Suspended Starters

Chris Sale suspension Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have suspended Chris Sale for five days after a dispute over the team’s uniforms for Saturday’s game. The club’s ace was upset with the team’s decision to wear a 1976 throwback uniform, so he cut them up.

This incident is quite unique; few players have displayed such displeasure for a uniform. Sales’ suspension runs through Wednesday at which point he is expected to rejoin the club and could start a game at the end of the week.

What can we learn as bettors from Sales’ suspension for his uniform outburst?

Baseball players are suspended all the time for various offenses. Pitchers most often get disciplined for fighting or intentionally throwing at opposing hitters. Spotrac has a wonderful database of MLB fines and suspensions. To find out if we can gain an edge from Sales’ suspension, I pulled the data looking at each suspension since 2010. I wanted all starting pitchers that were suspended, ignoring those that violated the league’s PED or drug policy (those types of suspensions run 50 to 100 games). This gave me 18 pitchers that missed time similar to Sale.

Then, using the Bet Labs database, I looked to see how these pitchers performed in their first start back from suspension. Surprisingly the teams went 6-12 when their starters returned to the mound.

Obviously this is a small sample size. However, the losing record is unexpected given the quality of pitchers on this list. Eleven of the 18 have been All-Stars. It also isn’t a case of these pitchers having a strong showing only to have their teams let them down. On average, these starters in their first appearance after the suspension went 5.7 innings and gave up more than three runs (not a quality start).

Suspensions often grant pitchers extra rest between starts. Research has show that extra rest does not lead to improved pitching performance (increased strikeout, reduced walks). Sale is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA this season. The White Six, or another team that trades for Sale, won’t hesitate to play him. Recent history suggests that bettors should take a more cautious approach when Sale returns to the mound for his first start.

The last time Sale was suspended, 2015, he went just three innings and gave up a career-high nine runs in his first game back.

PlayerDate SuspendedFirst Start Back
Chris Sale04/25/15Loss
Jeff Samardzija04/25/15Loss
Edinson Volquez04/25/15Loss
Yordano Ventura04/25/15Loss
Michael Pineda04/24/14Loss
Ryan Dempster08/20/13Win
Rick Porcello07/02/13Win
Ian Kennedy06/14/13Loss
Carlos Carrasco04/12/13Loss
Scott Diamond08/24/12Loss
Cole Hamels05/07/12Win
Ubaldo Jimenez04/02/12Win
Jered Weaver08/02/11Loss
Jason Marquis06/07/11Win
Alex Sanabia09/03/10Win
Johnny Cueto08/12/10Loss
Clayton Kershaw07/21/10Loss
AJ Burnett06/04/10Loss

 

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