Jason Lukehart briefly touched on how well Chris Sale has done so far this year prior to his start last night, describing this as the best year for a White Sox pitcher since Esteban Loaiza in 2003. The White Sox have had quality pitching for quite some time now, but their rotation has often gained its superiority through its depth more so than in the form of elite power pitchers. Chris Sale is a bit of an oddity as far as the White Sox are concerned, and I wanted to dig back and see how far you have to go to get a single season performance as dominant as Sale’s 2012 has been thus far.
With the obvious caveat that the season isn’t over yet, I’m going to move forward with the numbers we do have.
You have to go back to the 2005 team to find an ERA+ within even 20 points of Sale’s current mark with an innings count over 150, and that’s Mark Buehrle’s 144 number. It should also be noted that the defense Buerhle was working with was elite, while Sale’s is merely above average. One has to go even further back to 2003 Esteban Loaiza to get any closer with 159.
In 2007 Javier Vazquez pitched an excellent season, but it was largely forgotten – understandably so, given that I put a lot of effort into forgetting that season. Although Sale leads the American League with his stellar K/BB ratio, Vazquez was even better in 2007 with a 4.26 rate. Then again, Vazquez also allowed more home runs – that part you may recall – with 1.2 per 9.
Prior to that, you have to dig quite a ways in order to find seasons for the White Sox like the one Sale is having. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1971 to find a starting pitcher who managed an ERA+ better than what Sale is accomplishing with Wilbur Wood and his historically incredible year.
A lot can happen over the next few weeks of the season, and by virtue of having a few skipped starts, Sale will likely have a lower innings total than some truly great seasons. However, the general point is this: Sale is having a season that the White Sox really don’t see very often. In terms of simultaneously posting a gaudy ERA and the strikeout heavy peripherals to back it up, there’s basically a few single seasons of Loaiza and Vazquez (to an extent) in the past 40 years that are truly comparable to what Sale has been doing. I’m going to try to savor every moment of it.