Getting up to speed on Chris Sale

Getting up to speed on Chris Sale
July 31, 2012, 5:45 pm
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Chris Kamka

Friday night's White Sox game featured a somber Hawk Harrelson spouting off Chris Sale's fastball speeds as if they were losing lottery numbers. Why? Because they were more reminiscent of the glory years of the Oakland A's' Bash Brothers (88-90) than Chicago summer temperatures (95-97). In addition, our elongated lefty had been relying more on his off-speed stuff more than usual, and he'd had similar problems the previous Saturday in Detroit.

South Side fandom had been holding its collective breath all season long as our phenom racked up innings in numbers his left arm had never seen. Cries of "dead arm" were almost immediate. Let's take a look at the numbers.

For a frame of reference, and for consistency's sake, let's look at Sale's two-seam fastballs over his past four starts (Pitch fx numbers courtesy of the wonderful brooksbaseball.net):

GameAvg. Velocity
Max Velocity
727 @TEX
90.2292.40721 @DET
91.4094.00715 @KC
92.2695.8073 vs. TEX
92.2896.30

That's four straight starts with a dip in both average and max velocity. The Twitterverse is concerned. But is Sale concerned? Not according to his postgame comments: "No, everything is fine. It's getting late in the year, that might be a little bit of it, but that's something I'm not paying attention to. I honestly couldn't care less how hard I'm throwing."

Make no mistake about it, Sale's poise was impressive Friday night in Arlington; he maintained his focus after a rough 28-pitch first inning in which he allowed four Rangers runs. The next three innings were highly economical; 31 pitches, 27 strikes, with just two harmless singles allowed. In the fifth, he rebounded from first and second, nobody out situation with three straight punchouts.

A rocky outing by Nate Jones is what ultimately allowed the fifth run to score, as his HBP and walk which loaded the bases, allowing Josh Hamilton to drive in Sale's runner with a groundout. But despite Sale garnering his 12th win of the season, it was the loss in velocity that was the story.

And the story continues; Jake Peavy will be starting in place of Sale on Wednesday, affording him an extra day of rest. Here's what Sale had to say on the extra rest:

"Nothing terrible, nothing anyone else doesn't go through...We all feel this is something that's going to benefit us and benefit myself, a few extra days off, so the next couple months we can make a push and get after it."

The learning curve will continue through the rest of the season for both Sale himself and for the White Sox coaching staff. It has certainly been a long time since Chicago's American Leaguers have brought along a power arm at such a young age. It has been and will continue to be an important storyline throughout the remainder of the season.