Chris Sale has been on the mound pitching in 2023 and so far has been healthy, but that has not stopped Boston Red Sox fans from panicking. Pitching consistently is something Sale and the Red Sox can’t say has been done with him since the 2019 season. He has struggled to be on the bump consistently while dealing with a ton of injuries such as Tommy John Surgery and a fractured wrist and many more. With Sale struggling too (1-1, 11.25 ERA, 19/7 SO to BB ratio), is the panic around Beantown warranted?
Time to Hit the Panic Button with Chris Sale?
Still Bringing The Heat?
With the long long list of injuries that the now 34-year-old Chris Sale has endured since his World Series-clinching outing in 2018 over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the expectation would be for his velocity to be down. With injuries piling up, missed innings, and father time ticking along, it’s hard to believe that the southpaw would be able to still sling it in there like he once did.
A pitcher who once used to light up the radar gun and push 100 MPH on his fastball. But so far during his rough start to 2023, that’s not the case. Chris Sale’s average fastball in 2023 has been 93.91 MPH so far this year which is higher than in 2019 which is his last significant pitching year where he averaged 93.49 MPH.
This might not look like a big number, but again with the adversity he has dealt with and this early in the season, this number is encouraging. Pitchers usually get stretched out by May, the weather usually warms and their velocity continues to rise. So knowing his velocity is already beating that 2019 mark shows that his arm and body are healthy again.
Accuracy and Control
As every pitcher or baseball fan would know, accuracy and pitch placement are key to being successful. Velocity will only go so far. Sale has been struggling the most with his pitch placement early on in 2023. His BB/9 is up to 5.3 which is over triple his career number of 1.6. That is not something that you want to hear as a Red Sox or Chris Sale fan.
But the thing with ball placement is that it is something you can rein back in and get under control again. Velocity is hard to come back but placement is not as hard. Also when coming off of injuries such as Tommy John Surgery, accuracy as a pitcher is usually the last thing to come back. So there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for this issue.
Swing And A Miss
Sale has always shown elite pitch movement and swing-and-miss stuff. Coming into 2023 he’s held the MLB record for SO/9 with 11.1. Throughout all of baseball history, to hold that career mark is impressive, to say the least. So knowing this information, when Sale struggled out of the gate, you would think this number would be the surefire reason for a rocky start.
Through his first three starts in 2023, his swing and miss rate is still very high. He is sitting at 30%, which is up over his injury-shortened 2021 and 2022 seasons. Yes, this is a small sample size, but it still shows the elite strikeout stuff is still there. Sale still has the deception in his funky delivery and that wipe-out Slider which makes lefty hitters feel defenseless at the plate and righties feeling uneasy to dig into the box.
With the Red Sox off to an average start to the season and hanging around .500 with an 8-9 record, there is still hope. So Boston fans don’t hit the panic button yet on the season and more specifically Chris Sale. When this bumpy stretch ends for Sale and the numbers show it will, the ace of the staff will be back and toeing the slab every fifth day and bringing wins with him.
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