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Numbers Tell The Tale For Chris Sale

Photo Courtesy of SI.com


There is something about Red Sox ace Chris Sale which has not been quite right during the first half of 2018.  Sale is still one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, but he has not pitched with the dominance he demonstrated upon his arrival in Boston in 2017.

In the first few games of the season, Sale’s fastball velocity was topping off in the low 90’s, compared to the 97-98 he displayed in the first half of 2018.  In addition, he has struggled to command his slider and utilize it as a put-away pitch.

A comparison of general pitching stats from the first 13 games of this season to the first 13 games of 2017 indicate Sale is performing at virtually the same level as he was last season. 
Season
GS
ERA
IP
H
K/9
BB/9
WHIP
AVG
2018
13
3.00
81
58
12.2
2.3
0.98
.195
2017
13
2.97
91
71
12.5
1.7
0.96
.207

While most of Sale’s number in 2018 are nearly the same as 2017, there is a glaring difference in the number of innings pitched.  Sale is averaging nearly one less inning pitched per start in 2018 compared to 2017 (7.0 vs 6.23).  Sale has pitched into the seventh inning in only five of his 13 starts this season.  In 2017, Sale pitched into the seventh inning in ten of his first 13 starts, and into the eighth inning in four.

The reason for the disparity?  Sale’s numbers in the first inning and first time through the order tell the story.

First inning
Season
GS
ER
ERA
H
K/9
BB/9
WHIP
AVG
2018
13
6
4.15
13
15.9
3.5
1.39
.250
2017
13
3
2.08
6
14.5
1.4
0.62
.130

First time through the order
Season
IP
ER
ERA
H
K/9
BB/9
WHIP
AVG
2018
27.1
11
3.62
25
13.5
3.0
1.24
.236
2017
31.1
4
1.15
18
16.1
1.1
0.70
.159

For whatever reason, Sale is having difficulties early in the game, which is driving up his pitch count and forcing him out of games earlier.  Walks and hits allowed are up dramatically, and strikeouts are equally down.  Batters are taking a more aggressive approach against Sale early in the count, particularly sitting on his fastball.  All of these indicators endorse the impression that Sale is simply not the same pitcher this year.

Next Start

Sale’s next start comes tonight against his former team, the Chicago White Sox.  In his lone start against the ChiSox in 2017, Sale was tagged for five runs in just five innings, allowing nine hits and giving up a home run.  Sale was admittedly emotional in last season’s start in Chicago, and it definitely affected his performance.  It will be interesting to see how he handles the 20-40 White Sox.


Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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