Chris Sale is a monster. Before the season, Jay(Wrong) gathered and tallied the 2014 Official Razzball Picks. And I have to state, at this point, my choices are making me look stupid so far: ROY = Nick Castellanos; Sleeper = Justin Ruggiano; Come Back = Mitch Moreland (although he does still have an elite fly ball and home run average distance); Bust = Jose Bautista, not; MVPitcher = Danny Salazar (ugh).
One pick makes me still feel omniscient: Infatuation = Chris Sale.
Whenever I watch Chris Sale pitch, it looks as though he’ll throw a no-hitter on that day. In fact, prior to the season, my ballsiest prediction was associated to Chris Sale. I said that he would throw 2.5 no-hitters: 2 full no hitters plus a rain-shortened one. Irrational? Two starts ago on 5/27, he threw 3 no-hit innings with 4 k’s. The game was shortened by rain. Two more darn innings and I would have been 0.5 no-hitters toward my 2.5 no-hitter projection! What did he do on short rest a game later?: 9 innings with only 2 hits (9K:0BB). What did he do the two games prior to the rain-shortened game:
5-22: 6 IP – 1 Hit – 10K – 0BB
4-17: 7 IP – 1 Hit – 10K – 3BB
Give me some credit. Dis shi cray.
Using a 45 IP criteria and omitting Jose Fernandez (wa waaa), Chris Sale has the best K% in baseball right now, but chances are this drops off a bit since the Contact rate (16th) and Swinging Strike rate (15th) don’t thoroughly match up even though it’s approaching his 2011 career-best rates. As it relates, his BB% (5% as the 25th best rate) should also jump a bit, but he did sustain 5.3% last year.
He’s also a bit lucky in the BABIP department right now. You might think of it as being uber-lucky (.173 vs. a .279 career rate), but his stuff is dancing, his line drive rate dropped while the fly ball rate jumped. It’s on this last note where the other luck factor comes in. With an 11.3% homerun to flyball career ratio, he’s only at 5.3% right now. With the assumption these regress back to his career norms, we’re still looking at an elite 2.50 to 2.75 ERA vs. the 1.95 we see now. Buy high guy.
Here is the good news: “Pitch F/x-Master-Flex”
Chris Sale (with the assumption that he stays healthy as the constant caveat), has my favorite repertoire in the bigs – one pitch better than Matt Harvey from a ground ball induction perspective. He’s got a devastating fastball-changeup combo and mixes in a slider that induces an elite whiff-rate and a sinker that (at least in the past) induces a solid groundball rate.
According to Baseball Prospectus’ Pitch F/X leaderboard, here are Sale’s career and 2014 whiff/swing, velocity and ground ball to fly ball rates and ranks:
|Fastball||FB Whiff/Swing||FB Velo||GB/FB|
|All Years (’07-14)||19.47% (66th)||94.47 (42nd)||1.25 (134th)|
|2014 (200 P Min)||19.47% (26th)||94.47 (19th)||1.22 (58th)|
|Circle Change||CH Whiff/Swing||CH Velo||GB/FB|
|All Years (’07-14)||34.91% (48th)||85.17||4.33 (10th)|
|2014 (200 P Min)||34.91% (13th)||85.17 (12th)||4.33 (9th)|
|Slider||SL Whiff/Swing||SL Velo||GB/FB|
|All Years (’07-14)||38.9% (35th)||79.19||1.7 (111th)|
|2014 (100 P min)||41.51% (19th)||81.56 (68th)||.4 (76th)|
|Sinker||SI Whiff/Swing||SI Velo||GB/FB|
|All Years (’07-14)||11.61% (149th)||91.47||3.61 (45th)|
|2014 (50 P min)||9.09% (110th)||93.41 (31st)||.5 (142nd)|
So we’re not concerned about any of the velocities – he still has a top-20 fastball/changeup velocity and solid MPH differential.
The whiff rates are also elite – on all three pitches (FB, CH & SL) that require swing and miss. The Sinker is the only concern at this point in time, but as we can see from the past, chances are it will eventually induce more grounders. If it doesn’t (or in any case), it will also get hit for more homeruns. This pitch alone is causing much of the luck: .118 batting average against while it’s at .277 for his career. Boom, found it! Heck, maybe he knew the sinker was his worst pitch so now he ensures increased velocity on it, which would somewhat sustain its success. His other pitches are still cray.
Follow Dano on Twitter @Rotobanter.