Red Sox: Chris Sale deserved the 2017 AL Cy Young

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 09: Chris Sale /
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BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 09: Chris Sale (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Raw numbers

Context is essential when looking at numbers. No metric is perfect; there are simply too many variables in a single game let alone an entire season. Now that the context has been made a little clearer, let’s look at the overall numbers – at least the numbers that I consider my go-to when evaluating pitchers.

Chris Sale Corey Kluber
ERA 2.90 2.25
FIP 2.45 2.50
WAR 7.7 7.3
K% 36.2% 34.1%
BB% 5.1% 4.6%
BABIP .301 .267
Swinging Strike % 14.9% 15.6%
Z-Contact % 79.2% 82.4%
O-Contact % 55.7% 44.9%

Slice it up any way you want – these two pitchers are nasty. Like, historically nasty. But relative to each other, based on the numbers alone, I don’t see a totally convincing argument for either pitcher.

One underrated argument is that Sale took the mound three more times during the regular season than Kluber – 32 starts to 29. That’s three more games that Sale competed for his team, three more games that he impacted. It sounds trivial, but that difference is over 10% of Kluber’s impact on games.

So where did the 28 to 2 first-place vote spread come from? This is something I’m still trying to figure out.

Chris Sale and Corey Kluber were both undeniably elite pitchers in 2017 – far and away the top two in the American League field. And on the stat sheet, they essentially went toe-to-toe when looking at 2017 as a whole.

What truly differentiates these two are the different hands each pitcher was dealt. Sale pitched in a tougher park, in a tougher division, in a highly competitive division race, in a schedule designed for him to face the league’s toughest lineups.

Not to mention that he simply pitched in more games and oh, was the first American League pitcher to record 300 strikeouts since some guy named Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Next: Four Risk/Reward Free Agents for the Red Sox

Chris Sale was the best pitcher in the American League in 2017. Kluber may have taken home the official hardware, but I give Sale the title.