Chris Sale is Deserving, but Won't Win the Cy Young This Season

By Mike Cardillo

White Sox fans haven’t had much to cheer about during the 2013 season. Paul Kornerko is near the end of his career. Alexi Ramirez leaves a lot to be desired at shortstop. Unless you’re Hawk Harrelson, it’s hard to get too worked up about Gordon Beckham chasing down pop-ups in foul territory and making over-the-shoulder catches.

Southside fans do have one reason to still care about this lost season: Chris Sale.

The lefty out-pitched Max Scherzer Monday night in a 5-1 win at U.S. Cellular Field. It upped his record to … wait, in the spirit of Brian Kenny, we’re not going to talk other wins and losses when it comes to Sale’s pitching since it’s mainly irrelevant. Sale did lower his ERA to 2.90, moving ahead of Schezer (3.01) in the process. It also, as Kenny notes, moves him up in another important measuring tool list:

With about three weeks to go in the season, the American League Cy Young race is coming down to Scherzer, Sale, Yu Darvish or maybe Felix Hernandez, although the Mariners would be wise to shut him down since his back is acting up.

Sale is 12-13 on a team that’s 27-games under .500. Will that one black mark – which he can’t exactly control since he’s receiving only 3.28 run support per start – cost him a chance when the BWAA members hand in their votes? As we’ve written here plenty, Hernandez won the award in 2010 with a 13-12 record on a Seattle team that lost 101 games. It’s not a direct comparison but Sale’s 2013 stacks up favorably to Hernandez’s 2010. Let’s talk a look at it using stats most baseball people can digest.

  • Hernandez: 249.2 IP, 2.27 ERA, K’s 232, WHIP 1.05, H/9 7.0, K/BB 3.31, WAR 7.1
  • Sale: 195.2 IP, 2.90 ERA, K’s 207, WHIP 1.04, H/9 7.5, K/BB 5.05, WAR 7.1

Sale is going to merit strong consideration. Although the WAR numbers are the same, it remains an imperfect measuring device, especially for pitchers.

Where the two cases differ, in 2010 there wasn’t one guy that everyone be it the stats community or the narrative-driven, old-school baseball people could make an overwhelming case for giving the award. CC Sabathia went 21-7 with a 3.80 ERA, yet he wasn’t an overwhelming choice. David Price had a fine season with a 2.72 ERA, enough for a second-place finish losing to Hernandez by over 50 points in the balloting.

Sale, though, will have lots of competition with Darvish, Scherzer and Hernandez. Sale will likely appear on most writers ballots, the problem is, it’s doubtful — unless he’s lights out in his final three starts — he won’t receive a lot of first-place votes. Some writers, and this logic isn’t completely  flawed, will hold it against Sale that he’s pitching on a last-place team without any “pressure.”

For what it’s worth, I’m a Tigers fan. When the White Sox went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first I turned my attention to rooting for the Royals to beat the Indians on MLB Network. Sale is that good.

The Cy Young — more than one probably — are in his future.

Related: MLB Contracts: Five Young Players in Line for Big Paydays
Related: Why Does It Feel Like Max Scherzer Has to Apologize for Being 19-1
Related: Brian Kenny Strives to ‘Kill the Win’ and Make Baseball Smarter in the Process