The Boston Red Sox had lost four straight games before Chris Sale’s start against the Mariners – after losing the first two, Sox shut out M’s
How much does pitching mean to a ball club? Pitching is what wins ball games. Just how important exactly? Words can’t describe it. WAR don’t even truly account for how crucial having an elite pitcher means to a team. Chris Sale is the definition of Ace. The term is too loosely used. Many teams have good pitchers, mostly decent pitchers, but none of true Ace’s. There’s less than 20 elite pitchers in baseball. There’s maybe 10 Ace’s.
Sale pitched today against the Mariners in search of his league leading 13th win on the season. Going up against a non-elite pitcher, the cards were in Sale’s favor. In the end, Sale picked up his 13th win going seven strong innings allowing no runs on just three hits, while also walking just one and struck out eleven. Everything was working for him and has been working for him for the last three months.
In the first month of the season, Sale had a 1 – 2 record with a 1.19 ERA over five games allowing just five earned runs in 37 2/3rd’s innings striking out 52 batters. Since then? Over the last three months spanning 16 starts, Sale has a league best 12 – 2 record pitching 110 2/3rd’s innings allowing 34 earned runs and has struck out 159 batters. When Sale’s pitching for Boston, you almost have to marvel at him. He does it all.
Whatever type of pitch the catcher shows, Sale is already locked in to throw it. I’ve never seen another pitcher in any era not shake off a catcher. He’s got compete confidence in his stuff and it’s showing. Sale owns the pitchers Triple Crown leading the league in Wins with 13, ERA at 2.37 ERA, and also leads in strike outs by a wide margin with 211. Just in the month of July, Sale is 3 – 1 in 5 starts with a 1.30 ERA and has 45 strike outs.
Sale is so good, in fact it’s at times his pitches aren’t even fair. Sale hasn’t allowed a run in his last three starts and hasn’t allowed a run in four of his last five starts. In 21 starts, 20 have gone for at least six innings. 16 of those starts have gone for at least seven innings. Drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000, Sale tied the mark of eight straight starts with 10 strike outs or more.
So far this season Sale has struck out 10 batters or more in 14 games this season. That’s 67% of his games. His 14 games with 10+ K’s are the 3rd most in Red Sox team history? Who holds the record for more games? Sox Hall of Fame pitcher, Pedro Martinez. Twice. 2nd most was 15 back in 2000 and the most was 19 games in 1999 including eight straight games with 10 or more punch outs.
Pedro went on to post a 23 – 4 record that season with a 2.07 ERA and had 313 punch outs. Martinez won his 2nd of three Cy Young Awards also catching the pitcher’s Triple Crown that season. While Sale likely won’t get 23 wins this season, had the run support been there for him all season long, a case could be made for Sale to have had as many as 16 wins this season had there been some run support in the beginning of the year.
Striking out a 150 guys isn’t as hard to do if you’re a starter going 200+ innings, hitting the 200 strike out mark is much more difficult. Only 12 pitchers hit that mark in 2016. Of those 12, only four pitchers hit the 250 strike out mark. Max Scherzer struck out the most last season hitting 284. No one hit 300 in 2016.
Red Sox starter Chris Sale is the only pitcher to register 200+ strike outs so far this season and is on pace for the most strike outs since Randy Johnson‘s 334 punch outs in 2002. Sale also set the record in becoming the fastest pitcher to reach 200 strike outs during the season doing so in 141 1/3rd innings.
What it comes down to is, that Sale is just getting started. Pitching is more than just an element of the game. Just ask yourself, “how important is pitching to the team?” It’s not just an element of the game, it’s what gets you through the season and the playoffs come October. The difference between getting to play in the League Championship Series and playing in the World Series will all come down to premier pitching.
Photo Credit – Ted S. Warren – AP Photo