By Matt Abbatacola–

(CBS) Since the start of the 2012 MLB season, three pitchers have consistently stood out among all starters: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale.

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Other pitchers may have had better individual seasons during that span, but no one has been as great or as consistent over the last four-plus seasons as that trio.

Kershaw has been a 33.6 WAR pitcher since Opening Day of 2012, while Scherzer checks in at 28.5 and Sale at 26.5 using Baseball Reference’s metric. Kershaw has finished in the top 10 in WAR for pitchers every season since 2012 and has never finished lower than third in any season. He has by far been the best. Scherzer and Sale have finished in the top 10 four times, and the drop-off from Sale to the fourth-best pitcher over that time period is significant.

For general managers, having one of these three starting pitchers in their rotation would be a dream. That said, building a consistent winner around these aces is still a difficult task.

These three aces have made 15 postseason starts since 2012: Kershaw with eight, Scherzer with seven while Sale has yet to get there. Only Scherzer’s Tigers made the World Series, getting swept by the Giants back in 2012.

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Looking at the last four World Series winners, none had someone finish in the top 10 of WAR for pitchers. In 2012, Matt Cain led the Giants at 3.7, good for 20th in MLB, per Fangraphs. In 2013, Jon Lester led the Red Sox at 3.5, which was 32nd.

In 2014, Madison Bumgarner paced the Giants at 3.9, 18th-best. Last season, Edinson Volquez led the Royals at 2.6, which ranked 40th.

Since 2000, a World Series champion has had a pitcher finish in the top 10 in WAR on five occasions. Among those occurrences, two teams had two pitchers finish in the top 10. The 2004 Red Sox had Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez finishing fifth and ninth, respectively. The 2001 Diamondbacks had Randy Johnson and Schilling finish first and second in WAR, respectively.

It’s with all that in mind that I don’t envy White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who has a really difficult decision to make in the offseason regarding what to do with Sale and left-hander Jose Quintana — to trade or not to trade? Sale has been an elite pitcher since becoming a full-time starter in 2012, and Quintana is currently ninth among MLB pitchers with a WAR at 3.5.

As Hahn and the White Sox move forward, they’ll take with them their experiences and the knowledge that recent history shows having the best pitchers in the game for a particular season doesn’t promise anything for the postseason, including even getting there.

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Matt Abbatacola is a producer, host and update anchor at 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MattAbbatacola and email him at