So on Saturday, after Chris Sale got done mowing down Twins hitters to the tune of 8 IP, 12 Ks and 5 swinging bunt singles, I thought I’d do a little research on Chris Sale in comparison to other pitchers who are also arguably the best pitchers in baseball. Now of course I’m an irrational homer. Yes, I do think Sale is a top 3 pitcher in baseball. In my opinion, the only pitchers one could argue that are better than him are Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. These three are the A list of aces in baseball. Other guys like Wainright, Scherzer, etc. are a notch below these guys. Not far behind, but definitely behind. They are legitimate aces as well, but Kershaw, Hernandez and Sale are the three pitchers you’d want taking the ball in a game 7 more than anyone else. If you don’t think so, you’re just dumb.
Having said that, even though it is probably a toss up between Kershaw, Hernandez and Sale, here are financial and statistical reasons why Chris Sale is not only the best, but the most valuable pitcher in baseball. For the reasons below, I would not trade Chris Sale for any one pitcher on the planet.
Reason #1 – Contractual Obligations:
Let’s first play a game. Below are three contracts. One player is due over 200 million through 2020, another is due about 150 million through 2019, and the last one is due about 27 million through 2017 (with two team options for 2018-19 for another 26 million.) This doesn’t even include their bonuses for each year. Your job is to guess which contract belongs to which pitcher out of Kershaw, Hernandez, and Sale.
The answers are A.) Clayton Kershaw, B.) Felix Hernandez, and C.) Chris Sale
Yes, you can argue that both Kershaw and Hernandez are better pitchers than Chris Sale. But, in an unfair game where teams can spend whatever X amount they want on a player, are they financially almost 10 times better than Chris Sale? Absolutely not. Anyone with a brain would take Chris Sale over Kershaw or Hernandez just because of what each of the three players are contractually owed. Sale’s contract allows the White Sox flexibility to sign other highly sought after free agents, especially come 2015 when Dunn and others are off the books.
What’s that? What did you idiots just say in the comment section? “Chris Sale’s arm is gonna explode you fat gunt! Kershaw and Hernandez will pitcher for another decade!” That may be true. I’ve said it before, his mechanics scare the shit out of me. But, again, by looking at his contract, he’s only owed 27 million or so through 2017. So if his arm does in fact ‘explode’, then the team can sever ties with him in just two more seasons and that will be that. If Hernandez and Kershaw have arm problems, both of them are owed exponentially more than Sale and are signed for 5 more years after this season. Incredibly team friendly contract for Sale.
Advantage: Sale by a landslide
Reason #2 – Chris Sale pitches in not only a hitter friendly home stadium, but a hitter friendly division, while Kershaw and Hernandez pitch in pitcher friendly home stadiums and divisions:
This next list shows where Kershaw, Hernandez, and Sale’s home stadiums ranked in terms of park factors: This is how ESPN defines whether or not a stadium is considered a hitters park or a pitchers park:
US Cellular Field: Traditionally a very good hitters’ park. 330 down the LF line, 375 in the power alleys, 400 to CF.
2010: 4th best hitters park
2011: 14th best hitters park
2012: 2nd best hitters park
2013: 14th best hitters park
2014: 17th best hitters park
Dodger Stadium: Traditionally known as a very good pitchers’ park. 330 down LF and RF lines, deepens to 360 towards LF and RF, 375 in the power alleys, 395 to CF
2010: 23rd worst hitters park
2011: 22nd worst hitters park
2012: 25th worst hitters park
2013: 28th worst hitters park
2014: 25th worst hitters park (tie)
Safeco Field: Started off as an extreme pitchers’ park, but they moved the fences in in 2012. Current dimensions are LF line 331, LF power alley, 390, CF 405, RF power alley 386 RF line 326
2010: 29th worst hitters park
2011: 26th worst hitters park
2012: 30th, worst hitters park in baseball
2013: 15th best hitters park in baseball
2014: 29th worst hitters park in baseball
As one can see, Chris Sale pitches in a hitters’ park. Often times it’s one of the best hitters parks in all of baseball, as referenced by the numbers above. Now, again, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez are incredible pitchers. Are there stats inflated by their home stadiums? Maybe, maybe not. But it can’t hurt pitching in 2 stadiums that are statistically 2 of the best stadiums to pitch in, as compared to pitching at US Cellular Field, which is one of the better hitters parks in the league.
Here are the home/away splits for each pitcher:
So Kershaw and Hernandez have higher ERAs at home, in great pitchers’ parks, and Sale has a lower ERA on the road than at the hitter friendly US Cellular Field? Kinda weird. But you also have to look at the divisions they play in. Kershaw is also pitching at AT&T Park and Petco Park (23rd and 28th worst hitters parks in 2014), on top of Coors Field which obviously is a hitters park. Hernandez is pitching in Angel Stadium, Oakland Colliseum, and Minutemade Stadium (22nd, 15th, and 18th best hitters parks in 2014). The Ball Park in Arlington is a great hitters park, however. On the other hand, Sale is pitching at Target Field, Comerica Park, Kauffman Stadium, and Progressive Field multiple times a year, which are the 5th, 6th, 10th and 16th best hitters parks in baseball. Now would Kershaw or Hernandez perform as well as they have over their careers if they were pitching in the AL Central every day? More than likely not. Statistics prove it. Yes, they’d still be bona fide aces. But Chris Sale dominates in hitters parks, while Kershaw and Hernandez dominate in pitchers parks.
Advantage: Sale (or disadvantage, since the park factors of the stadiums he most frequently pitches in are advantageous to hitters, however you’d like to look at it)
Reason #3 – Advanced metrics (kinda):
I want to talk about sabermetrics, but I’m far from a math whizz, so I don’t know what a lot of them mean and won’t delve into them. I do know what OBP and WHIP means, though, and I do know that the whole key to scoring runs from a ‘Moneyball’ perspective is to get runners on base at the highest rate possible. On the contrary, the best way to limit runs, again, from a Moneyball perspective is to limit baserunners as much as possible. Chris Sale has done that. At a historically high rate, in fact. Here’s a cool fact about Sale:
Walter Johnson’s arguably the best pitcher in the history of baseball. Chris Sale has a career WHIP of 1.059 but doesn’t qualify for all time records, as he only has 610 career IP and you need 1000 to qualify. Kershaw already checks in at #11 all time with a 1.068 WHIP, while Hernandez has a career 1.18 WHIP, and isn’t in the top 50 all time, and he does qualify.
Here’s best 11 WHIPs of all time:
Yeah, so Sale would fit in right between Trevor Hoffman and Walter Johnson. Two of the best pitchers of all time, though one was a closer. He’s been better over his career than Kershaw in limiting base runners, and has blown Hernandez out of the water.
Again, advantage Sale.
Can’t wait to read the “get off Sale’s dick” comments. No, I won’t get off Sale’s dick. He’s the best pitcher in baseball for his financial value, his ability to pitch in hitters parks, and for his ability to limit base runners. So anytime you see me tweet about how Chris Sale is the best pitcher in baseball, it’s because it’s factual at this point. Numbers prove it. And, as I previously mentioned, if God forbid his arm does explode, it’s not like the Sox have are contractually obligated to him for a decade and 200MM dollars like the Dodgers and Mariners are to Kershaw and Hernandez.
Sale’s next start is probably gonna be August 1st vs. the Twins. If you’re a fan of baseball and have access to MLBTV or an illegal streaming website, I highly recommend you tune in to see him pitch. It’s must watch TV. Joe Mauer was quoted as saying, “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable at the plate as I was the first time I faced Chris Sale.” Pretty incredible, considering Joe Mauer was one of the best hitters in baseball for a stretch of time.
If you disagree with anything I’ve said in the blog above, raise your hand so I can come hit you over the head with a tack hammer, because you are a retard.
Have a nice day everyone!