And the Frivolous Award for Best Pitcher in Chicago Through June Goes to…

This pitcher has thrown over 95 innings thus far on the season, strikes out more than one batter per inning and has enough control to boast a K/BB ratio of nearly 6/1. His ERA and FIP are both under 3.00 and his WHIP is under 1.00. He’s allowing a batting average against of barely over .200 and induces ground balls at a rate of roughly 40 percent.

Add to those accolades the fact that he’s a leader on a team that ranks near the top of its league in FIP, xFIP, and WAR. The best pitcher among those currently employed by a Chicago team has well exceeded the value of his contract in terms of the incremental value of wins above replacement and has been a steadying influence in the rotation all season.

Envelope please.

And the winner of the Frivolous Award for Best Pitcher in Chicago Through June is…Chris Sale.

Betcha thought I was going to give it to a Cubs pitcher, huh? I couldn’t, in good conscience, go with anyone other than the stringbean slinger on the South Side. But while many might think it an obvious choice, the stats make it a close race than I would have believed. And it’s not Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester leading the way for the Cubs either.

No, Jason Hammel has been the Cubs’ best pitcher to date and has actually put up numbers that come very close to rivaling those Sale has compiled thus far. In fact, the only areas in which Sale has produced appreciably better results have been in total strikeouts (141 to 99), FIP, xFIP, and WAR.

Then again, those are pretty important stats, particularly the latter. Truth be told, the race looked a lot closer when I first drafted this post early Tuesday evening. But as The Condor proceeded to mow down Cardinals with extreme prejudice, the numbers become ever better in his favor. That’s 8 straight and 9 of 10 games with 10 or more K’s.

And when you consider that Sale’s numbers include a 3-inning, 8-earned run stinker from April 30th, you just have to shake your head. But you can’t simply pick and choose the stats you want just to make your premise appear more valid. Not that anyone would do such a thing. As such, I had to fight the temptation to run this post last night before Sale could take the bump. Had I done so, the comparison between Hammel and Sale would have been incredibly close.

Prior to Tuesday’s start, Hammel actually had a better ERA and WHIP than his cross-town counterpart. That’s like saying Chris Coghlan is MLB’s current leader in consecutive games played, which he is after extending the streak to 139 with a pinch-hit in the 9th against New York Tuesday. But a quick look at the numbers reveals that the two pitchers in question have been relatively similar this season.

Sale 2.87 2.09 2.29 0.97 .204 12.28 6.41 42.4% 3.7
Hammel 2.92 2.91 3.09 0.97 .211 9.31 5.82 38.3% 2.3

While I don’t think anyone would hesitate to choose Sale, who, at 5 years and $32.5 million (plus 2 option years), actually makes less than Hammel (2 years, $20 million), the latter is certainly making the Cubs look smart for bringing him back. Meanwhile, Jeff Smrdzdjidz — I think that’s how you spell it, but the red line really doesn’t help — is struggling to miss bats.

I’ve written about Hammel’s performance in the past, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too shocked by these findings, but actually comparing him favorably to a guy who appears so utterly dominant would have seemed a bit of a stretch even to me. Maybe that means we should start calling him Mr. Fantastic. Or maybe Plastic Man.

I know I’m going to have to find something else to call him if the Cubs actually pull the trigger on a deal for Cole Hamels, as the similarities in their surnames will be too much for my limited mental capacity. For now, though, I’m just going to call him really good.

Jason Hammel might not have Arrieta’s slutter or Lester’s cheddar, but he’s looking like the best of the bunch right now. Even if he cools a bit in the second half, he’s a more-than-capable number three starter. If only the Cubs could shore up the five spot, which has looked a little more like number two thus far.


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