Chris Sale is the best pitcher in baseball right now.
Yes, this is hardly an irrefutable fact. Yes, Sale’s numbers this season in totality don’t quite matchup with Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, or Chris Archer, and yes, if we expand to the last two full seasons, Clayton Kershaw has him beat. For the purpose of this article, I really don’t care. With all the talent at the top of the league, this is hardly a debate with a conclusive answer, and that’s fine.
What Chris Sale has done in the last month or so is purely unbelievable. Since starting May 12 with an abysmal 5.93 season ERA and quite pedestrian 8.56 K/9 and 3.29 BB/9, Sale has thrown 61.1 innings of viciously dominant baseball. In that span, he has struck out 93 batters (13.65 K/9), walked just 10 (1.47 BB/9), given up 9 ER (1.32 ERA) and just 29 hits (0.80 WHIP). He’s basically pitched like 2014 Craig Kimbrel with better control, and, y’know, starting ball games.
But you’ve seen the stats. You know that he’s doing things that only the likes of Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson have done. You know that he's leading MLB in K/9, that he's striking out batters at a higher rate than anyone since Randy Johnson in 2001. You may even know that he's putting up the second highest single season SP whiff rate in the Pitch F/X era. At this point, my twitter niche as finder of Chris Sale fun facts has gone mainstream, with others biting my style and making it bigger.
But you also know that the White Sox are absolutely horrible. Despite Sale’s brilliance last night they still managed to lose an 8th straight game, putting them ahead of only Oakland in the AL wild card standings at 8.5 games back. They’ve gone from fringe contender to non-contender in a blink of an eye, further pushing back the window of a potential Sale-led playoff team. They’re on track to have a historically bad group of position players, and with a farm system devoid of immediately available positional talent, things don’t look to be getting much better soon.
So what can be done? First and foremost, I contend that we should sit back and appreciate greatness. Chris Sale is doing things that only inner circle Hall of Fame pitchers have done. This is something to be enjoyed independent of the White Sox performance.
But if the Sox go through the Sale Era the same way the Mariners have with King Felix it will be depressing as hell. Moves need to be made to avoid that- moves that bolster the next White Sox playoff contender. That team is not the 2015 White Sox. Realizing this in June, however, could be a bit of a silver lining. Teams will pay more for more production, and thus are likely willing to add more to a trade in late June than at the July 31st trade deadline. With adept market evaluation, Rick Hahn-who has shown a propensity for such deals so far as White Sox GM and could get a strong return for players that are less important to the next good White Sox team.
So now, we just have to wait and watch. Wait through another year of White Sox futility, and watch another year of Chris Sale dominance. If the White Sox play their cards right, maybe someday Sale will dominate on a White Sox team worth watching.