AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale the strikeout machine

Photo Credit: Over the Monster

Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be doing profiles on the players whom are battling for the end of year awards for Major League Baseball. The first profile we’re writing for AL Cy Young Award frontrunner Chris Sale.

Chris Sale has been unreal this season.

There’s really no other way to describe what the 28-year old ace has been able to do so far in 2017. Sale has struck out a career high 12.77 batters per nine innings, while only walking 1.62…also a career low. His strikeout rate is so high because Sale is inducing a lot of swings, and misses, at his pitches outside of the strike zone; opponents are swinging at 36% of those pitches.

So what’s causing opposition batters to swing at so many pitches outside of the zone? It’s the obscene amount of movement on Sale’s pitches, they’re fooling pretty much everyone this season…take a look at this nasty slider that completely fooled Andrew Miller last season.


Boston’s ace is averaging 79.7 MPH this season, which is 15.2 miles an hours slower than his average fastball — which is clocking in at 94.9 MPH. That kind of difference in speed is going to trip up batters; especially if they’re looking for a fastball.

Batters that have fallen behind to Sale are routinely fed that challenging fastball up in the zone, where it’s nearly impossible to catch up to it.

Chris Sale ahead, with fastball

The 28-year old has thrown 882 when ahead in the count, which means that 50.1% of those pitches have been his fastball. For batters, this means that falling behind to Sale means it’s likely that they’ll get overpowered up in the zone and sent back to the bench.

This all means that Sale’s slash line is insane, 2.57/1.98/2.64 (ERA/FIP/xFIP); which shows how good he has been at limiting his opposition’s offensive production. And he’s been doing this while eating up a lot of innings for the Red Sox; so far in 2017 he’s thrown 161.1 innings in 23 starts, which means he’s averaging 7+ innings. He’s been the most reliable starter that John Farrell has had this season and he’s also the favorite to win the American League Cy Young Award.

Quick hits

We take a quick look at how Chris Sale ranks in some of the major statistical categories compared other AL starters, and the rest of baseball.

Stat AL Ranking MLB Ranking
12.77 K/9 1st 1st
1.62 BB/9 1st 4th
2.57 ERA 1st 3rd
1.98 FIP 1st 1st
2.64 xFIP 2nd 2nd
7.0 fWAR 1st 1st

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