MLB Midseason Awards

So it’s the All Star Break and it’s technically the midpoint even though most teams have played around 98 of the 162 games. But whatever. That’s not important. What is important is that the season has reached its virtual halfway point and it is now appropriate to start recognizing who’s been killing it and who hasn’t. So without further ado, let’s get to some midseason awards as well as my prediction for the Home Run Derby on Monday at the end.

AL MVP: Mike Trout-CF-Anaheim Angels

<> at Angel Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California.

This would be Trout’s third MVP before his 27th birthday should he hold on to the run he’s been on. At the break, he’s slashing .310/.454/.606 with 25 home runs and 50 RBI while leading the Majors with a WAR of 6.6. However Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts are both on a tear right now and both could catch him by the end of September.

Runners Up: Jose Ramirez-3B-Cleveland Indians, Mookie Betts-RF-Boston Red Sox

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado-3B-Colorado Rockies

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I would argue that Arenado should have won NL MVP last year but he’s picked up where he left off last season by slashing .309/.391/.585 with 23 homers and 67 RBI while leading the NL with a 3.8 WAR and playing an excellent defensive third base. Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman aren’t far behind him and it’s a pretty wide open race.

Runners Up: Lorenzo Cain-CF-Milwaukee Brewers, Freddie Freeman-1B-Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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Chris Sale is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, as he has been absolutely dominating opposing hitters of late, as he had an ERA of 1.76 in June and 0.69 in July. He leads the Majors with 188 strikeouts and has over 13 K/9. However if you were to argue for Luis Severino or Justin Verlander, I wouldn’t fight you over it.

Runners Up: Luis Severino-New York Yankees, Justin Verlander-Houston Astros

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom-New York Mets

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Since cutting his hair, Jacob deGrom has gone from really good to great, as he has far and away the best ERA in the Majors at 1.68 with a K/9 over 10 and a minuscule HR/9 of 0.51. As far as I’m oncerned, the only way deGrom doesn’t win the NL Cy Young Award is if he’s traded to an American League team. The Mets are currently fielding offers for him and may ship him before the Trade Deadline July 31st.

Runners Up: Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals, Aaron Nola-Philadelphia Phillies

AL Rookie of the Year: Gleyber Torres-2B-New York Yankees

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Gleyber Torres has been nothing short of phenomenal since his callup on April 22nd. He’s slashing .294/.350/.555 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI en route to making the All Star team as a 21 year-old rookie despite being in the Minor Leagues for the first month of the season. His own teammate, Miguel Andujar is also having a heck of a rookie campaign and likely isn’t far from Torres. Shohei Ohtani could also be considered but his UCL injury has a lot of things up in the air.

Runners Up: Miguel Andujar-3B-New York Yankees, Shohei Ohtani-SP/DH-Anaheim Angels

NL Rookie of the Year: Brian Anderson-RF-Miami Marlins

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There aren’t many legitimate candidates this season for the NL Rookie of the Year race, however Brian Anderson has been having a pretty solid season, slashing .288/.363/.429 with 8 homers and 49 RBI. Not a lot has gone right for the Marlins this season but Anderson has been pretty solid for them.

Runners Up: Alex Reyes-RP-St. Louis Cardinals, Christian Villanueva-3B-San Diego Padres

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash-Tampa Bay Rays

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The fact that the Rays are headed to the All Star break with a record of 49-47 despite having literally no talent on the roster should alone earn Cash the nod for AL Manager of the Year. But he’s also had a ton of success using a 4-man rotation then a bullpen day for the 5th day. The “opener” is what they’re calling it. Cash’s Rays are starting to revolutionize starting relievers more frequently and even teams like the Red Sox have begun adopting the strategy.

Runners Up: Alex Cora-Boston Red Sox, Bob Melvin-Oakland Athletics

NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker-Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are several years ahead of schedule and the development of the young talent such as Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, and Sean Newcomb has been huge for the rise of the Braves and manager Brian Snitker deserves a lot of credit. The Braves look like legitimate pennant contenders this season in a very wide open NL field just a year after finishing 72-90 last season and making very few significant additions in the offseason.

Runners Up: Gabe Kapler-Philadelphia Phillies, Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

Home Run Derby Winner: Kyle Schwarber-LF-Chicago Cubs

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I’m a little biased since Kyle Schwarber and I both attended Indiana, but his power is made for a Home Run Derby. I will not only be rooting for my fellow Hoosier, but also picking him to win it.

That’s going to do it for my midseason awards, let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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NOW we get into the juicy stuff. After a long while, Yu Darvish has signed a 6-year $126M contract with the Chicago Cubs after 5 and a half years with the Rangers and half a season with the Dodgers, where he helped them on a World Series run (even if his actual World Series performance left a lot to be desired). Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in the game but hasn’t been able to realize a lot of his potential due in large part to injury, namely Tommy John surgery which cost him much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016. Darvish was finally healthy in 2017 and he had a solid year, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts between the Rangers and Dodgers. He looks for a fresh new start with a talented Cubs rotation that underperformed in 2017 but looks to get back on track to try and return to their championship glory from 2016.

Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation is expected to look with Darvish in the mix and the now expected departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whom I will get to in a moment:

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

That’s a pretty formidable rotation provided everybody pitches to their ability. Couple that with an extremely potent lineup and the Cubs have all the makings of a World Series favorite. Though pitching to their ability is the big concern here. Lester is coming off his worst season since 2012, as he went 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts. He turned 34 last month so one has to wonder if his skills may be on the decline. Quintana was very inconsistent last season. His month-by-month ERA was a big indicator to that. Starting in April, Quintana’s monthly ERA’s were 5.22, 5.91, 1.78, 3.45, 5.73, 2.51. So of those 6 months, 3 were really bad and 3 were either solid or excellent. It all averaged out to an ERA of 4.15, which is a far cry from what we know he’s capable of. Hendricks was probably Chicago’s most consistent starter in 2017 as he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 123 strikeouts during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Hendricks is capable of being the ace of this loaded staff but if Chicago is going to make another run at the World Series, they’re going to need him on the mound every five days.

Which brings me to Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner seems to not be returning to Wrigley with the signing of Darvish, however I expect now that Darvish has signed, Arrieta will soon follow. I think the main reason it’s taken this long for either guy to sign was because they were waiting each other out, trying to see what the other would get so that they could use it as a comparison in their negotiations. Now that Arrieta has seen that Darvish is valued by the Cubs at $21M per year, he can use that to his advantage to make even more. All he has to say to teams that want to pay him comparable money to Darvish is “Yu is valued at $21M, he’s injured all the time, he doesn’t even have a Cy Young award and he sucked in the World Series. I have a Cy Young Award and a 2.38 ERA in the 2016 World Series.” Immediately that’s going to land him at least $25M. So Arrieta ought to send Darvish a thank you card for signing first, though this for sure means that Arrieta won’t be returning to the Cubs.

However this presents an interesting conundrum for the Cubs and it has everything to do with next offseason. Bryce Harper has made it known, whether intentional or not, that his first choice to sign in the 2018 offseason would be with the Chicago Cubs. He’s childhood friends with Cubs superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and he named his dog “Wrigley.” The writing is on the wall for that one. However, Harper will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency and many have speculated he may command Major League Baseball’s first ever $400M contract. Will the Cubs be able to afford that with the current payroll they have? Not likely. So there will need to be some work done on the salary front and many potentially key players needing to be moved in order to afford that deal. It can be done, though, and I do expect we’ll be seeing Harper in Cubby blue starting in 2019.

That’s going to do it for this piece on the Yu Darvish signing. Let me know what you think this does for the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Awards Season

Yesterday was my playoff preview, which you can read here. Today, we discuss who I think should win the major awards in baseball, as well as a few that aren’t technically real awards. Some are obvious (AL Rookie of the Year), some are not (NL MVP). Without further ado, let’s begin.

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

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Jose Altuve has been a front-runner for AL MVP the last 3 years. (photo credit: Grantland)

This was a tough one, as Yankees right fielder and rookie sensation Aaron Judge has been unbelievable this season (more on him later). But Jose Altuve has been the catalyst for arguably the best team in baseball and has been doing so at a steady pace throughout the season. He hit .346 this year with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, and 32 stolen bases to go along with 112 runs scored. In addition to his offensive prowess, he has also been an excellent defender at a premium position and is a menace on the basepaths. You could also argue that nobody is more important to his team. Altuve is what makes the Astros go and he has been doing this for quite some time now. It’s time he gets the recognition he deserves.

Others receiving consideration: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankes; Corey Kluber, P, Cleveland Indians; Jose Ramirez, UTIL, Cleveland Indians

NL MVP: Charlie Blackmon, CF, Colorado Rockies

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Charlie Blackmon put on perhaps his finest performance in 2017 (photo credit: The Denver Post)

This was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. You would need three or four hands to count how many guys could feasibly win MVP in the NL this season. There’s Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, whose 59 home runs captivated the nation. There’s Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, whose defensive wizardry and capacity for driving in runs was a sight to behold. Joey Votto did things human beings shouldn’t be allowed to do.

But Charlie Blackmon, Arenado’s teammate, has to be my pick here. He hit .331 with 37 home runs, 104 RBI, 137 runs scored and slugged .601. All out of the leadoff spot in the lineup. He made the Rockies prolific offense go and Arenado doesn’t lead the Majors in RBI for most of the season without Blackmon at the top of this lineup. Blackmon even drove in 100 runs himself out of the leadoff spot, something unheard of throughout the history of the game. Blackmon’s 104 RBI is actually a Major League record for a guy who primarily batted leadoff. Blackmon does it all for this Rockies team that finds itself in a playoff spot for the first time since 2009.

Others receiving consideration: Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins; Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies; Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks; Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

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Corey Kluber has been absolutely dominant down the stretch (photo credit: Chicago Tribune)

Yes, I wrote a blog saying that Chris Sale should win the award. But that was before delving into their September stats. In September, Sale’s ERA was 3.72, with 3 games giving up at least 3 runs and 2 games where he gave up 0. His inconsistency this month forced me to drop him from the race. Kluber, on the other hand, has only gotten hotter. His September ERA was 0.84, allowing all of 4 earned runs through the entire month. Sale allowed 4 runs on 2 separate occasions in September. It’s tough to pick against a guy who struck out 308 batters, but his inconsistency when the other guy was as dominant as ever is hard to overlook.

Others receiving consideration: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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Max Scherzer seems destined to win his second straight Cy Young Award, third overall (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Scherzer missed a little bit of time late in the season due to injury but that didn’t stop him from reaching 200 innings for the fifth consecutive season. He’s the ace of a dominating Nationals pitching rotation, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings while holding an ERA of 2.51. Clayton Kershaw was as nasty as he always is but he missed far too much time for me to seriously consider him unseating Scherzer, who I have winning this award for the second consecutive season.

Others receiving consideration: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

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One of 52 bombs hit by Aaron Judge this season (photo credit: MLB.com)

Was there any other option? The argument could be made that Judge should be MVP as well, which would be the third time ever a rookie of the year also won MVP (Fred Lynn and Ichiro were the other two). Judge hit .284 with 52 home runs and 114 RBI, leading the majors in Fangraphs WAR at 8.2. His 52 dingers were the most ever by a rookie, breaking the previous mark of 49 set by Mark McGwire back in 1987.

Others receiving consideraton: Andrew Benintendi, LF, Boston Red Sox; Mitch Haniger, RF, Seattle Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Cody Bellinger has been a driving force behind the Dodgers 104-win season (photo credit: True Blue LA)

Like Judge, this was also an easy pick. When Adrian Gonzalez went down for the Dodgers, it fell on Bellinger to pick up the slack. He did that and then some. Bellinger hit 39 home runs and drove in 97 runs for the Dodgers this year, keeping up the franchise’s long history of rookie success. Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies was also a consideration, as the start he got off to was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. He ended up hitting 18 home runs in just 50 games this year, which would put him on pace for over 55 for an entire regular season. However, Hoskins didn’t play enough to seriously be considered a threat to Bellinger.

Others receiving consideration: Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

Reliever of the Year: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Kenley Jansen has been about as deadly as any reliever in baseball (photo credit: InsideSoCal.com)

Another nail-biter, Jansen barely beats out Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. While Jansen’s K rate is lower (14.36 against Kimbrel’s 16. 43), his walk rate is half of Kimbrel’s and his home run rate is lower as well. There is a slight ERA difference in Jansen’s favor (1.32 vs 1.43). I wouldn’t argue against Kimbrel winning this award by any means, but I give Jansen the slight edge here.

Others receiving consideration: Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Platinum Glove (best defender): Andrelton Simmons, SS, Anaheim Angels

Simmons is well-known for his defensive wizardry (he had a heck of a season at the plate as well, but we’re not going to talk about that when discussing a defensive award) and he kept up his reputation by leading the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved with 32. Mookie Betts of the Red Sox was next at 31 but after those two there was a steep drop-off. In fact, the next closest shortstop to Simmons was Trevor Story with 11. To clear things up, Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) measures how many runs you prevent with your defense throughout the season. A DRS of 0 is considered average. Simmons repeatedly turns insane highlight plays on a daily basis and every year this award will be his to lose.

Others receiving consideration: Mookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox; Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins

AL Gold Gloves:

P-Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

C-Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

1B-Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox

2B-Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

3B-Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

SS-Andrelton Simmons, Anaheim Angels

LF-Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

CF-Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

RF-Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

NL Gold Gloves:

P-R. A. Dickey, Atlanta Braves

C-Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds

1B-Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

2B-DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

3B-Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

SS-Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

LF-Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

CF-Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

RF-Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Silver Sluggers

C-Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

1B-Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

2B-Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

3B-Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

SS-Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

LF-Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers/Anaheim Angels

CF-Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels

RF-Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

DH-Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

NL Silver Sluggers

C-Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

1B-Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

2B-Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

3B-Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

SS-Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

LF-Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals

CF-Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

RF-Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

P-Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates

Comeback Player of the Year: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 home runs put the world on notice (photo credit: CBS Sports)

This is the start of the MLB awards that aren’t technically real. I’ll be giving this award to a guy who had a poor season the year prior but bounced back with a great one. This year, it’s Giancarlo Stanton. Last season, when I was at the Home Run Derby in San Diego, Stanton put on a damn clinic, hitting 61 home runs (the previous derby record had been 41). He wasn’t in the All Star Game that season, having been hitting in the low .200s at the break. Pedro Gomez asked Stanton after he had won why he did the Derby when he wasn’t in the All Star Game (a weird question to ask, if not a little mean if you ask me), Stanton looked a tad offended but shrugged it off, raised the trophy, and said “I came here for this bad boy.” This season, Stanton has turned the entire Major Leagues into his own personal home run derby, belting 59 home runs, the most since Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73 in 2001. Stanton wasn’t just all about the long balls, though. He also managed to hit .281 and walked 12.3% of the time.

Others receiving consideration: Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Breakout Star of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

Last season, when he played only 27 games after a late-season callup, Judge did not look great. There was a hole in his swing the size of a hipster’s ear lobe as he struck out at a 44.2% rate. This season, while his strikeout rate is still high (30.7%), Judge has been sending the pitches he does end up hitting into other area codes. The thing that impressed me most about Judge wasn’t how many home runs he was hitting, but where they were going. And I don’t just mean distance. Judge was hitting just as many home runs to left field as he was to center field and right. You couldn’t focus on one spot to try and get him out like you can with most other power hitters because Judge can take the outside pitches just as far as the inside ones. Below is Aaron Judge’s spray chart this season, courtesy of Fangraphs.chart

Others receiving consideration: Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; Tommy Pham, LF, St. Louis Cardinals; Jimmy Nelson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers; Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks; Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Chris Taylor, UTIL, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays/Baltimore Orioles

Defensive Play of the Year: Austin Jackson, OF, Cleveland Indians

Hitting Performance of the Year: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

Rendon’s line on April 30th against the New York Mets: 6-6 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI, and a double.

Also receiving consideration: Scooter Gennett on June 6th against the St. Louis Cardinals. 5-5 with 4 home runs and 10 RBI

Pitching Performance of the Year: Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers

Poor guy. Rich Hill pulls a Harvey Haddix and goes 9 no-hit (nearly 9 perfect but for a Logan Forsythe error) innings but his team doesn’t get him a single run, then he gives up a walk-off home run to Josh Harrison in the 10th. First time ever that a no hitter is broken up by a walk-off home run in extra innings. Oddly enough, this game came the day after Sports Illustrated published a cover that asked if the Dodgers were the greatest team of all time. Rich Hill’s line on August 23rd against the Pittsburgh Pirates: 9+ innings, 1 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, 10 strikeouts, 99 pitches needed.

Others receiving consideration: Edinson Volquez’s no hitter on June 3rd against the Arizona Diamondbacks

Most enjoyable player to watch: Javy Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs


There’s more, but I think these two videos get the job done.

Others receiving consideration: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians; Andrelton Simmons, SS, Anaheim Angels

Those are my awards picks. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Chris Sale vs Corey Kluber: The enigma that is the 2017 American League Cy Young race

Following the 2016 American League Cy Young Award race was like following the presidential election: nobody deserved to win, but somebody had to, and the controversy surrounding the results was the big story. Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won the award over Justin Verlander, then of the Detroit Tigers, by 5 points. However it was revealed afterwards that two Tampa Bay writers completely left Verlander off of their ballots, omissions that, quite frankly, are inexcusable given the strong showing Verlander put forth. Not that Porcello wasn’t deserving of the award (compared to the rest of the American League, that is), but Verlander simply had a better season by most standard and advanced metrics. This year, however, the AL Cy Young Award race has been made far more intriguing by a teammate of Porcello’s and the guy who finished in third place for this very award last season.

Corey Kluber (left) and Chris Sale (right) are the top 2 contenders for the 2017 AL Cy Young Award (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Chris Sale of the Red Sox and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians have been in a battle the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Jurassic World ending. I gathered together a bunch of statistics to try and get a glimpse at who has truly been the best pitcher in the AL. I kid you not, Sale and Kluber are number 1 and number 2 in the AL in the following categories: ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, BB/9, K%, Opponent Batting Average, FIP, and WAR (all stats acquired are according to FanGraphs). Both guys are the aces of strong pitching staffs on division leaders (in Cleveland’s case, champs) and have two of the filthiest sliders in the game. Here’s an example of Sale’s and Kluber’s.  To have to face either of these guys at any point in the year makes every Major Leaguer worthy of their 8-figure salaries.

The Case for Sale:

Chris Sale came to the Red Sox in a trade with the Chicago White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason for prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others. To say that the trade has been an early success for the Red Sox is about as big an understatement as saying The Godfather is a good movie. Right out of the gate, Sale tied a Major League record with 8 consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts and he hasn’t let up since. Because, seriously, how does anyone expect to hit this? During Wednesday night’s start against the Orioles, he became the second pitcher in Red Sox history to reach 300 strikeouts and is 13 away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record set during his historic 1999 season. Sale has the kind of stuff to achieve that in his next start. With one or two starts remaining in the regular season, Sale has a line of 17-7 with a 2.75 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 300 K, 12.90 K/9, and 8.2 WAR. In fact, Sale’s WAR not only tops all pitchers in Major League Baseball, it tops all players. But the stat that really amazes me about Sale is his FIP. For those who aren’t familiar with sabermetrics, FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching is a stat that takes out all plays that are outside of a pitcher’s control, such as singles, doubles, triples, and fielding outs and only takes into account plays that are within the pitcher’s control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. It is meant to try and predict what a pitcher’s ERA would be if he were given a neutral defense, one that doesn’t really help him, nor hurt him. The difference in ERA and FIP can often be used to measure exactly how much a pitcher is helped or hurt by his defense. Sale’s FIP is 2.22, half a run lower than his 2.75 ERA, meaning that the Red Sox defense behind him is actually hurting his production. And considering how dominant he has been this year, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AL. And for those who were wondering, Sale’s FIP is the best in the majors (Kluber happens to be number 2 at 2.49, but I’ll get into that later).  Not to mention, the guy is completely psychotic. I don’t have video evidence of this and I don’t even remember who the opponent was, but earlier this season I was watching a Red Sox game when Chris Sale walked the leadoff batter in the 7th inning. Sale never allowed that runner to reach second base, yet when he recorded the final out of the inning, he was screaming at himself into his glove for walking that leadoff batter. I remind you that the baserunner did no damage and he had no issue with the next three batters, yet he was screaming at himself like he just gave up an 0-2 grand slam. And when Sale gives you “that look,” you bend your will to him. Seriously. Look him in the eye and tell me you aren’t freaked out by this dude.

Chris Sale

I do not envy Red Sox Manager John Farrell having to tell this guy his night is done. Lucky for him, he hasn’t had to do that too often: Sale leads the Major Leagues in innings pitched at 209.1.

The Case for Kluber

Corey Kluber’s last start of the 2016 season came in Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. He had dominated all postseason and had continued his run against the Cubbies in each of his first 2 starts in the Fall Classic. However, he didn’t make it out of the 5th inning, surrendering 4 runs and 2 home runs and the Indians lost the World Series to the Cubs, a franchise that hadn’t won in 108 years. It seemed that he hadn’t gotten over that defeat to start 2017, as his ERA after the first month was 5.06. That was when he hit the Disabled List and missed all but one start in the month of May due to a lower back strain. That DL stint seemed to fix him, however, as he has been absolutely lights out ever since. He has gone 17-2 since coming off the DL with a minuscule ERA of 1.69, including 0.87 in the month of September. Despite missing almost an entire month, Kluber still ranks 6th in the AL in innings pitched. He ranks 2nd in WAR at 6.9 (nice), trailing only Sale and he leads the AL in ERA (2.35), WHIP (0.85), BB/9 (1.60), and opponent batting average (.187). The one real knock I can think of against Kluber is his FIP, which is 2.49, which when compared to his 2.35 ERA, suggests that the Indians’ defense has actually aided Kluber’s numbers. Regardless, that FIP still ranks second in the AL and would still lead the league if it were his actual ERA. Kluber’s performance also helped spark the Indians’ 22-game winning streak, the longest in AL history (longest ever if you don’t count the 1916 New York Giants 26-game winning streak, which had a tie mixed in). During that historic run, Kluber won all 4 of his starts and had an ERA of 1.41, striking out 45 batters in the process. Where Kluber goes, the Indians seem to go as well. When Kluber hit the DL, the Indians were 15-12 and appeared to be having a World Series hangover. They went 13-13 in his absence and were struggling to fend off the pesky Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Since his return, though, the Tribe have gone 68-32, clinching their division and stealing the top record in the AL from the Houston Astros, who held that honor from the beginning of the season, up until midway through the Indians’ streak a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to argue there’s a pitcher more important to his team than Kluber.

Conclusion: It’s insanely difficult to pick one of these guys to win the Cy Young Award over the other, yet come November, one of these two guys will be taking home the hardware. I’m just thankful that I don’t have a vote, because writing this article and trying to take a side was damn near impossible. Though, if you were to force me into a Ramsay Bolton- Theon Greyjoy Reek-type situation, I’d have to say I would give the Cy Young Award to Chris Sale, but I’d rather have Corey Kluber in a must-win playoff game, as Sale has never appeared in the postseason, having pitched for the White Sox the first 7 years of his career. See? No cop outs here.