Chris Sale Is Realistically On Pace For 3,500+ Career Strikeouts [UPDATED]
Author's note: Last year I wrote this piece profiling Chris Sale's incredible strikeout statistics in his first four seasons as a starter with the White Sox. Since then, he has endured a few locker room scandals. He has also continued to be an absolute strikeout monster, improving on his already record-breaking pace. I have adjusted his stats below*, in bold, to account for his updated career pace.
Chris Sale has been an absolutely beast over the past couple of years, and is continuing his meteoric rise as the MLB strikeout king. Sale has struck out 29 batters in his last two starts, which is a White Sox franchise record in back-to-back games. Just to give you an even greater sense of how dominant he has been this season, check out these tweets from Comcast SportsNet Chicago's Chris Kamka.
He is not only the best strikeout pitcher in baseball, he is the best by far. And while this season has been impressive, especially lately, he's been pretty damn good in his last years since being added to the starting rotation. Sale, who has been with the White Sox for all six seasons of his MLB seasons, has accumulated 848 strikeouts in 110 games since 2012. He's been the starter in 109 of them, and he has played in a total of 189 games over his six years since 2010.
I broke down just what it would look like if he continues at his current pace, and the numbers are staggering. Here's a look at the list of Career Strikeout Leaders per the hallowed BaseballReference.com. These are the 16 pitchers all-time that have accumulated 3,000+ strikeouts in their careers.
Statistic Description: Strikeouts
|Rank||Player (yrs, age)||Strikeouts||Throws|
|1.||Nolan Ryan+ (27)||5714||R|
|2.||Randy Johnson+ (22)||4875||L|
|3.||Roger Clemens (24)||4672||R|
|4.||Steve Carlton+ (24)||4136||L|
|5.||Bert Blyleven+ (22)||3701||R|
|6.||Tom Seaver+ (20)||3640||R|
|7.||Don Sutton+ (23)||3574||R|
|8.||Gaylord Perry+ (22)||3534||R|
|9.||Walter Johnson+ (21)||3509||R|
|10.||Greg Maddux+ (23)||3371||R|
|11.||Phil Niekro+ (24)||3342||R|
|12.||Fergie Jenkins+ (19)||3192||R|
|13.||Pedro Martinez+ (18)||3154||R|
|14.||Bob Gibson+ (17)||3117||R|
|15.||Curt Schilling (20)||3116||R|
|16.||John Smoltz+ (21)||3084||R|
The + next to each name indicates that they are a Hall of Famer. You'll notice the only person who is not yet a Hall of Famer is Curt Schilling, who most assume is bound to get in eventually. He's been passed over the last three years, but has seven more chances to make it in.
Okay, moving on.
Of these sixteen pitchers, only three of them averaged below 29 games played per season in their career: Curt Schilling (28.5), Pedro Martinez (26.4) and Randy Johnson (28.09). Since all of these players are the most recent crop of Hall of Fame caliber pitchers, I decided to start out calculating according to the theory that Chris Sale will average 28 games played per season over the rest of his career. Obviously that's on the low end, but that keeps these numbers extra realistic.
Then I considered that of all of those sixteen pitchers, only Bob Gibson played for less than 18 years. So I decided that 18 years in the MLB is a fair place to start for Sale as well.
Sale has recorded 848 strikeouts in 110 games since 2012 - the year he was added to the starting rotation. That's an average of 7.71 strikeouts per game.
If Sale plays 12 more years (for a career total of 18 years) and averages 28 games per year, he will play in 336 more games.
If Sale continues to average 7.71 strikeouts per game over 336 more games, he will accumulate 2,590.6 more strikeouts.
If you add that to his current career strikeout total of 959, and you add those 336 games to his current 189 (total over six years) his projected total career strikeouts over a hypothetical 18 year, 525 game career is 3,550 strikeouts. That total would supplant Gaylord Perry at 8th all-time.
*Sale has recorded 1,105 strikeouts in 144 starts since 2012 - the year he was added to the starting rotation. That's an average of 7.67 strikeouts per game.
If Sale plays 11 more years (for a career total of 18 years) and averages 28 games per year, he will play in 308 more games.
If Sale continues to average 7.67 strikeouts per game over 308 more games, he will accumulate 2,362 more strikeouts.
If you add that to his current career strikeout total of 1,216, and you add those 308 games to his current 224 (total over seven seasons so far) his projected total career strikeouts of a hypothetical 18-year, 532-game career is 3,578 strikeouts.That total would supplant Don Sutton as 7th all-time.
Keep in mind that I calculated this based on what his numbers would be if the season ended today. He will obviously start more games and record more strikeouts this season. I did not take any of those into account here.
Of course career longevity and consistency is something that cannot be predicted from player to player; but it paints a picture of what Sale is capable of if he stays healthy and continues at this pace. That's quite a legacy he has the opportunity to create for himself. Baseball fans everywhere should know that they are watching someone who isn't just amazing right now but could possibly become an all-time great.
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