Chris Sale Strikes Hitters Out At An Historic Rate
|Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports|
For Chris Sale, though, it's below average.
In fact, if Sale were to maintain the same pace all season, the 9.0 K/9 would be tied for the lowest in his career, as that's the same rate he struck out hitters back in 2012, his first season as a starting pitcher. That number would jump up to 9.5 in 2013, 10.8 in 2014, and it peaked at an insane 11.8 in 2015, which led baseball last season.
Over his career Sale has a K/9 of 10.28, which is really good.
In fact, a quick trip to Baseball Reference shows that it's historically good. One of the best of all time.
I looked up the numbers of American League pitchers who have made at least 100 career American League starts. I chose these parameters because 100 starts is a nice bench number, and because including National League starts would skew the numbers a little bit.
National League pitchers get to face pitchers, after all, while American League starters are dealing with designated hitters multiple times per start.
So where did Sale rank?
Only second all time, behind some guy named Pedro Martinez, and ahead of stiffs like Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.
Since K/9 numbers can be a bit misleading -- a pitcher could conceivably allow 3 hits per inning while getting three strikeouts -- I also looked up the K rate numbers (percentage of batters faced struck out) and not much changes.
Now, one thing that needs to be mentioned here is the time in which Sale is pitching. You'll notice that of the top 10 names on the two lists, five are still active, though both Max Scherzer and Francisco Liriano have moved on to the National League. There's no denying that we're living at a time when hitters are striking out at a very high rate, and it's inflating the numbers of pitchers everywhere.
What Sale has done thus far, however, is still very impressive, and a helluva lot of fun to watch.
But he needs to pick it up this season if he's going to catch Pedro Martinez and stay ahead of Randy Johnson. This 9.0 K/9 may be good for regular stiffs like Sam McDowell (a K/9 of 9.0 would rank 11th, just behind McDowell and ahead of Herb Score), but it's not good enough for Chris Sale.
Pick up the pace, Chris. Pass Pedro.