It’s a pretty low-key baseball Wednesday across this MLB slate, with one solid matchup and a handful of aces in isolation. Check ’em out:
Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) vs. Johnny Cueto (KCR)
8:10 p.m. ET
Chen doesn’t get a lot of pub outside of Baltimore, but over the past calendar year has a 3.06 ERA which ranks 21st among 78 qualified starters. He’s also ahead of pitchers that are vastly higher regarded than himself, such as Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez and countless others. Now a large part of that has been out-pitching his FIP (4.10) thanks to shaky-ish peripherals, but that’s not exactly new for Chen. In 664.2 big league innings, he’s got a 3.70 ERA and 4.18 FIP. This year it’s even more magnified, with a 3.13 ERA and 4.36 FIP. But for whatever reason, Chen has been able to sustain success with really good control, just below league average strikeout rates and plenty of fly balls. It isn’t the sexiest way to success, but for this lefty it seems to be working. His slider is pretty good (14.8 percent whiff rate), but there’s also considerable wiggle to his four-seam fastball (10.2 percent, two percent above his career rate) this season.
Cueto’s season, unlike Chen’s, has been well documented, first as a trade candidate for an underperforming Reds team and then the final piece of the puzzle for the Royals as they look to play deep into October yet again. To Cueto’s credit, he’s essentially done his part. Last time out wasn’t prettya��six earned runs in as many innings against the Red Soxa��but it still swelled his ERA to just 3.00. In fact, four of his first five startsa��the mark he’s currently ata��have been quality starts. He’s been extremely consistent this season, allowing more than 10 earned runs in just one month all season long. He’s already up to nine in August, however.
Here’s a look at today’s a�?aces in isolation:a�? Felix Hernandez (opposed by Oakland’s Chris Bassitt), Shelby Miller (Colorado’s Yohan Flande), Chris Archer (Minnesota’s Tyler Duffey), David Price (Texas’ Colby Lewis) and Chris Sale (Boston’s Rick Porcello).
Hernandez has been battered of late, posting an 8.18 ERA through four August starts. Hernandez has run more hot and cold this year than usual, with three months of sub-3.00 ERAs, and a 5.51 June mark to go with this August aberration. Last time out was a little better, as he held the White Sox to four earned runs in six innings, but that’s really only better in the context of allowing 10 earned runs in 2.1 innings to the Red Sox in his penultimate start. As long as he’s physically fine, one would expect Hernandez to snap out of it pretty quickly. But health will always be a concern when he looks this far off. Hopefully answers are coming soon.
Miller’s run of bad luck has continued into late August, as the right-hander still hasn’t won a start since May 17. In the 17 starts since, Miller has a 3.11 ERA, .691 OPS against, and 93 strikeouts in 104.1 innings. He’s 0-9 in that stretch, and the Braves are 3-14. Man, sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Archer bounced back in a huge way after the Rangers roughed him up to shut the Astros down last time out. Archer twirled a complete game one-hitter with 11 strikeouts and just one walk as the Rays won, 1-0. Archer went over 200 strikeouts for the season in that start, and appears to have turned the corner from fringe ace to superstar this season. He’s a huge reason the Rays are hanging in the race despite virtually no help from Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore.
Former Rays lefty Price has been rolling in his new digs, as he’s allowed just six earned runs in his four Toronto starts. The Jays are 3-1 in Price’s starts, and it might be serendipitously so, but all four of those starts have come against teams that Toronto is competing witha��directly or indirectlya��for a playoff spot. Two of the starts came against the Yankees, against whom the Jays are directly jockeying for the AL East crown, but his other two wins came against the Angels and the Twins, two teams that are currently on the outside looking ina��but just barelya��of the AL Wild Card race. If you’re going to go get a rental, this is how you’d want to use him.
Finally there’s Sale, whose last two starts have been absolute fire. The left-hander has 29 strikeouts and just two walks over those 14 innings, with pretty much his only blemish over that time frame being a three-run homer by Mark Trumbo. Nobody in baseball has a higher K/9 mark than Sale’s 12.2. Only one pitchera��Clayton Kershaw at 11.3a��is within a strikeout.