Have we entered the Golden Age of pitching? Here are the facts. Clayton Kershaw recorded 301 strikeouts last season, the most of any pitcher since 2002. Zack Greinke posted a 1.66 ERA in 2015, the lowest we’ve seen since 1995 (1.63 for Greg Maddux). Meanwhile Max Scherzer threw two no-hitters in one season, becoming the first pitcher to accomplish that since Nolan Ryan in 1973.
What’s amazing is none of those players won the NL Cy Young. Scherzer didn’t even crack the top-four in voting. Not that long ago, you could win a Cy Young with a 3.51 ERA (Roger Clemens in 2001) or a middling 13-12 record (Felix Hernandez in 2010). With so many dominant starters in today’s game, the Cy Young bar has been set sky high.
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On that note, let’s jump into another round of Over/Under with ERA.
Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics
He’s been at it in the big leagues since 2013 but Gray has yet to have a bad season. Gray’s 2.73 ERA last year actually wasn’t a career-best, which shows you we’re working with an immensely talented individual.
Unfortunately, Gray finished the year on a sour note with a 6.84 ERA over five September starts. Opponents hit .315 off Gray that month but it was the walks that really did him in. His K/BB fell to 1.46, well below his career average of 2.74.
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But let’s not downplay how good he was in the other five months. Even with his September meltdown, Gray still finished with the American League’s third-lowest ERA behind only David Price and Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.
Gray has logged 427 innings over his last two seasons, which is probably too many for a guy who is built more like Dustin Pedroia than Madison Bumgarner. That might explain why his ERA ballooned to 3.74 in the second half after he led the AL with a 2.04 ERA before the All-Star break. Gray’s K/9 dropped to a career-low 7.51 last year while his groundball rate also took a dive (1.14 compared to 1.38 in 2014). Fantasy owners shouldn’t overreact to one bad month but I’m a little worried about wear and tear with Gray. It’s close, but I’m leaning toward the over.
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