It used to be that when Chris Sale gave up a homer or otherwise made a mistake of equal value, a startling metamorphosis occurred. Driven by rage, Pissed Sale took over and finished the inning throwing three or four miles per hour harder than his established upper end.
Nowadays, it's impossible to tell the difference -- which means that either he's figured out how to pace himself, or the league-worst run support renders him unable to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.
We'll see what happens when Harry Pavlidis separates Sale's four-seamer from his two-seamer, but right now, Brooks' Pitch f/x data shows his fastball averaged 95.33 mph on Saturday night. At the very least, it seems that Sale will have five straight starts with an average four-seam fastball of 95. Last year, Sale had four such starts total.
Here's what it looks like from last year to this year:
There's been no ebb and flow with his velocity thus far, and not just start to start, but even inning to inning. On Saturday, Sale found 95-97 in the seventh inning just as easily as he found it in the first, even though it was the fifth time in sixth starts that he threw at least 110 pitches (118).
In other years, this would be an undoubtedly encouraging development. Don Cooper downplayed last year's velocity concerns by saying that Sale needed to get through a full season of starts to be able to withstand the rigors of seasons to come. That chart, his success, his second All-Star berth, are the fruits of last year's labor.
This year? I draw connections to what Jesse Crain said about his trip to the disabled list:
"I wish I could explain it. I wish I had a way to figure out why it does it. But I think from throwing a lot.
"And when I go out there, I go all in. Every game I go in, every pitch is important, so I just think it finally took its toll on me and I just got it strained and hopefully I can be back in two weeks.’’
When Sale can't count on three runs a game, he faces a setup man's plight for seven innings at a time. I wonder if his velocity looks like this because every pitch is crucial. I don't think that's the case, because he probably wouldn't be able to sustain it as consistently if it were all pressure-based.
It's just hard to assume that any heartening development can come out of this Sideways House season, and a strong and resilient Sale would be about the best news this mess has left to offer.
(It's Rick Hahn's year in two minutes.)