Sale velocity anxiety

Sale velocity anxiety
Sale, getting a breather // Armando L. Sanchez, Chicago Tribune

So many posts with "anxiety" in the title.  If being a fan of a team that stays in 1st place for over a month but never gets more than one bad series out of harm's way could be boiled down to one word, it would be "anxiety".  Of course, the word for the Tigers' season is probably "rage" or "frustration", or "annoyance".

The White Sox aren't planning to slow down or rest Chris Sale any time soon, they've said it before, Don Cooper went said it again before the Tigers game Sunday night, and for good measure they reiterated once more during the week.  But in his statement before Sunday's ill-fated showdown, Cooper set up a bit of a baseline of what they expect from Sale going forward:

"People are now saying his velocity might be down, that he's not throwing 95 [mph] like he was earlier in the season. But Chris is still at least at 92 and that's plenty good enough when he's locating like he has been in most of his starts."

Sale met that benchmark on Sunday, but took his time.  He was at 89-90 to start the game, 91-92 in the middle innings, and notably hitting 93 near the end, especially after he was angry over the Delmon Young home run.  Pitch Fx caught a 95 mph pitch in there, which I cannot claim to have noticed at the time.

It wasn't Sale at his most fearsome, but it was a fair bit better than the problem starts that sent him on his first sabbatical.  However, Sale managed to keep his velocity above water with a different approach, one that abandoned the heater he was having trouble maintaining.  He's been throwing his slider 26% of the time this season, but ramped that up like mad to 44 of 106 pitches last Sunday.

It was working fine enough until Delmon Young golfed one a foot below the strike zone into the left field stands, which was either bad luck or too much predictable pitch-calling.  But it wasn't very in line with the nudging to throw less sliders that Sale was given when he returned from the bullpen.

Throwing more breaking stuff--especially if he continues to spot it as well as he has--is a sound strategic response to not having his best fastball, but also represents how hard the team is pushing toward the stretch run.  Such concerns for long-term health are taking a back seat until the off-season, and the cost is...

Unknown.  Monitoring Sale--his velocity, his ability to miss bats, general state of affairs--is a start-to-start process.  I would say that the version of Sale on display against the Tigers can be perfectly effective going forward, but whether he can maintain that is up in the air.  We've seen him obliterate the Yankees recently, but he's also a pitcher with a 4.18 ERA and 1.79 HR/9 since the All-Star break.  How much of the true talent that he's demonstrated can shine through the fatigue and regression he's dealing with....

...I'd really feel more comfortable answering that after Saturday

 

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