A White Sox pitcher hasn't won the Cy Young since Jack McDowell in 1993. A few came close, like Esteban Loiaza in 2003 (second place) and Mark Buehrle in 2005 (fifth). Recently, Chris Sale has made a few runs at the award, finishing sixth, fifth and third in the last three seasons.
But is this the year Sale breaks through and is name the best pitcher in the American League?
The 26-year-old left-hander has put up a compelling case with a little over a month left in the regular season. Here's how the lanky ace stacks up against six other top American League pitchers heading into Monday night:
|Chris Sale||Dallas Keuchel
||Chris Archer||David Price||Sonny Gray||Corey Kluber||Carlos Carrasco|
|Baseball Ref WAR||3.5||6.4||4.1||5.4||6.2||3.7||3.3|
Sale's case is built around his strikeouts. He tied a major league record for most consecutive games with double digit strikeouts (eight) earlier this summer and leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings. His ERA has taken a hit, though that can be explained in part due to the atrocious defense behind him; the White Sox have the worst UZR and second-worst DRS in baseball and Sale has the fourth-largest positive gap between his ERA and FIP (0.83) among qualified starting pitchers.
His main competition likely comes from Houston's Keuchel, Tampa Bay's Archer, Toronto's Price and Oakland's Gray (Kluber, like Sale, has been victimized by a sub-optimal team around him). Keuchel started the All-Star Game and has strong peripherals to back up his excellent ERA, unlike Gray, who's on the other end of the ERA-FIP divide from Sale.
Archer's near-.500 record may ding him in the eyes of some voters but he's right there with Sale in terms of strikeouts and has a better ERA, while Price will garner plenty of prime time attention as the Blue Jays push to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Sale will need a strong September to solidify his Cy Young case. He has a chance, though, to be the first pitcher with 300 strikeouts in a season since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it in 2002. If Sale stays on track to pitch every fifth game through the end of the season, beginning with his start Tuesday in Minnesota, he'll make seven more starts, which means he'd have to average a little over 10 strikeouts per game to cross the 300-strikeout threshold.
That's easier said than done, but it's hardly out of the realm of possibility. And if Sale does get to 300 strikeouts, his Cy Young case will be a very strong one regardless of where his ERA and record finish.