A late fade took some of the shine off Chris Sale's first season in Boston, but he was excellent for most of the year, finishing as a top-three pitcher in terms of earned 5x5 fantasy value. The lefty didn't just add back to his strikeout rate; he posted the highest K/9 of his career (12.9), boosted by 18 double-digit strikeout performances. He also had the sixth-lowest walk rate among qualified starters and kept the home runs in check at home, resulting in the best FIP among all pitchers with at least 70 innings. Sale's consistency over the years and (surprising) durability should keep him near the top of starting pitcher rankings in 2018. The only real question is: where does he fit in among the entire player universe? A case can be made for anywhere in the 10-25 range, even though he pitches in a tough division, as he has the tools to be the most valuable pitcher in fantasy baseball in 2018.
Sale acknowledged his late-season struggles in 2017 and plans to take measures to avoid a similar fate this season, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Sale admitted he was trying way too hard early in the season, ramping his fastball up to the mid-90s along with a wipeout slider in spring training. That carried over into the season's first half but was unsustainable over the long haul. His downturn started Aug. 1, when he allowed seven runs over five innings to the Indians and led to a 4.09 ERA over his final 11 starts. "You know I was new here last year. I came in and I felt like I had to prove something," Sale told reporters. "So I felt, part of me felt I had to come in and say 'hey, this is what you're getting.'" The left-hander said there's a different plan in place this year. Sale's reduced the amount of throws made during the offseason and will continue in that same vein in spring training.
Sale will remain with Boston in 2018 after the club exercised its $12.5 million option Thursday, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. In the least surprising move of the offseason, the Red Sox picked up Sale's option to keep the southpaw for another season. In addition, Boston did the same with closer Craig Kimbrel, locking up the star pitchers through 2018.
Sale will start Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday against the Astros, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports. Sale showed some signs of fatigue in the second half, but overall was very impressive in his first year with the Red Sox. The 28-year-old compiled a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 308 strikeouts in 214.1 innings during the regular season.
Sale will start Sunday's game against the Astros only if the Red Sox haven't clinched the division following Saturday's results, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Boston's magic number going into Saturday is just one, so that means a Boston win or a Yankees loss would secure the AL East division title for the Red Sox. If both of those results go against Boston, Sale will take the mound to try and avoid the club having to play a one-game playoff for the division title Monday.
Sale (17-8) suffered a loss at the hands of the Blue Jays on Tuesday after allowing five runs on eight hits -- half of which left the yard -- over five innings. He struck out eight, walked two and hit a batter. The end result was unfortunate, but Sale's 2017 strikeout total is now up to 308. With a playoff spot on lock, the Sox may use someone else when the ace lefty's turn comes up again Sunday, giving him some extra rest for the playoffs. If that is indeed what transpires, Sale will finish with a 2.90 ERA and 0.97 WHIP as well as the fifth-highest whiff count of the current millennium.