It’s virtually impossible to believe that 28-year-old Chris Sale, the ace of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff, has yet to win the American League Cy Young Award.
The 28-year-old lefty is tied for a big league record with another now former-Red Sox pitcher, Pedro Martinez, for reaching double-digit strikeouts in eight straight games. The only difference is that Martinez accomplished the feat once and Sale has now done it twice, once in 2015 and once this season.
The only other two pitchers in baseball history to have seven consecutive starts with 10 or more K’s are names that you likely know well; Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.
Last night Sale held the Detroit Tigers to three runs for his seventh straight win and out pitched 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner and AL Most Valuable Player Justin Verlander, who also happened to finish second in the Cy Young Award voting just last season. Sale finished fifth.
In fact, when it comes to Cy Young Awards Sale seems to fit the saying “always a bridesmaid and never a bride.”
Since making his big league debut with another Sox team, the Chicago White Sox, in August of 2010 at the age of 21, Sale has dominated hitters with his distinctive, low, three-quarter arm angle and nasty, deceptive slider.
From the the beginning of August through the end of the regular season in 2010 Sale pitched just 23.1 innings but struck out 32 batters which averaged a rate of 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He pitched in relief in his first full season in the majors with similar results.
By his second full big league season Sale was no longer in the bullpen. He started 29 games for the White Sox, pitching 192 innings, striking out 192 batters and making the first of five consecutive AL all-star teams. Undoubtedly, he’ll make that six straight all-star appearances in this season’s mid-summer classic.
What is so strange is that Sale has dominated not just hitters, but other pitchers as well, in almost every one of his professional seasons. Yet for some reason the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America have not seemed to find him worthy of taking home the American League Cy Young Award.
Beginning in 2012 through 2016, Sale finished sixth, fifth, third, fourth and fifth again in the voting. Over those five seasons, he managed to lead the league in strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, strikeout to walk ratio, twice in complete games and not surprisingly, twice in strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
He currently leads the American League in innings pitched (91.0), strikeouts (126), FIP (1.80) and as usual K’s per nine (12.5).
Earlier this season when the Tampa Bay Rays’ played the Red Sox, MLB.com reported that Rays’ manager Kevin Cash described what it was like for his team to face Sale.
“He’s got the ability to just kind of kick it in different gears. When you got a guy that’s left-handed, throws from that slot, with the power fastball and the ability to throw a really good diving changeup and a sweeping slider, you’re going to have your hands full.”
Sale pitched yet another quality start Saturday against the Tigers and Verlander, in a match up between two of the league’s biggest names.
Verlander lasted just five innings while Sale went seven, allowing just the three runs on nine hits while striking out seven batters and not walking a single one.
Sale was lucky to get the win however as the scored was tied at three after he’d faced his last batter, but the Red Sox added on three runs in the bottom of the seventh and five more in the eighth to get the win for their ace pitcher.
Despite Sale’s amazing command, the crazy number of strikeouts, his records, and simply dominant pitching style, there are still reasons that members of the BBWAA could pick apart to end up electing someone other than Chris Sale for the 2017 AL Cy Young Award.
Sale trails Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros in wins and, is actually ranked sixth in the American League in ERA. His ERA is still minuscule as usual though. The highest ERA that Sale has had in his eight big league seasons is a mere 3.41 in 2015, the year he finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.
Chris Sale has been, and is arguably still, one of the greatest pitchers over the past eight seasons. Will this year finally be the year he wins the Cy Young? Or will he once again come close but not quite close enough, like the bridesmaid and the bride?