It's been nine years since the White Sox last had a legitimate contender for the AL Cy Young. Sure, Mark Buehrle probably deserved more than five votes in 2005. But not since Esteban Loaiza in 2003 has there been Cy Young chatter on the South Side.
At the halfway point of 2012, the Sox have two starters who have garnered attention for the award given out to the AL's best pitcher.
Chris Sale's 2.19 ERA is second-best in the league, only topped by the Angels' Jered Weaver. And Jake Peavy, who won the award in the National League five years ago, merits consideration with a 2.85 ERA through his first 17 starts.
Along with Weaver, Justin Verlander, David Price, C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison and Felix Hernandez all deserve recognition.
While it'd be awfully nice if pitcher win-loss records weren't looked at by voters, unfortunately, they are taken into consideration. So that hurts the case of Peavy, who enters the break with a 7-5 record that he doesn't really deserve. Then again, voting is starting to move away from such a generally meaningless statistic, as evidenced by Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke winning the award.
We'll look at Sale and Peavy's case up against Weaver, Verlander and Price, although WilsonHarrisonHernandez could very well pull into the top five at some point this year. Here's the side-by-side breakdown:
Right now, Verlander's probably the favorite to win the award for the second straight year. He's thrown the most innings and complete games and has the most strikeouts -- essentially, he hasn't done anything to lose his grip.
But Weaver looks like a pretty good bet to win the Cy Young, too -- had he not been victimized by a lower back injury that landed him on the DL for a few weeks, he'd likely be ahead of Verlander at the break.
Sale and Peavy certainly have legitimate cases, although Sale probably would be the one to make the top three cut over Peavy. But assuming everyone stays healthy, Sale may not get enough innings to beat out the uber-durable Verlander.
The White Sox are going to do everything in their power to protect the arms of Sale and Peavy, especially if they're going to need them for a few extra weeks in October. That cautious approach may jeopardize both pitcher's chances at winning the Cy Young, although that's hardly a bad thing if it means both are healthy for September and, yes, October.
Right now, a fair ballot would be Verlander-Weaver-Sale, with Peavy at No. 4 and Price at No. 5. At the end of the year, both Sale and Peavy may still be in the discussion, but beating out midseason favorites Verlander and Weaver will be tough.
If it helps, Peavy already has a Cy Young to his name, and this likely won't be the last time Sale inserts himself into the discussion. And that's not to count them out -- it's only mid-July, and there are plenty of things that can happen between now and the end of the season that can affect the race.
Take a step back to early April, before the season started. Few would've expected that Sale's transition to the rotation would go this well and Peavy would stay healthy enough to be effective -- maybe one comes true, but both?
The White Sox are in first place at the All-Star break, and the success of Sale and Peavy has been a main reason why.