Chris Sale reached a milestone on Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles that hasn’t been done since the great Pedro Matinez in 1999. He secured his 300th strikeout against Ryan Flaherty in the bottom of the eighth with two outs, on a practically unhittable slider that just caught the inside corner.
All season long many reporters, and fans have been comparing Sale’s season to Pedro Martinez’s record breaking season in 1999. Well for anyone who has made that comparision or even thinks that the two are even in the same atmosphere, you need to get your eyes checked.
What Pedro did in 1999 was the greatest single season pitching perfomance in MLB history, and while l didn’t witness it live, I’ve seen almost every single one of his starts on tape, and let me tell you something: Sale looks pedestrian incomparison.
Now don’t get me wrong Sale has been excellent this season, and without him who knows were the Red Sox would be. But he has had his struggles against quality opponents and has been inconsistent at times. Let’s break down the two seasons side by side for anyone who has their doubts.
For starters Pedro Martinzez pitched in the height of the steroid era, were your no-name second basemen was hitting 30-35 homers. Yet Pedro still had a 2.07 ERA and a record of 23-4. When Pedro was on the mound that year you knew he was going to dominate every single game.
While there is definitely some steroids in the modern day game and juiced balls, its nothing close to what was going on in 1999. Sale has a 2.75 ERA and a 17-7 record which is nothing to sneeze at but considering the circumstances, Pedro blows him out of the water.
The 300 strikeouts is the biggest sticking point in the argument however. Baseball is having a record setting year for homeruns and strikeouts. Currently there are twelve pitchers with 200 plus strikeouts, and five pitchers with 190+ strikeouts, so there is a potential to have seventeen 200 strikeout pitchers this year. In 1999 Martinez led the A.L. with 300 strikeouts, the next closest pitcher was Chuck Finley with 200.
So that kind of dampens the value of the 300 for Sale. But I digress, to further my point in 1999 Pedro was the most dominant pitcher in the game and it wasn’t even close. Martinez led the league in WAR that year with a ridiculous 9.7, Chris Sale has a 6.1 WAR which isn’t even the best among pitchers.
Now that we have covered all of the stats that dismiss this argument, let’s go a little more conventional. Let’s use the eyeball test.
Sale has looked hittable this year and while he is a freak he doesn’t have what Martinez had in 1999. Now that’s not a slight on Sale rather it should tell you how damn filthy Martinez was that year. Martinez was the closest thing you’ll ever witness to an unhittable pitcher. He wasn’t a thrower like some players, rather he was a pitcher. The surgical approach he took every single game just picking apart each batter, making them look like bat boys was absolutely marvelous to witness.
Comparing anyone to Martinez in 1999 is unfair, so while Sale has been excellent this year, he isn’t on the same level that Pedro was.