Chris Sale is having a fantastic season in his first year for the Boston Red Sox.
In fact, Sale has been so dominant that he has drawn comparisons to one of the greatest statistical seasons in Major League Baseball history — Pedro Martinez’s ridiculous 1999 season.
Earlier this year, Sale struck out double-digit batters in eight consecutive games, matching a record that was set by Martinez. He also currently has a strikeout percentage of 36.1, which would be the third highest in baseball history since 1961, should he finish at that mark.
But as dominant as Sale has been, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight determined that his 2017 season still is nowhere near the greatness that Martinez exhibited in 1999.
And its rationale is that while Sale has racked up the strikeouts this season, the fact that big league hitters are striking out at the highest clip in history makes his season less impressive.
FiveThirtyEight decided the best way to measure the greatness of strikeout pitchers is to see how much better they were than the league average. And in this model, Martinez, who struck out 37.5 percent of hitters in 1999, was 21.1 percent better than the league average. That just barely beat out Randy Johnson’s 2001 season where he bested the league average by 20.1 percent.
Sale, on the other hand, checks in at 14.5 percent above league average, the 20th best differential in baseball history.
Not surprisingly, Martinez (2000) and Johnson (2000, 1995) took home the other three spots in the top five, as well.
Boston’s lefty still is on pace to strike out 324 batters this season, a number that only has been topped by Johnson since 1990. Sale also reached 200 strikeouts in 141 1/3 innings, the fastest in American League history.
That’s not too shabby if you ask us.
Thumbail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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