Jul 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale throws a pitch in the second inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Ever since Chris Sale made his major league debut in 2010, the same season he was drafted, fans of the Chicago White Sox knew he would become something special, and he has not disappointed.
Oddly enough, Sale is not the only member of this White Sox team to do so, Conor Gillaspie accomplished the same feat (playing the same year he was drafted) with his former club, the San Fransicso Giants in 2008.
In an injury-shortened 2014, Sale still became a finalist for the Cy Young Award, finishing third in the voting. He ended the year with a 12-4 record, 2.17 ERA and 208 strikeouts in just 174 innings pitched.
After being selected as an All-Star last year, even after a strained flexor muscle forced him onto the 15-day disabled list, Sale made his presence felt in a subpar year for his club.
Seen by some as an upset in the voting, Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians edged out Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners for the award. Sale still managed to come in third despite only 26 starts, compared to Kluber and Hernandez tying atop the league lead with 34 games started, per baseball-reference.
The field got a bit weaker with 2013 award winner Max Scherzer leaving for the Senior Circuit when he signed with the Washington Nationals this offseason, and I would put Hernandez, Kluber, and David Price of the Detroit Tigers as Sale’s chief competitors for the honor in 2015.
The beauty of having two in the division is that head-to-head match-ups have the potential to sway voters- did they step their game up to a new level when facing top competition as opposed to Joe Schmo on a 100-loss team? Sale has seemingly enjoyed pitching in the big game over his short career, which can only help propel him toward that elusive first Cy Young Award.
Bottom line: If Sale stays healthy, he should be the favorite to win the award. Should he make roughly 32 starts in the regular season, his career line has shown enough improvement over his three years as a starter that leads me to believe he is capable of winning the award, and as the aforementioned Hernandez proved, team success does not a Cy Young winner make.
Should the White Sox repeat the 2010 campaign, (heaven forbidding),
which started with such optimism only to flop on their faces, it means nothing if Sale puts up the numbers.
Provided he performs at the level everyone knows he can, he will be hoisting the award come November when the winners are announced. Given what he has shown the world, its only a matter of time until he wins the award, and 2015 will be a fine year for him to be honored as the American League’s best pitcher.