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The final toll of smaller strike zones on White Sox pitchers

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Chris Sale lost more strikes than anybody last year, and he had company

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

A couple days ago, Jeff Sullivan noted that Chris Sale gave up baseball’s cheapest homer in 2016, capping the post by noting that any little twist of normal luck could’ve helped Sale stand out from the glut of quality starters.

If that wasn’t enough, he twisted the knife further with a different FanGraphs post about Sale, one that revisits the effects of the vastly smaller strike zone provided for him by Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila.

Sale went from gaining the second-greatest amount of strikes in 2015 to losing the second-greatest amount of strikes in 2016. The gap between the two? Seventeen runs.

If you could chalk it up to Sale being difficult for any new catcher to handle, that’d be one thing. But all of the incumbent White Sox starters litter the “leaderboard” for strikes lost:

  1. Chris Sale, -17.0
  2. Zack Greinke, -14.3
  3. Jose Quintana, -12.0
  4. Carlos Rodon, -7.9
  5. Brandon Finnegan, -7.6
  6. Gerrit Cole, -7.3
  7. Hector Santiago, -7.2
  8. Hisashi Iwakuma, -6.7
  9. Ian Kennedy, -6.3
  10. John Danks, -6.3

The fact that Danks cracks this list is remarkable, since he only threw 22 innings for the White Sox in 2016. That shouldn’t be enough time to build up negative value, but there you have it.

How does one go about suffering that much damage? By losing three inches off the bottom of the strike zone.

The good news is that Sox starters — whichever ones remain, anyway — stand a good chance of being on the flipside of next year’s list, even if they didn’t sign Jason Castro. There’s something to be for a problem so painfully acute that it’s as easy to identify as it is difficult to forget, and even if they fail to improve upon the situation, it won’t be as bad as going out of their way to make it worse.

At any rate, the labor situation, while still in negotiation, is settled enough for the Diamondbacks and Mariners to make a big trade with plenty of lingering questions — did Seattle sell low on Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to buy high on Jean Segura? — I’m thankful that it looks like I won’t have to write about this decision much longer.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.