As he enters the homestretch of his first season with the Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale appears to be in a neck-and-neck battle with former AL Central foe Corey Kluber for the AL Cy Young Award.
Kluber, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, and Sale, a 6-foot-6 southpaw, seem to the only two candidates poised to claim the hardware.
These two men started their seasons as complete and polar opposites.
Let’s start with Kluber, who claimed the award in ’14.
Kluber, a fourth-round pick by the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 MLB Draft, started his first six games as if he was a rollercoaster. In his first three games, he mounted a 6.38 ERA. This was due to the fact of him allowing a combined 13 runs in just 18.1 innings.
In his next two starts, he turned it around, hurling a complete-game shutout and a seven-inning, three-run outing.
The week after that, tragedy struck the heart of Indians fans everywhere. Kluber had to miss nearly the entire month of May to nurse a lower-back strain back to good health. This is one of the few arguments against him for winning the award.
But since his return from injury, he has been nearly unhittable. In only one game post-injury he saw more than three earned runs cross the plate, just one.
In June, Kluber tossed 43.0 innings, posted a 1.26 ERA and went 4-0. In July, he was 1-1 with a 2.62 ERA over 34.1 frames. He finished August with a 5-1 record and 1.96 ERA over 46.0 innings. Thus far in September, he’s been even better. Kluber, who is coming off a complete-game victory against the Detroit Tigers Tuesday, Sept. 12, has punched out 28 batters over 24.0 innings, pitched to the tune of a 1.13 ERA and notched a 3-0 record.
Overall, he sits at 16-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 184.2 innings. Dominant.
Now let’s make a case for the lanky lefty Sale, who is 16-4 with a 2.76 ERA and 278 strikeouts in 195.2 innings.
He started his season as a force to be reckoned with by tying Pedro Martinez (1999-2000) for consecutive games (eight) with at least 10 strikeouts.
His path of domination hasn’t necessarily stopped in the “K” category as he is still expected to heave 326 total strikeouts before the end of the regular season.
Sale is averaging 12.79 strikeouts per nine innings. That would put him at third on the single-season best, behind Randy Johnson and Martinez.
Sale was the overwhelming favorite to claim the Cy Young until August hit. His first start of the month against the Cleveland Indians, he surrendered seven runs on eight hits in five innings. The outing raised his ERA from an AL-best 2.37 to 2.70. That is when Kluber came and conquered “front-runner” status. Sale’s three-inning, six-run outing Aug. 24 against the Indians yet again didn’t help his case either.
There is no denying the fact Sale has been dominating hitters with strikeout after strikeout. However, strikeouts do not mean much in this contest. (Just ask Justin Verlander from last year), especially considering the fact that Kluber missed one month of the season.
Kluber has five complete games as Sale doesn’t have any. Kluber is beating him in the ERA race by .32 points, and leading the WHIP category by .08.
It seems to be Kluber’s award to lose.