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Chris Sale's three-year run among White Sox's best

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Condor is poised to join Jack McDowell as the only South Side pitchers to earn Cy Young votes in three straight seasons

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Unless baseball writers value park effects way more than anybody realized, Chris Sale probably isn't going to win the Cy Young Award. Really, it looks like a two-horse race between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez ...

W-L ERA GS IP H HR BB K ERA+ WAR(b/f)
Hernandez 15-6 2.14 34 236.0 170 16 46 248 170 6.8/6.2
Kluber 18-9 2.44 34 235.2 207 14 51 269 152 7.4/7.3
Sale 12-4 2.17 26 174.0 129 13 39 208 178 6.6/5.4

... and as Let's Go Tribe notes, a discerning analyst might wave away the difference in ERA because of ex post facto scoring changes:

Two late-season scoring changes both went against Kluber. The Tigers got an error changed to a hit, added 3 earned runs to Kluber's tally weeks after the game ended. Then the Mariners got 4 earned runs removed from Hernandez's count. Undo those changes, and Kluber's ERA would have been 2.33, Hernandez's would have been 2.29. Almost the entire ERA difference between those two exists because of scoring changes.

Moreover, that scoring change gave Hernandez the ERA title over Sale -- even though Hernandez committed the error involved in his scoring change. It's a whole load of horsehockey all the way around.

I'd be surprised if Sale finished higher than third, which is a bummer. However, I'd also be surprised if he finished lower than fifth. The two other pitchers who might sneak ahead of Sale:

  • Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46 ERA, 220 strikeouts over 219⅔ innings, 4.6 bWAR/6.1 fWAR)
  • Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 252 strikeouts over 220⅓ innings, 6.0 bWAR/5.6 fWAR)

Their seasons aren't as impressive when put into environmental contexts, but the workload, wins and postseason sheen give them an edge for certain voters, I imagine.

Sale enthusiasts will want him to finish as high as possible. Sequence enthusiasts are crossing their fingers for a fourth-place finish, which would follow seasons of sixth- and fifth-place finishes and put him on track for a Cy Young in 2017.

Either way, he should join Jack McDowell as the only White Sox pitchers with Cy Young consideration in three consecutive seasons (and actually. they're the only Sox pitchers to get votes in two consecutive years). McDowell had his own climb to the top, finished ninth in 1991 and second in 1992 before winning it in 1993.

Stack them side by side, and it's a similar deal -- Sale owns the quality, and McDowell the quantity.

W-L ERA GS IP H HR BB K ERA+ WAR(b/f)
Sale 40-26 2.79 85 580.1 480 55 136 626 148 19.4/15.2
McDowell 59-30 3.32 103 771.0 720 60 226 527 121 14.0/14.7

Sale's run-preventing abilities are really hard to beat. He still has a ways to go to beat Ed Walsh, who posted a 155 ERA+ over a seven-year period, but he finished that run in 1912. Since the Black Sox scandal, there isn't another pitcher who can match Sale's 148 ERA+ over a three year period. Three White Sox greats come closest, but they each smacked their heads on the same ceiling:

*Billy Pierce: 145 ERA+ over 665⅓ innings from 1953 to 1955.

*Ted Lyons: 145 ERA+ over 553⅔ innings from 1938 to 1940.

*Red Faber: 145 ERA+ over 1,001⅔ innings from 1920 to 1922.

OK, you might have to give Faber some extra credit for averaging better than 333 innings a season. Baseball-Reference.com says Faber's 1921 season was worth 11.3 WAR alone. He led all AL pitchers in that category in both 1921 and 1922, but he got screwed out of the Cy Young Award both times because it wouldn't exist for another 34 seasons. Stupid voters.