Monday, July 7, 2014
Player A: 13 starts, 10-2, 1.85 ERA, 87.1 IP, 115 Ks, 12 BBs, 0.87 WHIP, .199 BAA
Player B: 13 starts, 8-1, 2.16 ERA, 87.1 IP, 96 Ks, 16 BBs, 0.87 WHIP, .194 BAA
Player A is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is quite rightfully recognized as the best pitcher in the game.
Player B is Chris Sale of the White Sox, who doesn't get much publicity because, well, he plays for the "second team in the Second City."
The two pitchers have made the same number of starts and thrown the same number of innings this season. Kershaw has a slightly better ERA and a few more strikeouts, which you would expect for a National League pitcher who gets to strike out the opposing team's pitcher on a regular basis. However, the WHIPs of the two pitchers are identical, and Sale has a slight edge in opponents' batting average.
You would think both of these pitchers would be no-brainer selections to the All-Star Game. Kershaw was rightfully chosen and is a candidate to start the game for the National League. Sale, meanwhile, is relegated to the fan vote, where he will compete with Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello, Garrett Richards and Corey Kluber for the final roster spot.
No offense to any of those other four men, who are all having good seasons, but Sale is better than all of them and should have been selected to the team without having to go through this vote. The White Sox are not contending in the American League this year, but if you're a fan of an AL contender, and you want homefield advantage in the World Series, you want Sale on that AL roster. He's the best left-handed pitcher in the league by any measure.
I know some people say Sale missed time with an injury early in the season. They might say he doesn't merit selection because of that. To that, I say nonsense. Kershaw also missed time due to injury early this season. That doesn't change the fact that he belongs in the All-Star Game.
Again, Kershaw and Sale have made the same number of starts this season. In my world, they should both be candidates to start the All-Star Game, early-season injuries be damned.
To be honest, I can't devise a system that would result in complete fairness in terms of All-Star Game selections. No matter who votes -- fans, media, players, managers -- they all bring their biases with them. There always have been snubs, and there always will be snubs.
I just happen to think Sale is the biggest snub this year, and I hope he gets the last spot with the fan vote. Since the All-Star Game "counts" these days, you want the best players representing your league. Sale is clearly in that category.
Friday, May 30, 2014
The list always elicits a bit of a chuckle, as if anyone in their right mind would ever attempt to vote Alejandro De Aza into the All-Star Game. And last year, it would have been embarrassing to say you voted for any of the Sox' position players. None deserved the honor, and none were selected. Pitchers Chris Sale and Jesse Crain represented the club at the 2013 event.
This year is different, though. There actually are three Sox position players worth All-Star consideration. I'd go as far as saying one of them deserves your vote. Here's a list of Sox players who might make the trip to Minneapolis for the July 15 midsummer classic:
1. Alexei Ramirez - He has been the best shortstop in the American League this year. Based on merit, he deserves to start. Too bad he won't. In case you've been in a coma the past few months, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season. The 39-year-old isn't the player he used to be, but there's no doubt the fans will give the future Hall of Famer the starting nod based on sentiment.
But, Ramirez is an easy choice for the next guy in line at shortstop. Entering Friday's play, he's tied for second in the league with a .327 batting average. His OPS is a career-high .843. He's got seven home runs, 36 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. After a poor defensive season last year, he's returned to form this season with just four errors to go along with a host of spectacular plays.
If he you believe in advanced metrics, Ramirez ranks eighth in the AL in offensive WAR, seventh in defensive WAR and fifth in the league in overall WAR. And, oh yeah, he's started all 55 White Sox games at shortstop.
He's the White Sox' MVP this year. He's got my vote.
2. Jose Abreu - The slugging first baseman has been on the disabled list for nearly two weeks, yet he still ranks third in the AL in home runs (15), fourth in RBIs (42), fourth in extra base hits (27) and 10th in total bases (103). The Sox' lineup looks different this year when Abreu is in it. He's a guy that pitchers fear every time he steps in the batters box, and the Sox haven't had that element since Jim Thome left the team.
First base is a crowded position in the American League, though. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion has had a monster month of May and probably deserves to start, although Detroit's Miguel Cabrera will get the nod based upon his past track record. Albert Pujols (14 home runs) has regained his power stroke this year, and Brandon Moss has had a fine season for Oakland.
There's no shortage of competition among first basemen, so Abreu will need to get back in the lineup soon to have a shot at being selected. Reports indicate he will come off the disabled list the first day he is eligible -- June 2. If Abreu jumps back in and continues hitting like he did the first six or seven weeks of the season, he's got a great chance.
3. Conor Gillaspie - Bet you never thought you'd see Gillaspie's name on a list like this. I'm not going to tell you to vote for Gillaspie to start, because Oakland's Josh Donaldson is the best third baseman in the American League -- both offensively and defensively. In fact, Donaldson is an MVP candidate to this point in the season because he is the best player on a first-place team.
That said, it's hard to ignore Gillaspie's .352/.394/.461 slash line, especially since third base isn't among the stronger positions in the American League. Gillaspie had a two-week stint on the disabled list earlier this year, which means he doesn't have quite enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. But, if he did, he'd be leading the league in hitting right now.
I'm not convinced Gillaspie is going to keep up the pace. Nothing about his track record suggests he will. However, if he stays hot for another couple weeks, he might find himself in Minnesota on July 15.
4. Sale -- The fans don't get to vote for pitchers, and I think Sale is a longshot to be chosen this year because he missed a whole month with an arm injury. But, he's been his usual dominant self when healthy -- 4-0 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts.
If "this one counts," as they say about the All-Star Game now, Sale is one of the pitchers who would give the American League the best opportunity to win. Left-handed hitters are batting .000 against him this season. I could see him being added to the All-Star roster just for the sake of being used as a situational left-hander in the late innings.
That said, I won't be upset if Sale doesn't get chosen this year. Coming off an arm injury, I just assume he not waste any of his bullets in the All-Star Game. As we've said in the past, he's the most important player in the Sox organization, and the team needs him healthy to compete.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Pitchers Chris Sale and Jesse Crain represented the White Sox. Pitcher Travis Wood earned the lone All-Star nod for the Cubs.
Crain did not pitch because he is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Wood also did not participate, having just pitched 48 hours earlier in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
That left Sale to represent the city, and you can make a good case his performance was the most impressive in a pitching-dominated game.
Sale tossed two scoreless innings and retired all six batters he faced, earning the win in the American League's 3-0 victory.
The Sox ace entered in the second inning and retired David Wright on a grounder to third on his first pitch. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez on a slider and got Yadier Molina on a fly out to center field. Sale came back out for the third inning and fanned Troy Tulowitzki on another slider. He retired Michael Cuddyer on a tapper back to the mound and concluded his night when Bryce Harper lined out to third baseman Miguel Cabrera.
Sale's fastball touched 96 mph, and he needed only 24 pitches (17 strikes) to retire six of the best players in the National League.
There certainly weren't any hitters in this game worthy of the MVP. Not a single player had more than one hit. There wasn't anybody with more than one RBI or one run scored, either. No home runs were hit.
It was inevitable the MVP award would go to a pitcher. Sale registered six outs, more than any other American League pitcher, and he got them in quick and dominant fashion.
But alas, this year's All-Star MVP wasn't going to go to anyone other than Mariano Rivera, the future Hall of Fame closer of the New York Yankees. Rivera is retiring at the end of the season, and the night was all about recognizing his career accomplishments.
Make no mistake, Rivera did his job as usual when he entered the game in the eighth inning. He quickly retired all three National League hitters he faced. But let's be honest, he was given the MVP as a lifetime achievement award, moreso than for his performance in this particular game.
I can understand that. It's just too bad, because Sale was pretty damn good and he would have deserved it. Sale does go down as the seventh White Sox pitcher to earn a victory in the All-Star Game. Here are the six others:
1941: Edgar Smith
1958: Early Wynn
1962: Ray Herbert
1993: Jack McDowell
2000: James Baldwin
2005: Mark Buehrle