Chris Sale is trying to become the first Chicago White Sox pitcher to make three consecutive all-star teams since Jack McDowell in 1991-93 behind an 8-1 record and an American League-leading ERA (2.08) and WHIP (0.842).
— #FinalVote (@MLB) July 10, 2014
And he’s doing it with the best stuff in baseball.
When I refer to Sale’s “stuff,” I’m talking specifically about his ability to mix pitches for maximum effect. He doesn’t have the fastest fastball or get the most movement on his pitches, but as you will see, his repertoire is solid and the results speak for themselves.
In an effort to avoid injury, Sale is throwing more change-ups this season than he has in previous years – more than 31 percent of his pitches are off-speed, compared with 19.2 percent last year and 14.7 percent in his first season as a starter — and hitters are having a difficult time adjusting.
Hitters are batting 0.194 against Sale’s change-up and have just five extra-base hits in 124 at bats (0.89 isolated power). Plus, according to Pitchf/x data, this pitch has saved 2.1 runs per 100 pitches thrown, 13th best among starters qualifying for the ERA title.
The change-up isn’t Sale’s only plus-pitch. His two-seam fastball clocks in at an average velocity of 93.3 mph with a high of 97.4 this season and has limited batters to 35 hits in 156 at bats (0.224 batting average against) with just nine extra-base hits — seven doubles and two home runs. It has also induced a swinging strike 8.1 percent of the time and saved 1.6 runs per 100 pitches thrown, 13th best among starters qualifying for the ERA title.
His slider is thrown for strikes almost 60 percent of the time and is just as hard to hit by right-handers (o.130 batting average against with 10 strikeouts in 23 at-bats) as it is against lefties (0.086 batting average against and 18 strikeouts in 35 at-bats). This pitch has also saved 1.6 runs per 100 pitches thrown, 16th best among starters qualifying for the ERA title.
Whether he makes his third all-star team or not, Sale is likely to keep hitters guessing and have Chicago right in the playoff hunt down the stretch with the best stuff in baseball.