Red Sox ace Chris Sale finishes second in Cy Young Award voting
By Paul Doran
Red Sox ace Chris Sale was beat out by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for the Cy Young. Sale’s numbers in the second half may be to blame for his runner-up finish
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale will have to wait ‘til next year for his Cy Young, as he was beat out Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced Wednesday night.
Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) received 28 out of 30 first-place votes, with Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA) receiving the remaining two. Luis Severino of the Yankees received no first place votes, but finished in the top three.
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel also managed to finish in the top-six, accruing 27 points on the BBWAA scale. Kimbrel’s stellar season made him a shoe-in for the token reliever who accumulates votes for the award.
Sale seemed to be the odds-on favorite to win the award in the first half of the season, racing out to an 11-4 record through 18 starts, with a 2.75 ERA, and posting a 178/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 127.2 IP. This progress fell off in the second half, with his ERA skyrocketed to 3.12 over 86.2 IP.
Sale was able to strikeout 300 batters in 2017. He became the first pitcher to strikeout 300 batters since Pedro Martinez in 1999. Sale’s strike out total in the second half saw no decline, as he posted 130 Ks in that time frame.
Kluber, on the other hand, had the exact opposite season. In a first half that saw him miss a month due to injury, the Cleveland ace posted a 7-3 record, with a 2.80 ERA over 93.1 IP. He also managed to post a 123/24 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 0.99 WHIP in his limited action in the first half. Those are gaudy numbers to begin with, but his second half was even better. In 110.1 IP, Kluber posted a 1.79 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP and a 142/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kluber managed to cut his walk total in half in the second half of the season over more innings. It’s obvious, by those metrics, that Kluber deserved to win.
But this is very familiar territory for Chris Sale.
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With his second-place finish this season, Sale has now finished in the top six in Cy Young voting in six consecutive years. The only situation that is even remotely similar would be Mike Mussina. He finished in the top six in Cy Young voting eight times in ten years between 1992 and 2001. That comparison does not bode well for Sale, however, as The Moose never took home the coveted hardware.
In each of Sale’s six Cy Young placing seasons his pitching production categories saw declines between the first and second half. The only exception to this was 2016, although he pitched poorly throughout by Sale standards.
Chris Sale 1st Half vs. 2nd Half (6 Year Average, 2012-2017:)
1st: 57-22, 2.74 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.95 WHIP.
2nd: 30-33, 3.45 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.14 WHIP.
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On the aggregate, Chris Sale is not a second half pitcher. Which, in 2017, ultimately cost him the honors. Same as it ever was for Chris Sale.
Sources: Baseball-reference, MLB.com, BBWAA.com