For much of 2015, Chris Sale has been spectacular. During the end of May through June, Sale went eight straight games with ten or more strikeouts. In those eight starts, Sale struck out 97 in 60 innings while walking only nine. He also gave up a total of 12 earned runs for a 1.80 ERA, a 1.28 FIP, and 1.46 xFIP.
Since the All-Star break, Sale’s starts haven’t gone as well. The team is 2-3 in his starts. Is there a reason to be worried? Sale has given up 42 hits and 21 runs in those five starts for a 6.16 ERA over 30.2 innings. There’s a big silver lining though. He’s also had a 3.13 FIP and 2.83 xFIP and a BABIP of .432. The strikeouts are a bit below the pace during his streak, but he’s struck out 39 in these starts while walking six.
So, while the games have been a bit painful to watch, it doesn’t appear to be something to lose any sleep over. To be honest, the big innings are coming late in a game with high pitch counts. Sale is walking a tight rope, but the team is removing his net.
During Sale's streak on June 24 against the Twins, Sale gave up a double and two straight singles plus a throwing error on the second single in the seventh before recording an out. After his tenth strikeout, another single allowed a third run to score in the inning and Sale's day was over.
On July 30, Sale gave up a single, a HBP, and three more straight singles to the Red Sox in the sixth before being removed from the game without recording an out in the sixth. A sacrifice fly after Sale departed gave him four earned runs for the inning. This was one inning after giving up three straight singles with two outs in the fifth inning along with another HBP earlier in the inning.
Finally, on August 4, gave up a walk, a single, and another walk (that's a third of his walks since the All-Star break in a single inning) to the Rays before recording the first out in the sixth inning. Then, another single and a misplayed throw by Tyler Flowers allowed two runs to score.
We’ve talked about starter management issues this season several times, but here we are beating the ashes of that dead, cremated, buried, exhumed, and reburied horse. The Sox are supposed to have one of the best bullpens in baseball. If a starter is giving up his second HBP in a game, walking batters, or giving up consecutive hits past the sixth inning, it’s probably time for them to leave the game, even if the pitcher is Chris Sale. This season has turned into a evaluation and development season again, and the White Sox need to see if their younger relievers can pitch them out of problems. We know the offense still has issues with scoring runs, but if the manager can’t help the pitching staff to prevent big innings late in the game, the team really only has one person to blame.