Boston Red Sox: Ranking the top 10 players from 2010s
By Drew Athans
Chris Sale has only been on the Red Sox for three seasons after spending the first seven years of his career with the Chicago White Sox, but he’s already made his mark as the most dominant starting pitcher they’ve had this decade (when healthy).
After being acquired via trade in the winter of 2016, Sale had a fantastic first season in Boston in 2017, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, 308 strikeouts, and a WHIP of .970 in 214.1 innings pitched. He led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts and was the first pitcher in the American League since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to eclipse the 300 mark.
Sale ran out of gas a bit toward the end of that season and went 0-2 in the four game ALDS loss to the Houston Astros (although as we know now, Houston was cheating so take Sale’s losses with a grain of salt). He came back in 2018 to post a 12-4 record, a 2.11 ERA, 237 strikeouts, and a WHIP of .861 in 158.0 innings. He again slowed down and battled injury during the end of the season and was used sparingly in the postseason.
That October, he went 1-0 in the ALDS and earned no-decisions in his ALCS and World Series starts. He was, however, effective out of the bullpen in games he didn’t start and will forever be remembered by Red Sox fans for his work in the ninth inning of Game Five of the World Series when he retired the Dodgers side and ended the series by striking out Manny Machado, literally bringing him to his knees.
Sale spent 2019 battling injuries and himself and only went 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 147.1 innings pitched before his season ended in August. He made an aborted comeback attempt in spring training in 2020 before being shut down and undergoing Tommy John surgery in late March.
It remains to be seen if the five-year contract extension Sale signed in 2019 (which began in 2020) proves to be an albatross around the Red Sox neck, but for his 2017 and 2018 seasons alone he was well worth the trade to bring him here.