Chris Sale delivering rare bid to win MVP as well as Cy Young

From ESPN - August 13, 2017

NEW YORK -- Six years ago, upon being crowned American League MVP, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander agreed with the popular opinion that it should be more difficult for a starting pitcher to win the award than a position player.

"Having the chance to play in 160-some games, in the case of [teammate] Miguel [Cabrera], they can have a huge impact every day," Verlander said at the time. "That's why I have talked about, on my day, on a pitcher's day, the impact we have is tremendous on that game. So you have to have a great impact almost every time out to supersede [position players], and it happens on rare occasions."

This season has been one of those occasions.

When Chris Sale scales the mound Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, consider his sheer dominance over the game every fifth day or so for the past four months. Not only does he lead the league in ERA (2.57), he has piled up at least 10 strikeouts in 15 of 23 starts, including eight in a row earlier in the season. The Boston Red Sox lefty has fanned 12.77 hitters per nine innings, the third-highest rate of all time behind Randy Johnson in 2001 (13.41) and Pedro Martinez in 1999 (13.20). At this pace, he will become the first American League pitcher to punch out 300 batters in a season since Martinez did so 18 years ago.

Sale has a 14-4 record and the Red Sox are 17-6 in his starts, numbers that would be even better if only he had received more support in a 2-1 loss in Detroit on April 10, a 3-0 loss to the Yankees on April 27, a 3-2 loss at Oakland on May 19 and a 1-0 loss in Philadelphia on June 15, when he recorded the team's only extra-base hit.

But here's the truest testament to Sale's value, a more powerful statement than even the most eye-popping statistic can make: With three series in four weeks against the second-place Yankees, Boston manager John Farrell arranged the starting rotation to guarantee that his ace will face them three times.

And so, it's abundantly clear that Sale is the most valuable player to the Red Sox, even more than All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts. But if Sale does his thing over the next few weeks, beginning Sunday on the biggest stage in the Big Apple in front of a national television audience (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET), he really should cement an even loftier status.

With a nod to Houston Astros hit machine Jose Altuve, if Sale dominates the Yankees, Sale is the AL MVP.

Simple as that. Or at least it should be.

"As dominant as he's been, with the exception of an outing or two, we are talking about a difference-maker in the standings, in the feel of the team," Farrell says. "What he means to our team, yeah, he should be in that conversation."

There will be objectors. Some MVP voters, all of whom are members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, simply wo not consider a starting pitcher, citing the fact that pitching excellence is recognized annually with the Cy Young Award. Sale, who has not won a Cy Young despite finishing in the top five in the voting four years in a row, has a challenger for that award, too. Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber does not get as much attention but nevertheless is 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings.


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