Joe Maddon doesn't lack for media coverage, but the Chicago Cubs manager is worth paying attention to when it comes to his evaluation of White Sox pitchers.
Sometimes it literally goes without saying. For instance, back in 2010, he responded to a great John Danks start earlier in the season by putting more lefties in his lineup to neutralize the changeup. The Rays roughed up Danks for eight runs over four innings in their second crack at him, and "The Danks Theory" was born.
But when he assesses pitchers with words, his quotes are pretty good, even when they're not complimentary.
For instance, back in September of 2012, the Rays trounced Chris Sale to nudge the Sox out of the race. When asked about the idea against Sale, Maddon said:
"He’s primarily a breaking-ball pitcher, doesn’t like his fastball that much, so he pitches with his breaking ball," Maddon said. "I would say that compared to that last start, he was just sharper then."
I filed that quote away, and it's one reason why I said on last week's podcast that Sale's improved fastball is the biggest reason why he's elevated his strikeout artistry this season. No pitch can be truly taken away from him in his current form.
Fast-forwarding to this season, the White Sox have taken the first two games of the crosstown series with Maddon's Cubs. The North Siders have scored one run over 18 innings, 13 of which have been pitched by the Condor and Carlos Rodon.
Given his offense's struggles, Maddon's quotes are only raves this time around, which is fine.
"When he really gains fastball command, he’s going to be really good," Maddon said. "I’m sure they’ve talked about that. He’s a young man. He’s got a live fastball. He’s got a really good slider. Seemed like pretty good composure. But when the fastball command shows up, it’s going to be really good." [...]
"It’s not unlike David Price," Maddon said. "When David first began with the Rays, he had a great fastball with the command issues and then once he found that command, man, heads up."
Asked what was the best thing about Sale's performance, Maddon answered quickly "his changeup." [...]
"His overall command has gotten better but his changeup is elite," Maddon said. "You look at that guy you're looking at [something special]. He came out in the first inning jacked up a little bit. He was throwing 99, but then he settled down to his usual numbers. But his changeup is an elite pitch. Everybody looks at the fastball and the breaking ball, but the changeup is what makes it work."
That's cool, but it doesn't top the best quote about Sale from the other clubhouse:
Jon Lester loves Chris Sale. "He's fun to watch, wiry, asses and elbows going everywhere and he chucks the hell out of it."— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) July 10, 2015