Ladies and gents, your 2012 White Sox. This jerry-rigged mess of duct tape and cardboard tubes keeps winning somehow. Last night, the CSP band of analysts, merry-makers and assorted hangers on assembled to take in the Project's namesake's return from the ignoble exile fatigue imposed upon him. And, glory be, Chris Sale proved that he's got at least a few starts left this season and that he might be the ace this franchise really, really needs. He was successful and that's great and who cares how or why!
Right, that's how I write these things? Actually, I'm getting the sense that it's supposed to be dry, worried, nitpicky and velo-centric. Well then. Sale's average on his fastball was a hair under 93 mph, a smidge better than his season average. And you know what? I might go so far as to say it was a clear difference maker.
To wit, point the first: Royals hitters spent much of the night with their oppo swings. Opposite field hitting is not in fact the panacea some suggest. Why? Because it's much harder to get extra base hits and extra base hits lead to runs. That's not to say damage can't be done, but if the fly balls allowed aren't getting pulled, chances of success are higher.
Two, Sale struck out 7 of the 30 batters he faced, a return to form. That's pretty much dead on his season average which had been falling as his velocity fell. So fewer balls were batted and those that were were easier to defend. The effects of added velocity were not hard to find.
The end result was dominant: 2 runs over 8 IP, 7 K to 0 BB.
That's velocity. And of the nitpickery or--let's hope not--sheer drudgery, evidence suggests his command was not all there. He managed just one whiff from his slider all night and, perhaps more importantly, had a difficult time throwing his fastball up and in.
The latter fact seemed at least somewhat responsible for the two runs, both home runs. Francoeur's homer was what you get when a strong dude with no regard for the strike zone sits dead red with his oppo swing loaded. He's one of a pretty small number of guys in the league who can do what he did there. Which is why, despite everything about him that's so obviously crap, he still has a job. Frenchy didn't have to fear the fastball in jamming him and Sale couldn't get it in there to make him think otherwise.
Butler was somewhat similar, though the 2-0 count was also a factor. In the 5th, he was in the same count, went soft away and coaxed a K. AJ figured they could get him inside this time, but the spot was not at all good. Butler, like Francoeur, was sitting fastball in a location and got it.
Those were pitches, with lesser velocity, Sale was managing to avoid. Personally, I'd rather have stuff than rely on immaculate command if I have to choose. Those two relatively lackluster pitches weren't the only ones Sale threw last night and, in general, he was still throwing a solid number when his stuff was less good. I'd argue he was luckier before. This Sale is one whose command I expect will improve as he gets back into the groove. But if the velocity sticks, utter dominance is on the table.
Ho-hum, what's new. The guy's got a 2 something ERA.