This week’s spotlight is on the Chicago White Sox slinging lefty Chris Sale. With the season about a third of the way complete, a case can be made that the White Sox have been one of the league’s biggest underachievers up to this point, but Sale has continued to do his part every fifth day. Now in his fourth full season as a starter, Sale has become one of the premier left-handed pitchers in the game. While Sale has been named an All-Star three years running, and even was the winning pitcher in the 2013 Mid-Summer Classic, he has yet to make a postseason appearance. After a busy offseason by the White Sox, 2015 figured to be the year to see Sale help lead his team to the playoffs. However, at the moment, that appears to be a tall task for the 6’6” pitcher.
Over the last month, Sale has really elevated his game trying to put Chicago on his back and get the team to turn around their season. In his last five starts, and in six of his last seven starts, he has struck out double digits in dominant fashion. The impressive run has put Sale among the top five in all of baseball in punch outs.
While he has yet to claim a Cy Young award, Sale has become a contender within the American League and appears primed to break through sooner rather than later. In the last three years, he has finished sixth, fifth, and third respectively. For comparative purposes, during his three seasons as a full time starter Sale has a record of 40-26 with 626 strikeouts allowing 180 earned runs. In the same span, Felix Hernandez has a 40-25 record with 687 strikeouts (in 92 more innings pitched,) while allowing 204 earned runs. The consensus tends to rate Hernandez as the class of the AL, but when broken down, Sale is right there with him each season. Yet, arguably at this stage of their careers, the two starters share the tough-luck common number of zero; as in zero playoff starts. As both guys continue to chase that elusive milestone, this season figured to be the year for one or both to make their postseason debut.
When the White Sox brought in Jeff Samardzija and drafted Carlos Rodon, it had all of the makings to be a lethal trio for Chicago. Unfortunately for the Sox, only Sale has found that consistent drive to keep Chicago in contention. Aside from the postseason elusiveness, the one negative on Sale could be the health factor. He started the year on the disabled list, and has also missed time in the past as well. In order for Sale to really make that Cy Young leap, he needs to continue to log those number one starter innings while posting solid numbers. He appears to be in the middle of one of those runs as we speak.
As has been the case for the last three years, the White Sox have their workhorse ace in Sale. However, when he takes the ball, Chicago has been unable to give him the support on a regular basis. If the White Sox hope to make a second half run, Sale cannot do it all by himself for another summer. Chris Sale will be in the spotlight to see if he can make that CY Young run as he continues along this torrid stretch of strikeouts. Will 2015 still be the year for Sale to claim the AL’s top pitching award and reach the postseason? Only time will tell on the South Side.