Sale has compelling case for AL Cy Young

Red Sox lefty struck out 308, led Majors in K/9, but Kluber is formidable opponent

Sale has compelling case for AL Cy Young

BOSTON -- Once again, Chris Sale is knocking on the door for the American League Cy Young Award. This time, the lanky lefty hopes to bring home the trophy for the first time after finishing in the top five the past four years.

Sale's first season with the Red Sox was electric and Cy Young-caliber, but he faces a formidable opponent in Indians right-hander Corey Kluber, who is viewed by some as the favorite.

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The Cy Young Awards in both leagues will be announced on Wednesday during an MLB Network special that starts at 6 p.m. ET. Yankees right-hander Luis Severino is the third finalist in the AL.

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Looking at the impressive numbers of Sale and Kluber across the board, they are all but certain to finish first and second, in some order.

Sale's case for the Cy Young Award is backed by an overpowering season in which he more than rose to the challenge of pitching in the offensive-minded AL East for the first time in his career.

When it came to the strikeout, Sale set himself apart in 2017 with 308. Kluber was second in the AL with 265. The only pitcher in baseball to come within 40 K's of Sale was National League Cy Young Award finalist Max Scherzer, who had 268 punchouts.

To put into perspective how hard it is to strike out 300 batters in a season, consider that it's only been done 35 times since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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Sale joined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in Red Sox history to reach the milestone. And Sale finished just five K's behind the 313 that Martinez racked up in 1999 for the team's single-season record.

Fenway Park always buzzed with excitement during Sale's starts, and he led the Majors with 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings, the third-best K/9 rate among starting pitchers in MLB history behind Randy Johnson's 13.4 in 2001 and Martinez's 13.2 in '99.

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One thing that was key for Boston was that Sale didn't have to sacrifice control for his power. His impressive 7.16 K/BB ratio was second in MLB to Kluber (7.36).

Not only was Sale nasty, but he was durable. He made all 32 of his starts and led the Majors in innings with 214 1/3.

Though Sale had some struggles down the stretch, he finished with a 17-8 mark, a 2.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. By comparison, Kluber went 18-4 with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.

If Sale can beat out Kluber and Severino, he would give the Red Sox Cy Young Awards in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Martinez captured the award in '99-00. Rick Porcello won it last year.

The Red Sox made a blockbuster trade at last year's Winter Meetings, sending top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech to the White Sox as part of the package to bring in Sale, one of the most dominant pitchers in the game.

Sale and Scherzer are the only pitchers with 200-plus strikeouts in each of the past five seasons.

In 10 of Sale's 32 starts, he did not allow a run, joining Babe Ruth and Martinez as the only pitchers in Red Sox history to have that many scoreless outings in a season.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.