Chris Sale’s dominant outing helps a strong Cy Young case

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Chris Sale didn’t need another complete game to make his case for the American League Cy Young Award, but it certainly didn’t hurt. After taking a perfect game through 4 ⅓ during Friday’s 7-1 win over the Royals, Sale lost the bid on a Salvador Perez ground ball, then carried the White Sox through another 4 ⅔ frames for his sixth complete game of the season.

Even without the perfect game, Sale was outstanding. He tossed 8 ⅓ innings before pitching to a batter on a full count and racked up 10 strikeouts in his fourth double-strikeout outing of 2016. In the fifth inning, the Royals broke through on a two-RBI single by Hunter Dozier that hinged on a throwing error from shortstop Tyler Saladino, then knocked in another two runs in the sixth on a Whit Merrifield triple and Kendrys Morales line drive. In every other inning, however, none of the Royals’ batters made it past first base, and Sale escaped with his 3.03 ERA largely intact.

Of the myriad ways to dissect a pitcher’s case for Cy Young, Sale has distinguished himself most notably in traditional metrics. His ERA is second-best among American League starters, and his 3.43 FIP ranks fourth alongside White Sox teammate Jose Quintana. Chicago’s ace has proven one of the most durable pitchers in the AL, pitching 201 ⅔ innings heading into Friday and ranking just behind David Price for the second-most innings in the league.

Sale hit his stride during the second half of the year, where he’s currently the second-most valuable pitcher behind 20-game winner Rick Porcello, touting 2.2 fWAR since the All-Star break and a sub-3.00 ERA and FIP of 2.47 and 2.96, respectively.

Despite high marks, the left-hander is still trailing frontrunners like Justin Verlander and Masahiro Tanaka in peripherals like K/9 and BB/9. In the second half, Sale improved his K/9 from 8.86 to 9.63 and watched his walk rate slip from 1.87 in the first half to 2.00 in the second half. Overall, he’s walking about as many batters per nine innings as he did during his 6.2 fWAR, Cy Young-contending 2015 season, but his strikeouts have plummeted from last year’s career-best mark of 11.82 K/9 — a number that could be difficult to rectify over his last three starts of 2016.

Of course, if Sale can pull off another three wins by the end of the year, coming in just behind Rick Porcello and J.A. Happ with a 19-8 record, if he can shave off a few points from his ERA and boost his fWAR over 5.0 wins, if the White Sox can dig around in their pockets for more than 4.17 runs of support every time their ace takes the mound, maybe he can narrow the gap between third-best in the American League and first. It’s a lot of pressure to place on the last two weeks of what has otherwise been a fairly mediocre season for the White Sox, but if Friday’s gem was any indication, Sale should be up to the challenge.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.