Who’s been the best starting pitcher in the American League this season? Well, how much time do you have?
There are several strong candidates to start for the AL in the 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 17. Consider this: The league’s ERA leader, Tampa Bay Rays hurler Blake Snell (2.09 ERA), didn’t even make the squad (seriously).
But there are four clear leaders to take the mound first at Nationals Park: New York Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale, Houston Astros veteran Justin Verlander and Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber.
Sale started for the AL in 2016 and 2017, and if he gets the nod this year, he’ll join Baseball Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez as the only two pitchers to start three consecutive All-Star Games.
Sale’s competition will be fierce, though. Here’s a quick tale of the tape, followed by our pick for who will pitch first for the AL:
Severino: 14-2 record, 2.12 ERA (2nd in AL), 0.96 WHIP (T-4th in AL), 143 Ks (6th in AL)
Severino has been absolutely brilliant this season, allowing two runs or fewer in all but five of his 19 outings. And while wins shouldn’t be weighted too heavily, the Yankees are 17-2 when he pitches.
Sale: 9-4, 2.36 ERA (4th), 0.89 WHIP (3rd), 176 Ks (1st)
Sale may be the hottest pitcher in the AL right now. He’s given up just one run total over his last three starts while striking out a ridiculous 36 batters in a 20-inning span. A few blips in late May and early June hurt his ERA, but other than that, Sale arguably has been the most dominant pitcher in the league.
Verlander: 9-4, 2.15 ERA (3rd), 0.84 WHIP (1st), 154 Ks (T-4th)
Verlander pitched out of his mind in April and May, but the summer hasn’t been kind to him: He’s coughed up three runs or more in four of his last six outings. The 35-year-old’s scorching start has helped him keep pace with the AL leaders, but based on recent performance, he shouldn’t get the nod here.
Kluber: 12-4, 2.49 ERA (6th), 0.88 WHIP (2nd), 143 Ks (9th)
The reigning Cy Young Award winner also has had some rough outings of late and is more of a dark horse candidate based on his numbers alone. But his six scoreless outings are no joke.
VERDICT: If the primary objective was to win (which it no longer is), Sale should get the first-inning call. He’s simply pitching better than anyone in the AL right now. But Severino has a slightly better body of work and likely will beat out Sale by a hair to earn the first All-Star start of his promising career.
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