SP Chris Sale, Red Sox (11–4, 2.75 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 12.5 K/9, 3.8 WAR)
SP Jason Vargas, Royals (12–3, 2.62 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 6.6 K/9, 4.1 WAR)
SP Ervin Santana, Twins (10–6, 2.99 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.4 WAR)
SP Dallas Keuchel, Astros (9–0, 1.67 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 WAR)
SP Corey Kluber, Indians (7–3, 2.85 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 11.7 K/9, 3.3 WAR)
I’d be tempted to start Vargas as a reward for his stupendous first half that has helped keep the Royals in the playoff hunt, but if the opposition is Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, then Sale has to be on the hill. As Tom Verducci noted in his Mid-Year Report, Bill James once said that players get a one-year exemption when arriving in Boston because of the change in environment; Sale hasn't needed such grace period. He’s achieved double-digit strikeouts in 12 of his 18 starts and hasn’t walked more than three hitters in a game this season (and has only reached that number twice).
Vargas has simply been a master of getting soft contact this season and currently leads the American League with a 174 ERA+. It’d be nice to see him start the game, but it remains unlikely. Santana continues his role as the rubber-armed ace in Minnesota, where he’s finished four complete games and three shutouts. He’s never spectacular, but he’s sure dependable. Keuchel would have been the starter had he not been injured at the beginning of June, and Kluber has rediscovered his dominant form—he’s logged double-digit strikeouts in five consecutive starts—after scuffling through April.