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Chris Sale threw harder for some reason

White Sox ace suffers first loss, but it's not a referendum on new approach

Jon Durr/Getty Images

Chris Sale was due for a dud, but I figured it'd happen when a team exploited his power-saving setting.

Leading up to his abbreviated outing against the Indians on Tuesday, ESPN Stats & Info joined FanGraphs in noting that the softer-throwing version of Sale was dependent on a different batted-ball profile, and something would have to give -- whether it was a manageable BABIP correction, Sale readopting some of his old ways, or, maybe a new profile.

We still haven't learned which one it'll be, because Tuesday's version of Sale looked a lot like his old self, which is still usually good. But it occasionally doesn't work for him, as Cleveland can attest to in the past. Sale hit 97 in the first inning and came undone with his command as frustration mounted, and we'd seen that a few times before.

Robin Ventura said Sale lacked feel from the start:

"They had some good at-bats against him," Ventura said. "They got to a guy that has been rolling along. He was up there velocity wise. That’s uncharacteristic for him. Just seemed like everything seemed a little harder than normal. Changeup probably was a little harder than it has been in the past. I think that separation wasn’t as good tonight."

Brooks hasn't yet revised and filed Sale's PITCHf/x data, which is way more vital for him than other pitchers since he covers such a wide range of radar-gun readings. For example, I wanted to see how many two-seamers Brooks had Sale throwing, as it only said he only threw one apiece against the Yankees and Astros.

At the moment, Brooks says it was Two-Seam Tuesday for Sale, as it comprised 100 percent of his fastballs.

  • 50 two-seamers at 94.3 mph
  • 16 changeups at 86.7 mph
  • 23 sliders at 78.8 mph

I'll doubt this'll hold. Based on the reading and nature of the pitches that yielded the triple and homer, if they weren't sinkers, then they were 90-mph changeups. One could see how that would be equally damaging, if not more so.

Sale was unsparing to himself in his self-assessment afterward, not because he wasn't 10-0, but because he failed to go deep into a game after the team just played a doubleheader. But he did talk to the media, which is something Matt Harvey -- another diminished-velocity guy in the ESPN post cited above -- didn't do, setting off the usual round of character sniping. These tweets were back-to-back in my timeline this morning:

Timing of the "1" aside, the White Sox are still 9-1 in Sale's starts, which everybody would take every time. Now it falls to Jose Quintana to sweep aside a Sale stumble for the first time this year. Like Sale, he'll carry an active accomplishment into the start, as he is now the American League's ERA leader at 1.98. That's asking for regression as much as a 9-0 record, but it'd sure be nice if the Quintana could hold it off for at least one start.


It'd be better reading if Sale were 10-0, but it's still worth your time to check out this ESPN profile of Sale. Steve Wulf highlights the Condor nickname, although not particularly accurately at the onset.

Sale was a dominant starting pitcher in the four seasons before this. He won 17 games in 2012, has made four straight All-Star appearances and struck out an AL-leading 274 batters last season. He still has the same stuff, including a high-90s fastball, a slider and changeup, the same freakish, 82-inch wingspan and the same elastic, almost slapstick, three-quarters delivery that earned him his avian nickname. (The folks at the indispensable Baseball Reference once photoshopped Sale in his No. 49 uniform onto an actual condor at the top of his page.)

I'm pretty sure he's referring to this. But I'll credit him for taking the simile and making it a metaphor:

If condors seem an unlikely inspiration for a folk song -- El Condor Pasa, which Simon and Garfunkel popularized and Anglicized -- consider this: They can live as long as 50 years and fly as fast as 125 mph. Before they do that, though, they have to spend their first eight months in the nest and their first six years learning the intricacies of long-distance flight.