Chris Sale is coming off of an extremely successful debut season for Boston. The towering 28-year old lefty finished 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2017, posting a 17-8 record to go along with a stellar 2.90 ERA. But let’s not forget that it could have been even better.
Sale dominated the first three-quarters of the season, becoming the fastest pitcher in the history of the AL to reach 200 K’s, but he struggled once August rolled around, giving up 14 of his 24 total HR allowed over the final 6 weeks of the year. One big reason for that is overuse.
Sale went at least 7 full innings in 18 of his first 24 starts, and we often saw him stretching even further into the 8th and even 9th innings. That work load clearly took a toll on his body, and it’s something that the league has seen from him before.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over his 6 year career, Sale has allowed 65 HR with a 2.67 ERA in 798 IP from the start of the season through the end of July, but then those numbers balloon, as he’s allowed 64 HR with a 3.65 ERA over just 431 IP from August 1st on. In each of those years, Sale has finished no worse than 6th in the Cy Young voting, but has never taken home the crown, and it’s clear that his habit of going full throttle right from Opening Day (and his respective managers riding his wave of dominance) is the main reason for the drop off.
Alex Cora and the 2018 iteration of the Red Sox have figured that out, however, and they seem to have a plan in place to combat it. Sale will see his first Grapefruit League action today, 14 whole days after the beginning of Spring Training (he threw 52 pitches to minor leaguers in a controlled game on Sunday).
It looks like Sale and Cora have come to a mutual agreement to take it easy early on, using him sparingly in Spring Training and perhaps limiting his pitch count to start the season in order to nullify Sale’s history of tiring out over the course of the long and physically taxing 162 game season.
If that is the case, we can hope to see a dominant Chris Sale not just from March through July, but from August through October (and hopefully all the way through to the World Series) as well.