It’s day two of the second half of the MLB season, and guess what? We have seven—count ’em—seven (!) aces working in isolation on this evening-heavy baseball slate. Check ’em out!
Aces in Isolation
LHP Chris Sale (BOS) versus New York RHP Luis Severino
Sale started for the American League in the All-Star Game and for good reason. He’s first or second in the league in innings, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. He’s running away with the lead in fWAR among pitchers (5.3, only one other pitcher above 4.0) and has just been absolutely brilliant since dyeing his socks red. Plus, he’s been fairly solid recently as well, with 10 or more strikeouts in four of his last five. And, nine in the sole outlier in that stretch—a strong performance at Fenway in a 4-1 win over the Twins. He has shown a penchant for giving up a few more runs than usual lately—three or more runs in six of his last nine starts. But, he’s still managed to keep his ERA under 3.00 for the entire stretch.
RHP Michael Fulmer (DET) versus Toronto LHP Francisco Liriano
We’ve addressed the paucity of strikeouts for for Fulmer before. Well, that was never more evident than his final start of the first half. He still managed to pitch the Tigers to a 5-3 win, but he fanned just one batter in six sturdy innings with two earned runs. Again, we’ve also emphasized that without strikeouts, Fulmer has been a heavy groundball pitcher. And that has remained true of late as he’s induced at least 10 worm burners in nine of his last 10 starts. Among 71 qualified starters, the burly righty ranks 15th with a groundball rate of 49.1 percent.
RHP Jameson Taillon (PIT) versus St. Louis RHP Lance Lynn
Taillon missed his last start with a bout of food poisoning, but since returning after missing more than a month, the righty has been brilliant. He’s thrown 27.1 innings with an ERA of 1.98, 29-9 K/BB ratio and .269/.333/.385 batting line against. The batting line doesn’t exactly sync up. Though, he has induced some grounders over that stretch which helps. But for the most part he’s been really, really great since coming back. He’s also allowed just one home run, which helps hold that slugging percentage down. It’s not like he was pitching poorly before he was sidelined, either. He posted a rough start in Cincinnati before hitting the disabled list in early May, but had posted a 2.08 ERA in April and was cruising. This is one of the brighter young starts among righties in the game today.
RHP Max Scherzer (WAS) versus Cincinnati RHP Luis Castillo
We mentioned earlier that just one other starter other than Sale had an fWAR above 4.0. That’s Scherzer, who checks in at 4.4 as he prepares to make his first start of the second half. Scherzer—who made the start for the NL in the All-Star Game—leads the NL in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP and is second in innings pitched. He also boasted an ERA under 2.00 until the Braves got to him for four earned runs over 7.2 innings in his final start before the break on July 7. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to settle in with a sub-2.00 ERA the rest of the way. It sounds crazy, but is pretty indicative of how awesome he’s been this season. He’s got a 173-27 K/BB ratio in 128.1 innings while opposing batters are hitting just .163. Better pack a lunch.
RHP Ervin Santana (MIN) versus Houston RHP Joe Musgrove
Big Erv got into the All-Star Game and ended up giving up the only run for the AL on a solo home run to Yadier Molina. Still, it was a strong first half for Santana. The righty finished with a sub-3.00 ERA (2.99, fourth in AL) and a BAA of just .206. His last start against the Angels was solid. Though, the Twins couldn’t battle back to overturn a 2-1 deficit. Santana tossed his fourth complete game of the season in a losing effort—no other MLB team has more than three—with five strikeouts, two walks and an absurd 18 grounders induced from the 27 hitters who did not strike out or walk.
LHP Madison Bumgarner (SFG) versus San Diego RHP Jhoulys Chacin
It’s the return of the Bum, who hasn’t pitched since April 19 after hitting the DL with a shoulder injury. The beginning of his season was pretty emblematic of the troubles to come for the Giants, however. All four of his starts were team losses despite a 3.00 ERA and 28-4 K/BB ratio. Now the team is 35-56 and dead in the water, coming off a 5-4 win over the Padres who somehow are four games ahead of the Giants in the standings despite actively trying to not be very good. Between Bumgarner’s shoulder and the woes of Johnny Cueto, it has been a disastrous season by the bay.
RHP Corey Kluber (CLE) versus Oakland RHP Paul Blackburn
Kluber got a no-decision in a 5-3 loss in his final pre-break start. Still, he remained solid by tossing five innings of one-run ball with three hits, eight strikeouts and three walks. He did run up a pitch count of 101 due to some iffy command, but still allowed three or fewer earned runs for the ninth time in his last 10 starts. All good things must come to an end however, and that was his stretch of five straight games with at least 10 strikeouts. Still, the rebound for Kluber since coming off the DL has been amazing. Here’s what he’s done since basically missing all of May: 1.29 ERA, .413 OPS against and 82-11 K/BB ratio in 56 innings.