I’ve seen the numbers. I know how to use Google. Corey Kluber’s numbers are better than Chris Sale’s numbers.
ERA: The Klubot, 2.35. The guy who cut his jersey up with scissors in the clubhouse because he didn’t want to want to wear it because it had a leisure suit COLLAR! 2.75. Don’t blame him–the jersey was horrendous.
WHIP: I love this number, because it tells us how many runners each inning a pitcher allows to reach base. W: Walks, H: hits, IP: per inning pitched. Add up the walks and hits, you get your number. The Tribe’s Chief Tecumseh: 0.85. Fenway’s mean lefty: 0.946
WHIP is a big win for Kluber. With the stratospheric rise of the home run ball, not allowing runners on base is huge. Never was there a time when one swing of the sword could turn your starters’ day from Cy Young to Cy Blanton (See Joe Blanton, 2016 NLCS, game 1). This season, the percentage of runs scored via the Bleacher Reacher is 42.3%. That’s high. On a per team analysis, six of the top 50 measures since 1950 of how many of our runs come in the souvenir type have all happened this year. Conclusion: don’t put runners on, because even their second baseman hits for power now. Also, both guys have a sub 1 WHIP. That’s real good.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a number that tells us how valuable a player is to his team. It’s one total, all-encompassing number that defines a player’s game using thousands of calculations and spits them all out into one beautiful chunk of stat, letting us compare players to other players with the ease of putting popcorn in the microwave and hitting the popcorn button. I promise if I try to explain WAR any more, it will feel like we are putting furniture together from IKEA.
Sale: 6.3 WAR. Kluber: 7.8 WAR. These numbers mean that each pitcher will win your team this many more games than an average guy you’d replace him with. Kluber’s is higher. WAR ain’t perfect. It doesn’t account for things like clutch. Or when Mike Trout was out for 6 weeks this season and his team stayed at the same win percentage. Then when he came back, they stayed at the same win percentage. No difference. Literally not one game. WAR ain’t perfect. The Indians would fare much better if Kluber was out than the Red Sox would if Sale was out. To go a step further, if every team had to lose their best player, the Red Sox would be in worse shape than any other team in baseball if Sale couldn’t play. Worse than if Altuve was out and if Judge was out. He is the most valuable player in the AL because he is the best pitcher in the AL.
The BoSox have a 4 game lead on the Bronx Bombers. Without Sale, they are in second place. Maybe. Chris Sale is ruthless. He is John Wayne with the number 41 on his back. He throws his four-seamer with an iron fist. It averages 95 mph, tops out at 100 mph, and gets more swings and misses than Florida gets meth arrests. His slider looks like it’s being controlled by a Sega controller, because the Red Sox are tech-savvy as we recently found out, and he has a changeup that gets more whiffs than Sex Panther. He is the first guy in the AL to throw 300 strikeouts in 18 years, only the 14th guy since 1920, and has a mound presence that is unmatched in all of baseball. He’s as nasty as Nolan Ryan. And it’s just that, his mound presence, the intangible anger and determination that he plays with that makes him the most valuable player, and best pitcher, in the AL. His team sees this. They feed off it.
Mound presence is a beautiful thing. Especially when your team is heading for the playoffs. The playoffs are an entirely different ballgame. Nerves are up, tension is at an all-time high, and regular season studs crumble under the pressure. Lackluster postseason stats belong to current big league pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and David Price—regular season stud horses. But they don’t have the mound presence that Chris Sale does, and when the postseason gets here, I promise you, prepare for a Chris Sale you have never seen before. Before you throw your fist through your computer screen, I understand that the AL Cy Young and MVP are regular season awards. I get it. All I want to get across is this: Chris Sale is a different machine than even The Klubot. Sale might not be a T-1000, but if him and Kluber face off in the postseason, Sale wins. Kluber has good postseason numbers, he’s not Kershaw or Price, but he isn’t carrying his team like Sale is, and he doesn’t fill the batter’s box with terror like Sale does. That side action, the look, the speed, the pace, the pure, unadulterated rage in his delivery, players stand in the box and flinch when his stuff comes at them. You can’t prepare for his four-seamer and his slider. You guess the pitch, stick your bat out and hope to get good wood. Basically, you are playing Powerball when you try to hit Sale. Also, Chris Sale spent two seasons with Mark Buehrle, one of the most intimidating and supremely confident pitchers to ever step 60 feet 6 inches from home plate, and the apple don’t fall far from the tree, kid. Batters will crumble this postseason when they see Sale on the mound.
He throws like someone just cut him off in traffic. All the time, even if he is getting blown out by a handful of runs early in a game. And I immediately think: Where are the Red Sox without him? After losing David Ortiz, having a $217 million reliever whose best performance so far has been in a Bank of America commercial with him selling ice cream to little kids, the less than stellar offensive seasons of Mookie Betts and Xander Boegarts and the failed send Travis Shaw up north and go with Kung-Fu Panda, the only way the Red Sox are in first place is because of Chris Sale. If Chris Sale isn’t in Boston, they definitely aren’t in first, and I’m not sure they even make the playoffs. And there isn’t a number that will tell you this, anywhere!
It’s Sale’s abstruse determination that he plays with when he takes the mound, infiltrating throughout the clubhouse like a kid with the stomach flu, infecting every one of his teammates, giving them the runs and leaving them throwing up everywhere with the violent drive he plays with every day, that makes him the most valuable pitcher, and player, in all of baseball. This team is dead in the water without him.
And this isn’t an indictment on Corey Kluber. I’ve been on the podcast and written about how crazy his stuff is. It’s send me to a home nuts. But I’m all gut on this one, like Bartolo. Sale is that guy. Chris Sale is the American League’s Cy Young and MVP. No question. End of story. There isn’t another pitcher in the American League that has done for his team what Sale has done for his. No numbers, no Statcast, no Sabermetrics. Just old school guts.