The race for most valuable player is typically headlined by a position player among the top of the leader board in one or more of the Triple Crown categories (average, home runs and RBI). But every once in a while, a pitcher comes along and throws a wrench into the works. This year, that pitcher is Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox.
Sale is in the midst of a monster season. The 28-year-old ace is setting career highs in strike out percentage (36.5 percent of batters faced, a major league high), WHIP (0.880), OPS against (0.545) and ERA (2.57, lowest in the AL). In fact, his ERA might actually be higher than it should be.
According to FIP, which measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing, Sale’s ERA should be 1.98, the lowest mark compared with the league average since Pedro Martinez had a 1.39 FIP for the Red Sox in 1999.
Sale is buzzing through the league with four pitches in his arsenal — a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider and change-up — with the fastball and slider accounting for 213 of his major league leading 229 strikeoutsthis season. His 15 games with 10 strikeouts or more this year are not only a major league best in 2017, only Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan had more games with double-digit strikeouts than Sale at this point of the season.