Welcome! Another installment of The Chris Sale Project is at hand, ready to demystify the various aspects of the performance and, if you will, existence of Chris Sale. We CSPers took to the streets to poll the fandom and determine what in particular requires address (no, not that kind). Turns out the number 1 concern was "WTF the Royals? Seriously, the flipcrappin' Royals?"
Yeah, the Royals. If you missed it, the Royals took the first game in what would be a three game sweep (hooray!) by working over Chris Sale prettay prettay good. Which totally sucked for White Sox fans generally, we're sure. But imagine how the array of technicians manning our state of the art baseball performance measuring machinery must feel. We've got everything turned up to 11, we're leaned in, only for Sale to deliver a giant fart. Caw indeed, friends.
After evacuation of the premises and subsequent re-entry, we processed the data and came to a conclusion. Namely, that the best we can say is that it was probably the whole "speeding baseball off his pitching hand" thing. As you'll recall, Chris Sale took a speeding baseball off his pitching hand, went through a battery of tests administered by Herm Schneider (observed with the utmost diligence by a designated CSP task force) and was declared okayish to pitch.
We suspect that Sale's bulldogitude--a portmanteau of "bulldog attitude" meant to convey the determined mien of none but the grittiest pitchers, for the uninitiated--led him to stay on the mound despite the resultant lack of command. Which, given the alternatives, was not a terrible choice. Humber, lacking said bulldogitude, can't be expected to have done much better, can he? Which reminds us: a certain faction in the CSP is positive Philip is French. Research and background checks are yet to be performed, but c'mon. Explains a lot, right?
In any case, Sale's stuff was not lacking but his command was. That's very much in line with what we'd wager a man with the heart of a champion but the protective flesh and flab of a carcass post-condor would produce in those circumstances. Ergo, we are mostly sure that he'll be fine going forward.
Which brings us to worry number 2, or as one respondent put it, "What's with all the f@#%@#ing home runs, that bum?!" Worries about the quality of our sample and the spelling of said respondent aside, we posit that this issue is merely regression to the mean.
Consider, for instance, the home run Billy Butler hit in the 6th on Friday:
We suspect you might figure this out on your own, but it's the light blue square labeled "3". Our double agent CSPer working at Brooks tells us this pitch was tagged at 94.6 mph. Is there anything about that pitch that's especially hittable? The nasty factor on such pitches typically clocks in the "yeah that's pretty nasty" to "gross" range. While Steve Stone and Hawk Harrelson were all but calling Butler the next Frank Thomas and are obviously wrong in saying as much, the guy can hit a little. C'est la vie.
If Butler doesn't hit this thing out, people might still be talking about his sudden "issue" with homers, but we suspect far fewer. Things are only ever a problem until we start losing. And then they're unfixable problems until we start winning again. Which is why we generally regret asking people without impressive statistical acumen much of anything. I mean, it's our job to tell you which is glorious truth and which filthy lie, right? What's with all this opinion having? We digress.
The bomb Rosales hit in Sale's start against the A's was basically similar. Wasn't behind in the count or anything. It was up in the zone and not nearly as hard thrown. But certainly far from anything one might call "a cookie" as certain beschnozzled announcers say.
The other two from those games were far more deserving of such a label, but here we would like to make a point: so what. As incredible as Sale has been this season, he still throws probably 5 or 6 such pitches a start. Were one to watch for them, one would find them. Just because we're worried you won't believe us, here's every slider Sale's thrown this year to RHB by location:
More than a few that qualify as less than quality pitches by location. Yet Sale has given up 13 HR all season. Let's say half of them have been given up on sliders (probably a high estimate). He's thrown 354 to righties this season. If only 25 qualify as hangers (probably a low estimate), that's still only 20% of hangers leaving the yard. Throwing bad pitches is bad because of how much worse they are than good pitches. Not because they're always absolutely crushed.
Nope, Chris has given up a few more HR lately because he was bound to. As a percentage of the number of fly balls allowed, his HR total was very low up until a few starts ago. Now he's at 10%, which is just about the average in the major leagues.
Just as, we feel we must mention, the White Sox are probably not so talented as to consistently win 8/10 games from the Rangers, Angels and Blue Jays. Just as the Sox are probably not such a stewing, rotting mess of garbage to regularly lose 5 of 6 to the Royals. That's baseball, and that's variance around a mean. Or as one weirdly fatalistic and for some reason southern twanged respondent put it:
"I reckon we're just a buncha tennis balls flinged back and forth over a net. I also reckon I hate tennis. Sox play Monday right?"