Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale is scheduled to pitch Friday night at Yankee Stadium. Despite a two-game losing streak, the White Sox (23-12, .657) have the best record in the American League and the second-best in baseball, behind the Chicago Cubs (25-8, .758).
The White Sox ace has been one of the best pitchers in the AL since he became a starter in 2012 — and he’s making a lot less money than his counterparts atop the league.
Sale has won his first seven starts this season and is the only pitcher in baseball with seven wins.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, should Sale win Friday, he would be the fourth White Sox pitcher to win his first eight starts, joining Eddie Cicotte (1919), John Whitehead (1935) and Jon Garland (2005), and the third to win his first eight games overall (with Whitehead and Garland).
Sale’s win total doesn’t tell the whole story.
Sale is one of five AL pitchers with an ERA below 2.00 this season, along with José Quintana, Jordan Zimmermann, Steven Wright and Danny Salazar. The difference between the four other pitchers and Sale: Sale has been a dominant force in the AL since 2012.
Fewer strikeouts, more contact, similar dominance
Sale led the AL in strikeouts last year with 274, but he ranks fifth this year with 47. Sale is using his fastball and slider more and his changeup less. He’s still getting outs. He’s just getting them differently.
Sale struck out 53 batters on his changeup last season. This year, he has two.
Instead, he’s inducing more contact — a 77 percent contact rate this season compared with 67 percent last season.
Career as a starter
Since he made his first start in 2012, Sale has been the top-ranked pitcher in the AL in a number of categories. No other pitcher has more strikeouts — not even Félix Hernández or David Price.
In the two categories Sale does not lead, he trails by decimal points. His ERA is 0.001 higher than Hernández’s, and his hard-hit rate is 0.3 percent higher than Dallas Keuchel’s.
Sale, 27, has the best WAR (24.7) of any AL pitcher since the start of the 2012 season, too, again outpacing higher-paid counterparts. Hernández, who makes $26 million, has 21.6 WAR, and Price ($30 million) has 19.9.
In March 2013, the White Sox signed Sale to a five-year, $32.5 million deal with options for 2018 and 2019. At that point, he had two seasons of relief work and one as a starter to his name. Sale, 27, has a $13.5 million team option for 2019, his age-30 season, which is far less than Hernández and Price are making in their age-30 seasons this year.