Martinez put up through the same number of games in his historic 1999 season.
Check out this tweet from The Boston Globe’s Eric Wilbur:
Worth noting: Martinez had 146.1 innings pitched through 21 starts, while Sale currently has 135. So, it stands to reason Sale would have more strikeouts than Martinez at this point if Cora and the Red Sox weren’t going out of their way to minimize his workload.
(It’s also possible Sale’s ERA would be higher, too — but we’re splitting hairs.)
Whether the 29-year-old finishes with comparable or superior numbers to Martinez’s will be a storyline worth monitoring down the stretch. Here’s an expanded look at Martinez’s final stats in 1999, along with Sale’s current numbers:
Sale (21 starts)
11-4, 2.13 ERA, 87 hits, 31 walks, 197 K, 207 ERA+ (higher is better), 2.11 FIP (lower is better), 0.874 WHIP, 2.1 walks per nine innings, 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Martinez (31 games, 29 starts)
23-4, 2.07 ERA, 160 hits, 313 K, 243 ERA+, 1.39 FIP, 0.923 WHIP, 1.6 walks per nine innings, 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Both players also started for the American League in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, with Martinez putting on one of the greatest displays in the history of the midsummer classic. Sale looked great, too, but there’s nothing like what Martinez did at Fenway Park on July 13, 1999.
Martinez, of course, went on to win the A.L. Cy Young Award that season, the second of his career. Sale, meanwhile, still is in search of his first Cy Young.
Inevitably, many will handicap this debate by pointing to the fact that Martinez dominated during the prime of MLB’s steroid era, while Sale is pitching during a time of all-or-nothing baseball when strikeouts are at an all-time high.
And, honestly, it’s a fair point.
But if nothing else, Red Sox fans should appreciate the fact they’re witnessing one of the greatest single-season pitching performances in the franchise’s storied history.
Thumbnail photo via Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports Images
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