Chris Sale is probably a little sore after last night’s win against the powerful New York Yankees, completing the three-game sweep for the Chicago White Sox. Sale struck out 13 in 7 2/3 innings for his 15th win of the season. No one could have predicted Sale would be this good in his first full season as a starting pitcher, especially what happened earlier in the season.
After Sale complained of elbow soreness, the White Sox moved him to the bullpen, fearful that lanky lefty would throw his arm out. I mean, it’s inevitable he throws his arm out because he looks like he weighs 150 pounds and throws 94-96 MPH, right? Wrong. Completely wrong.
I realize I will probably jinx him after writing this article, but contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with Chris Sale’s mechanics. I actually thought about writing this a few weeks ago, but decided against it, thinking I might be off. But after watching Curt Schilling repeat everything I thought of on Baseball Tonight, I feel a little better about my thought process.
Sale throws from the side, three-quarters if you want the technical terminology. His mechanics are completely different from previous Tommy-Johners such as Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, and Mark Prior. Those three guys have what is called the “inverted W”, plus they put incredible torque on their elbow from their devastating curveball. Sale, however, uses a fastball more than 55% of the time, and uses a slider – a slider that is a lot safer for Sale to use with his delivery than a player like Kerry Wood for example – around 25% of the time. But what makes Sale so successful and different from all the other failed relievers turned starters this season (Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard) is his changeup.
What caused Bard to fail so miserably was his lack of command with a changeup, a pitch a reliever doesn’t really need to use, but a quality starting pitcher ought to have. However, Sale uses his changeup 16.5% of the time, keeping hitters off-balance with the near 15 MPH difference between that and his fastball.
Chris Sale isn’t the inevitable Tommy John injury risk so many people thought he would be. Of course, he still might have arm problems, especially given how common arm injuries and procedures are nowadays, but it’s not as gloom and doom as most prognosticators claimed. And given his use of the changeup, he isn’t a fluke. He will continue on being one of the best pitchers in baseball.
*Knocks on wood*