By: Tom Cloutier
Chris Sale is undoubtedly the best active pitcher to have never won a Cy Young award. The pitching trophy has eluded him despite stellar campaigns during his tenure with the White Sox. With a few shaky starts as of late, is Sale still a shoe-in for the award?
In December of 2016, the Red Sox traded for Sale and added his arm to a rotation that included a one past and one reigning Cy Young award winner. Award-less Sale quickly became the ace of the rotation mowing down hitters with speed and precision drawing accurate comparisons to Red Sox legend, Pedro Martinez, who dominated hitters at the turn of the century to an unprecedented degree. Sale jumped out to as a front runner for the award by the All-Star break leading the league in almost every pitching statistic so far discovered by man.
But he hasn't been the same Sale as of late. In his 7 starts since August 1st, he’s had a 4.57 ERA, up from a 2.37 mark up to that point in the season. The Cleveland Indians, who the Red Sox could face in a playoff rematch have gotten the best of Sale on multiple occasions lately. He’s only managed to toss a total of 8 innings in two starts against the Tribe and given up 13 earned runs. Last night, the Yankees took Sale for a ride, jacking three homers off of him, two of them back to back, a feat that hadn't been accomplished off of Sale in his career, and knocking him out of the game in just 4 innings.
Chris Sale is tired, he's already thrown 189.2 innings, with 5 more expected starts, he's on pace to reach a career high in innings. His body hasn't been pushed this far and it hasn't been able to handle coming down the stretch. Sale has never had to pitch in the postseason and those additional innings may be too much for strikeout king. At this rate, we're looking at another David Price situation, an elite hurler that can't pitch in the playoffs.
Have a few bad outings down the stretch ruined foiled Sales chance to win the Cy Young award that has eluded him this far? It’s possible. Whispers of Kluber earning his second have grown louder. Kluber is now the statistical leader in categories Sale previously topped and he is the ace on the best team in the American League, a factor that often seems to influence the voters. Sale still tops the charts in wins, strikeouts, fielder independent pitching, and walks and k’s per 9 innings. Alternatively, Kluber is leading in ERA+, WHIP, Hits per nine, and WAR, which is one of the most important stats in naming the best player/pitcher in Baseball.
Sales final outings will be decisive in the Cy Young award race, which is much closer than it appeared just a month ago. Aside from a series against the Astros to close out the regular season, the Red Sox have a fairly easy remaining schedule. One thing appears clear, however, Sale could use some rest. He may need to choose between which hardware he’d like to chase, the Cy Young Award or the World Series trophy.