Chris Sale is among an elite 16 pitchers who have had seven seasons of 200+ strikeout in a year. He has also accomplished this feat in seven straight years! While he hasn’t been great recently, I have no doubt that he will bounce back to star form and possibly add on an eighth in the future. Among former Red Sox greats, current stars and more, here I compare his career at age 30 to the rest at age 30.
Red Sox Legends
Chris Sale is of course not the only Red Sox pitcher to have accomplished this impressive stretch of success. There have been two other Red Sox players that have accomplished this feat, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. They have of course had a more successful career than Sale, but there is plenty of time for him to gather more accolades. Clemens had his last 200+ strikeout season at the age of 41. Pedro had his last at 33, but that was due to his lack of games after that said season. Sale is only 30, and his competitive nature and skill will allow him to continue for many more years. Also, they all got their first 150+ strikeout season at the age of 23.
But what makes Chris Sale’s chances of equaling or passing them in strikeout records is the fact that he has completed the seven 200+ strikeout seasons at the age of 30. Clemens did it at 29, and Pedro at 31. Sale has also just passed Pedro as the fastest pitcher to 2,000 career strikeouts. As we are about to dive into a little deeper, their career stats by the age of 30 also are very similar.
Clemens and Pedro
At 30 Sale and Clemens both have a similar amount of games played, but Clemens had about 600 more innings. Sale also has almost half as many walks, yet extraordinary almost the same amount of strikeouts. Their ERA’s are also very similar, Sale at 3.02 and Clemens with 2.94. Their only big differences is the fact that Clemens won way more, 163 wins to Sale’s 110, and Sale allowed less baserunners (by both less hits and walks). Accolade-wise, Chris Sale has had more All-Star appearances (7 to 5). Roger Clemens had three years getting in top five for the Cy Young, winning all three. On the other hand, Sale has had six, but hasn’t won any. This gives an insight into Sale’s consistency as one of the best pitchers in the league. These similarities gives me hope that Sale could one day be on Clemens’ level.
There is a bit of a larger gap between Martinez and Sale. Like Clemens, Pedro has a better winning record and ERA than Sale. Pedro happens to have Sale slightly beat in most categories, except Sale still holds the edge in walks and hits against. I won’t get as in-depth between these two, as 30-year-old Pedro has Sale beat. But what Sale could possibly beat Pedro in is longevity, as Martinez’s career started going downhill at age 34 (as mentioned above). But unlike Pedro, Sale doesn’t have any sign of being injury-prone. Of course that could develop, like it did to Martinez, but Alex Cora has been trying everything to make sure Sale won’t burn himself out. Pedro will be the guy that Sale will be compared to if Sale stays on the Sox late in his career.
We truly live in an age of great players, especially at the pitching position. Besides Sale, Cy Young Award winning pitchers Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw have also all cracked the seven season, 200+ strikeout club. We have seen this pitchers battle it out against each other, and Sale has recently got the upper hand on them in the playoffs. But here we’re focused on them all at year 30, which all of the other pitchers have passed.
Verlander, Scherzer, and Kershaw
The oldest of the bunch, Verlander, has gotten better than age. So the fact that Sale has outperformed Justin at age 30 is not too surprising. Sale has a better ERA, WHIP, less hits, and less walks all in more games and very similar inning numbers. He is unfortunately beaten once again in the win column, but I still blame the bad White Sox teams he has been on, and also the fact that the Red Sox can never seem to put up runs when he pitches. Sale also has more top-5 Cy Young finishes and All-Star selections than Verlander had at the same age. If Sale can accomplish the same longevity than I can’t even predict the comparisons we will be making.
Like with Verlander, Sale has the better of Max in the categories of ERA, WHIP, and walks in 200 more innings. Kershaw is a different monster, similar to Martinez. Clayton is a special player, who in all honesty has a lot on Sale. While I don’t doubt Sale has a shot at having a better career than Verlander or Scherzer, I don’t honestly think he could surpass Kershaw. To sum everything up simply, these three are the reasons why Sale doesn’t yet have a Cy Young. Yet he is still on the path to being one of the greatest players of his time.
The Rest of The Club
There are other players who are part of the group, like Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Bob Gibson, Mickey Lolich, and David Cone, that I won’t get too far in-depth on. I have instead decided to highlight comparisons between the best I have not yet mentioned: Randy Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver, and Walter Johnson.
Early in his career, Johnson did not have as quick a start as Sale did. It took Sale roughly three years to become a known star. For Randy, it took about six years. Sale has a career ERA of 3.02, while at 30 Johnson had one of 3.70! He also won more games, which is not a trend with most of the players in this article. Sale has much less walks than Randy, yet has played about 33% more. Sale also had four more All-Star appearances, four more top five Cy Young finishes, and three more years of him having MVP votes. He has quite simply had an all around better career than Johnson did at 30.
Age 30 Tom Seaver is far ahead of Sale, like Pedro. I mean, Seaver had three Cy Young awards by Sale’s age. Sale beats him in the walks department, but not much else. Like with Pedro, if Sale can continue his success late into his career, then he will be compared to the very best like Seaver.
Bert is very similar to Chris Sale. They both have great control and relatively low walk numbers. Sale has beaten Blyleven in the category of hits, and even winning percentage, but that may be because Blyleven started at 19 years old and got more playing time. His career is very similar to Sale. In the fact that while they both were/are great pitchers, yet aren’t the best pitcher in the league. They both are very consistent, no spectacular seasons and also no terrible seasons. I would say that Sale’s first step to getting on the same level as Randy Johnson and the next player I will discuss is to pass Blyleven. I think that is not a hard thing to imagine.
A true great of his time, Johnson is considered by some to be the best pitcher ever. He, like Sale, utilized great ball control, which in turn doesn’t allow many baserunners. He won the MVP at the age of 25, and would most likely have won multiple Cy Young Awards if it was a thing back then. Chris Sale has the same skill-set as many of these pitchers, like Walter Johnson, which personally gives me hope that he can reach heights close to that of some all time greats.
Very few people have been this good and consistent this early in their careers. I consider Chris Sale a top 100 pitcher of all time, in the 90’s for now. He can quite quickly become the best pitcher in the league as the current stars continue to regress. It is hard to remember how good Sale is during his worst career year this year, but he has shown signs of last year recently. If he truly has returned to the Chris Sale we know and love, then one day his name will be mention among the likes of Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Clayton Kershaw as one of the best pitchers ever.