6. Boston Red Sox (81–62, plus-93, LT: 4)
Chris Sale vs. Cleveland, 2017: 8 IP, 8 K, 4 BB, 15 H, 14.63 ERA
Chris Sale vs. everyone else, 2017: 187 ⅔ IP, 270 K, 34 BB, 132 H, 2.25 ERA
According to Fangraphs, Sale leads all American League players—pitchers or position players—in wins above replacement by a wide margin. You can make a strong case that his off-the-charts numbers, while pitching as a lefty in front of the Green Monster for half his starts, makes him worthy of the AL Most Valuable Player award. But Sale’s horrendous numbers against Cleveland, combined with Cleveland staff ace Corey Kluber’s astonishing performance since his June 1 return from the disabled list (194 strikeouts in 138 ⅓ innings, 1.89 ERA), could mean that Sale doesn’t win either of the AL’s two biggest awards.
Of course, that’s just hardware. Sale matching up with Cleveland and Kluber in the ALCS, with redemption and a trip to the World Series on the line, would make for some fascinating theater.