Archive for White Sox

Jose Abreu, Pitchers, and Ongoing Adjustments

One of the things I find most interesting about baseball is how often players seem to try new things and then how often those changes seem to make little to no difference in their overall productivity. Batters alter their stances and pitchers try new grips and patterns all the time, but it’s actually pretty rare that a player makes a small change and becomes significantly different. A whole lot of effort goes into small changes, but the vast majority of these changes don’t seem to make a big difference, yet everyone is always making them. It seems like a lot of wasted energy.

Except that it’s not wasted energy as much as it’s about context. One reason all of these tweaks don’t have huge impacts is that everyone else gets a chance to respond to the adjustment very quickly and make their own. There’s so much information available to players and they’re generally a perceptive bunch. If Clayton Kershaw suddenly threw Paul Goldschmidt a 50-grade knuckeball, I would wager that Goldschmidt wouldn’t do much damage against that first one. Theoretically, Kershaw spent lots of man hours working on the pitch, but most hitters have faced knuckeballs and they would very quickly figure out that Kershaw has one and when he likes to use it. A pitcher adjusts, and then the hitters adjust to that adjustment. It goes on and on forever. If you don’t constantly tinker, you might be left behind.

At the beginning of 2014, there were a lot of questions about how well Jose Abreu would perform in the major leagues because we didn’t have any information about Abreu in the context of the American professional regime. His raw tools had our attention, but until we saw him face professionals in the American context, our information was rather limittarget=”_blank”. The question at hand was how Abreu would adjust to the major leagues.

Read the rest of this entry »


Putting Chris Sale’s Strikeout Streak in Historical Perspective

By striking out 12 St. Louis Cardinals hitters on Tuesday night, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox tied Pedro Martinez’s record for striking out at least ten hitters in eight games in a row. The feat is an impressive one, requiring a consistent level of performance for more than a month. Only four pitchers have had such a streak last more than five games, per Baseball Reference’s Play Index (Much of the data throughout this piece comes the Play Index).

Year Games IP BB ERA SO
Chris Sale 2015 8 60 9 1.80 97
Pedro Martinez 1999 8 62 8 1.16 107
Randy Johnson 2001 7 56 13 1.93 90
Pedro Martinez 1999 7 53.2 13 1.51 84
Nolan Ryan 1977 7 60 45 2.55 90
Randy Johnson 2002 6 50 14 1.08 79
Randy Johnson 2000 6 45.1 11 1.99 71
Randy Johnson 1999 6 49 11 1.84 65
Randy Johnson 1998 6 51 10 2.29 74
Pedro Martinez 1997 6 50.2 15 1.78 72
Nolan Ryan 1972 6 54 25 1.33 76

During the streak, Sale has an ERA of 1.80 and a 1.27 FIP while striking out 42.5% of hitters. Counting only strikeouts during the streak, Sale’s 97 Ks would be tied for ninth with Sonny Gray for strikeouts for the entire season in the American League. WIthin Sale’s current streak is a five-game span where Sale struck out at least 12 hitters every game which is also tied with Pedro Martinez (as well as Randy Johnson) for the longest streak in history. As it stands, Sale’s 141 strikeouts and 35% K-rate are number one in baseball. Although unlikely, Sale has an outside shot at becoming the first pitcher to achieve 300 strikeouts since 2002 when both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling achieved that mark for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Read the rest of this entry »


Maybe It’s Time To Blow Up the White Sox

For the last few years, Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams have been steadily rebuilding the White Sox base of talent, and along the way, they’ve acquired a few cornerstone players that are the envy of every other franchise in baseball. Chris Sale continues to get better by the year, and is probably the best pitcher in the American League at this point. Jose Abreu was a monster from the minute he arrived in the big leagues. Jose Quintana went from minor league free agent to rotation stalwart. The team’s struggles allowed them to be in a position to draft Carlos Rodon, who got to the big leagues less than a year after being drafted, and they just selected Carson Fulmer, another polished college pitcher who Kiley McDaniel believes could get to the big leagues very quickly as well. There are the makings of a very good team here.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, having a few star players just isn’t enough, and even with Sale dominating every fifth day, the 2015 season has been a disaster on the south side of Chicago. After pulling within two games of .500 after an early-June sweep of the Astros, the team has now lost nine of their last 11 games, including a 13-2 drubbing at the hand of the Twins yesterday. As they enter play today, they stand at 30-39, the second worst record in the American League, and even that overstates their performance to date; by BaseRuns, their expected record is 24-45.

Six weeks ago, I noted that the White Sox faced a “looming decision”, as the team’s poor start would test their conviction that this really was a roster built to contend in the short-term; since then, the White Sox have played roughly .500 ball by getting some clutch hits and stranding runners, but they haven’t really done anything to show that this is a team capable of running down the legitimate contenders in the American League this year. At this point, it’s pretty clear that the White Sox should probably be sellers in July.

But the more I look at the White Sox roster, the more I think that they probably shouldn’t just stop at moving Jeff Samardzija before he hits free agency. It might really be time for the White Sox to blow up their roster.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Most Unlikely Home Run

It seems like a simple question to ask. Which recent home run was the least likely?

You could flippantly answer — the one Erick Aybar hit this year, or the one Melky Cabrera hit this year — and because they’ve got the lowest isolated slugging percentages with at least one homer hit, you would be right. But that doesn’t control for the quality of the pitcher. Aybar hit his off of Rick Porcello, who is having some issues with the home run right now.

A slightly more sophisticated approach might have you scan down the list of the worst isolated powers in the game right now, and then cross-reference those names with the pitchers that allowed those home runs. If you do that, you’ll eventually settle on Alexei Ramirez, who hit his first homer of the year off of Johnny Cueto earlier this year.

Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Sale and Death by Diversity

We tend to take the greatest players for granted, so it ought to tell you something when even one of the established elites is raising eyebrows. Chris Sale‘s one of the very best starting pitchers in the world, of that there’s no question, and still he’s recently been generating all kinds of positive attention. Just Monday, he struck out 14 against the Astros in eight innings. It was his fourth consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts, and his fourth consecutive start with at least 20 missed bats. I won’t go through the specifics, but in terms of unhittability, Sale just tied one record with Sandy Koufax. He set a couple new all-time White Sox records, and he became the first pitcher to do a particular something since Randy Johnson. This is Chris Sale at the top of his game, and no one’s allowed a lower contact rate over the season’s last month.

Sale has established a few new personal bests, which, again, is a difficult thing to do, when you’ve been as excellent as he has. It seems like forever ago that he owned a near-6 ERA and people were wondering whether something was wrong. He’s yielded eight runs in six starts, he’s on a career-low FIP, and he’s on a career-low xFIP. When you look at the overall picture, at this point Sale looks more or less like himself. But underneath, you can see him evolving, and now Sale’s turned into one of the rarest sorts of pitchers.

Read the rest of this entry »


MLB Scores a Partial Victory in Minor League Wage Lawsuits

Eight Major League Baseball teams won an initial victory on Wednesday in two federal lawsuits contesting MLB’s minor league pay practices under the minimum wage and overtime laws. At the same time, however, the judge denied the league a potentially more sweeping victory in the cases.

The two lawsuits were filed in California last year by former minor league players who allege that they received as little as $3,300 per year, without overtime, despite routinely being required to work 50 or more hours per week during the playing season (in addition to mandatory off-season training). MLB and its thirty teams responded to the suit by challenging the plaintiffs’ claims on a variety of grounds. Wednesday’s decision considered two of these defenses in particular.

First, 11 of the MLB franchises argued that they were not subject to the California court’s jurisdiction and therefore must be dismissed from the lawsuit. Second, all 30 MLB teams argued that the case should be transferred from California to a federal court in Florida, which they argued would be a more convenient location for the trial.  In its decision on Wednesday, the court granted MLB a partial victory, agreeing to dismiss eight of the MLB defendant franchises from the suit due to a lack of personal jurisdiction, but refusing to transfer the case to Florida. Read the rest of this entry »


Carlos Rodon Isn’t a Finished Product

Carlos Rodon is attempting a very rare transition. Less than a year removed from starting at North Carolina State, Rodon is attempting to navigate major-league lineups at just 22 years old. Only Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Michael Pineda, and Julio Teheran have pitched 150 innings in rookie seasons at Rodon’s age or younger in the past five years. Rodon has now made six appearances in the majors after making only nine in the minors. His 22.1 major-league innings have already surpassed the 22.0 innings he pitched in Triple-A since signing with the White Sox last summer for over $6 million after the team made him the number three pick in the draft. Rodon’s slider and fastball are major-league ready, but he has yet to challenge hitters consistently or rely on an offspeed pitch, leading to almost a walk per inning. Rodon is already the White Sox’ fourth-best starter behind Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana, but he is not yet a finished product and still has some development ahead of him in the majors.

Rodon has the potential to accomplish a feat even more rare than the one performed by Fernandez, Miller, et al. No pitcher in the last 15 years has been drafted from college, made their debut within a year of signing and pitched at least 150 innings at 22 years of age or younger. The last player to achieve what Rodon is attempting was Jeff Weaver in 1999 for the Detroit Tigers. Weaver made 29 starts, had a 5.55 ERA and 5.22 FIP on the way to a 1.6 WAR season. In the last 30 years, the only other pitchers to do the same were Jim Abbott in 1989, Bobby Witt in 1986, and someone White Sox fans should remember, Jack McDowell, who made his debut shortly after the draft in 1987 and made 26 starts in 1988 for the White Sox before winning the Cy Young four years later.

Read the rest of this entry »


The White Sox Position-Player Catastrophe

Over the weekend, the White Sox scored 16 runs against the Reds in three games, and just Sunday they got the best of the impossible Aroldis Chapman, walking off after three consecutive hits. With that in mind, this would seem a funny time to be critical of the White Sox position players, but then, for one thing, the season’s been a lot longer than a couple days. And, you know what? So much content is published with timing in mind. People write about a player after he has a big game. It’s natural, but you can think of it as a form of bias. In this post, let’s not be swayed by recency. Most recently, White Sox position players have been good. Let’s knock ’em down a few pegs!

You already know it’s been a struggle for the Sox, and after spending the offseason trying to build a contender, already they’ve approached a decision point. It’s not time yet for the Sox to pull the plug, but it’s an increasingly likely outcome. At this moment, the White Sox sit dead last in the majors in team WAR, which means they rank even behind the Phillies. People have their differences with WAR, but history shows that WAR and team performance are very closely connected. Good teams don’t rank last. (Good teams don’t rank close to last.)

On the pitching side, things could be better and they could be worse. The team sits in the middle of the pack, which seems appropriate for such a top-heavy roster. There are clearly good pitchers, and there are clearly replaceable pitchers. But as for the position players, collectively it’s been a nightmare. By WAR, the Sox are in last place, and they’re in last by more than a full win. By WAR, the Sox have performed below replacement-level. This is a disaster, so let’s break it down.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Far-Too-Early 2015 MLB Mock Draft

I wrote yesterday about the uncertainty surrounding the #1 overall pick, but that doesn’t keep scouts from trying to figure out who will go in the subsequent picks. It’s way too early to have any real idea what’s going to happen beyond the top 10-15 picks, but the buzz is growing in the scouting community about how things will play out and you people are sustained by lists, predictions and mock drafts. You’re welcome.

I’d bet it’s more telling on draft day to make judgments using the buzz and all the names I mention, rather than the one name I project to be picked, but you guys already don’t read the introduction, so I’ll shut up. For reports, video and more on these players, check out my latest 2015 MLB Draft rankings, or, if your team doesn’t pick high this year, look ahead with my 2016 & 2017 MLB Draft rankings.

UPDATE 5/11/15: Notes from this weekend’s college games: Dillon Tate was solid in front of GM’s from Arizona, Houston and Colorado. Dansby Swanson was even better, in front of decision makers from all the top teams, including Houston, who may still be debating whether they’d take Swanson or Rodgers if given the choice (Rodgers’ season is over). Carson Fulmer did what he usually does and probably has a home from picks 7-17 depending on how things fall on draft day, with an evaluation similar to Marcus Stroman and Sonny Gray as previous undersized righties with stellar track records and plus stuff.

Andrew Benintendi went nuts at the plate again (I’ll see him and Fulmer this weekend). And, finally, Jon Harris was excellent, rebounding from a not-so-great start, so, at this point, I would make Harris the 9th pick to the Cubs and slide Trenton Clark down a few picks, but still comfortably in the top 20. I also updated the 2016 MLB Draft Rankings as a few top prospects came off the DL and impressed, further strengthening the top of that draft, which is far and away better than this year’s draft.

1. Diamondbacks – Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
I wrote about this more in depth yesterday, where I wrote it’s down to CF Garrett Whitley, C Tyler Stephenson and CF Daz Cameron with some chance RHP Dillon Tate is still in the mix and SS Dansby Swanson possibly involved. After writing that, I heard that Arizona is definitely considering those prep players, but teams don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on a way-below-slot prep option and they are leaning college, with Tate and Swanson the targets and SS Alex Bregman also getting some consideration as a long shot.

I’ve heard Arizona wants a hitter here and GM Dave Stewart was in to see Vanderbilt last night. I had heard they were laying in the weeds on Swanson, so, for now, I’ll go with Swanson here. To be clear, Arizona hasn’t made any decisions yet, so this group could still grow or they could change course. One scouting director told me yesterday when asked what he thought Arizona would do that “it sounds like they are going to do something crazy.” Until a few hours before this published, I had Arizona taking Whitley, so this is still very much in flux. There’s also some thought that Tate or Swanson were the targets all along and the rumors of cut-rate high school options have just been a ploy to get the price down–you can pick your own theory at this point.

Read the rest of this entry »


The White Sox Looming Decision

If there was one overarching theme of this last offseason, it was the surprise push towards contention from a lot of teams that didn’t quite look quite ready to win. The Padres were the most aggressive unexpected buyer, eschewing rebuilding to instead load up for a run in 2015, but they weren’t the only team to decide to capitalize on the current unprecedented level of parity in the sport. Over in the AL, the White Sox made a similar series of moves, bringing in Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, and Zach Duke in their offseason makeover. With Chris Sale and Jose Abreu at the top of their games, Rick Hahn decided to push in on 2015 and see if they could follow in the Royals footsteps.

The pre-season forecasts, though, never really bought into it. On Opening Day, our Playoff Odds page had the White Sox going 78-84, with just an 8% chance of winning the AL Central and a 6% chance of winning one of the two Wild Card spots; the Rangers and Twins were the only AL teams with a lower chance of reaching the postseason. There was a scenario where things broke right and the White Sox became legitimate contenders — the Astros are currently in the midst of that scenario at the moment — but it was going to require the team’s role players step up and fill some of the areas where the team was expected to get replacement level production.

That hasn’t happened.

Read the rest of this entry »


Home-Field Advantage With No Home-Crowd Advantage

Before this post gets published, the White Sox and Orioles will begin a baseball game in Baltimore played before no one. The few scouts in attendance will keep to themselves, and those watching from elsewhere will be unheard. There will probably be birds, and birds are always making noise, but we’re generally pretty good at tuning them out, because they never shut up. Two things, before going further:

(1) Of course, what’s going on in the rest of Baltimore is of far greater significance than what’s going on inside Camden Yards. For every one thought about the baseball game, there ought to be ten million thoughts about the civil unrest, and what it means and what’s to learn. My job, though, is to write about baseball, and so this is a post about baseball. I am qualified to do very few other things.

(2) The game will be played under extraordinary circumstances, but it’s also one game. A sample of one is, for all intents and purposes, no better than a sample of zero, so we’re not going to learn much today. We’d need a few thousand of these to really research and establish some conclusions. The post basically concerns the hypothetical, inspired by what’s taking place.

Home-field advantage exists in all sports. It’s a known thing, to varying degrees. The first thing that occurs to most people, as far as an explanation is concerned, is that the team at home has people yelling in support of it. The team on the road, meanwhile, has people yelling other things at it. The average person prefers support over mean and critical remarks. Now, consider the game in Baltimore. Strip the crowd effect away completely. What could that do? What might we expect of the home-field advantage of a team that plays with no fans?

Read the rest of this entry »


While Kris Bryant Gets Promoted, Carlos Rodon Waits

As Kris Bryant heads to North Side of Chicago to make his debut, the lack of movement on the South Side has merited much less attention. Carlos Rodon remains a starting pitcher in Charlotte as the White Sox use two currently inferior pitchers in the rotation. Much of the same arguments for keeping Kris Bryant down apply to Rodon. By keeping him in the minor leagues, the team can gain an extra year of service time. A couple starts during the course of the season is not likely to make a huge difference for the White Sox’s season.

Whether those arguments are valid as they apply to Rodon are moot now. The time needed to keep Rodon down is over, and the White Sox still haven’t named a starter for Sunday afternoon, but they have eliminated one name:
Read the rest of this entry »


What’s Already Happened in the AL Central

Hello! The baseball season just started. We’ve gone from one Sunday to a second Sunday, and we still aren’t allowed to do anything with statistics because nobody cares about them yet. While, in theory, spring training is supposed to get everyone ready for the year, the beginning feels like an extended spring training, a transition period following a transition period, and at this point the standings mean nothing. If you were to ask a player today about the wins and the losses, you’d get laughed out of the clubhouse. It doesn’t just feel like there’s a long way to go — it feels like there’s the whole way to go. Also, the Indians and White Sox are four games back of the Tigers and Royals.

It happened fast. It happened before anyone cared, but the White Sox have been swept by the Royals, and the Indians have been swept by the Tigers. Series conclude every few days, and standings change literally every day, but this is notable because the AL Central has four teams who’ve been thinking about the playoffs. The same four teams are still thinking about the playoffs, but as much as you want to say nothing matters yet, everything matters. This is my most- and least-favorite post to write every season.

Read the rest of this entry »


Division Preview: AL Central

We’re halfway done, with the wests — both NL and the AL — and covered NL Central yesterday. Today, we tackle the AL’s version of the country’s heartland.

The Projected Standings

Team Wins Losses Division Wild Card World Series
Indians 86 76 43% 14% 7%
Tigers 85 77 37% 15% 5%
Royals 79 83 10% 7% 1%
White Sox 78 84 8% 6% 1%
Twins 74 88 3% 3% 0%

With no great teams and only one franchise not really trying to contend this year, this is one of the most up-for-grabs divisions in the sport. Our forecasts suggest that there are two tiers within those going for it, but I think things might be a bit more bunched up than the numbers above suggest. Let’s go team by team.

Read the rest of this entry »


Kris Bryant Not the Only MLB Player Sent Down

The Chicago Cubs made big news yesterday when they demoted Kris Bryant as he is clearly better than other players remaining on the major league roster. Leaving Bryant aside, there are several other prospects throughout the majors who will not get starting roles with their teams who might already be better than the players ahead of them, including fellow Cubs prospect Javier Baez. There are myriad reasons to keep a player in the minors, some related to service time, some related to player readiness, some related to lack of urgency to win, and some due to sunk costs already on the major league roster.

Below are four players who could help their team now, with three players on teams that could contend, but will likely not make the major league roster. Other players who were considered, but not discussed in depth below are Rob Refsnyder on the New York Yankees, Alex Meyer and Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins, Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and potentially Micah Johnson of the Chicago White Sox. The numbers below come from the FanGraphs Depth Charts. All plate appearances are prorated to 600 and all innings pitched are prorated to 180.
Read the rest of this entry »


White Sox Add Adam Eaton to Long-Term Plan

When the White Sox signed Adam Eaton to a five-year, $23.5 extension over the weekend, the move in and of itself, wasn’t huge news. It wasn’t huge money, and Eaton isn’t a huge player, literally or figuratively. But the move wasn’t just about Eaton, necessarily, rather it was part of a bigger plan.

Take it from Eaton himself:

“I think I’m going to play more than that contract is worth, but again, we want to win here and there’s money to go elsewhere,” Eaton said. “The next three, four, five years, if I can be a savings to bring some guys in, that’s key for us.”

This quote pretty much nails it all. Eaton talks about the value of cost certainty, he talks about being part of a bigger plan, and he talks about what extensions for pre-arb players like this allow teams to do. With the Eaton extension, the White Sox have added a fourth member to a pretty clear “core four” who are now locked up through at least 2018, when the oldest of the bunch (Eaton) will be 32 years old. Both Sale and Quintana have club options for ’19 and ’20, and if all options are exercised by the end of the contracts, here’s what the White Sox are on the books for:

  • Chris Sale: $53.15M through 2020 (two club options)
  • Jose Abreu: $51M through 2019, though he can opt into arbitration when eligible
  • Jose Quintana: $40.15M through 2020 (two club options)
  • Adam Eaton: $42M through 2021 (two club options)

That’s 24 combined years of control for $186.3M, where one of the players is a top-5 pitcher on the planet and one of those players is a top-5 hitter on the planet, and all four guys are playing through their prime years. That’s a pretty enviable position for the White Sox.
Read the rest of this entry »


The FanGraphs Top 200 Prospect List

Yesterday, we gave you a little bit of a tease, giving you a glimpse into the making of FanGraphs Top 200 Prospect List. This morning, however, we present the list in its entirety, including scouting grades and reports for every prospect rated as a 50 Future Value player currently in the minor leagues. As discussed in the linked introduction, some notable international players were not included on the list, but their respective statuses were discussed in yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read any of the prior prospect pieces here on the site, I’d highly encourage you to read the introduction, which explains all of the terms and grades used below.

Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you towards our YouTube channel, which currently holds over 600 prospect videos, including all of the names near the top of this list. Players’ individual videos are linked in the profiles below as well.

And lastly, before we get to the list, one final reminder that a player’s placement in a specific order is less important than his placement within a Future Value tier. Numerical rankings can give a false impression of separation between players who are actually quite similar, and you shouldn’t get too worked up over the precise placement of players within each tier. The ranking provides some additional information, but players in each grouping should be seen as more or less equivalent prospects.

If you have any questions about the list, I’ll be chatting today at noon here on the site (EDIT: here’s the chat transcript), and you can find me on Twitter at @kileymcd.

Alright, that’s enough stalling. Let’s get to this.

Read the rest of this entry »


Searching for a Comp for the Ultimate Signature Pitch

Apparently this is the week where I do whatever anyone says. Yesterday I identified some comps for various signature pitches around the league. In the subsequent comments, a request:

Well-Beered Englishman says:
As long as we’re making requests, I say hop in the time machine and compare somebody to Mariano.

So it shall be. Let’s see if we can find a decent comparison for Mariano Rivera‘s cutter, which has been the most signature of signature pitches. There’s been no greater example of hitters being unable to do much despite knowing exactly what’s coming. With Rivera, there wasn’t a lot of mystery. Just precise, pinpoint location, in areas that ensured his success.

In terms of style, the best comparison for Rivera is probably Kenley Jansen. Jansen dominates with a cutter and little else, and if that sounds familiar, it’s because that was Rivera’s whole game. But this investigation is a little different: this is looking for cutters most like Rivera’s cutter. Research was performed using the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards and Brooks Baseball player pages.

Read the rest of this entry »


Avisail Garcia, Dayan Viciedo, and Giving Up on Potential

The Chicago White Sox have had an interesting offseason. Even if you share Jeff’s view that they aren’t yet a very good team, you can’t deny that they made some nice additions this winter. The Sox added Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, and Emilio Bonifacio to a roster that included superstars like Chris Sale and Jose Abreu and very good players Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana.

The problem for the White Sox, of course, is all of those nice additions were replacing talent vacancies. As Jeff noted, the Sox got better but becoming Wild Card contenders or challenging the Tigers for division supremacy was a tall order given where they started. Even after the spending spree, they have serious issues behind the plate, at second base, at third base, in right field, and at the back end of the rotation.

It’s a roster that’s moving in a good direction, but it’s still pretty rare to see teams with that many serious holes make a legitimate playoff push. There’s no doubt the Sox are working to build a winner in the relatively near future. You don’t have the winter they had without a focus on the next one to three seasons, which naturally seems to hinge on Avisail Garcia in the short term to some degree.

Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Sale Finds Another Great Pitch

I’m not sure that we talk about how great Chris Sale is often enough. That’s relatively easily explained, I suppose; after all, with offense down across baseball, there’s more great-looking starting pitchers than ever, and even just within Sale’s division last year we found Corey Kluber, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Phil Hughes. You don’t have to go too far to find an interesting starter to talk about these days.

Sale finished third in the AL Cy Young balloting, but a distant third, not picking up a single first-place vote. That was primarily due to an early-season trip to the disabled list that left him unable to match Kluber and Felix Hernandez in innings pitched; otherwise, on a rate basis, he was every bit the equal of the AL’s two best starters. But we know that Sale is incredible, and we know that in 2014 he began to be a different kind of incredible, as Jeff Sullivan noted in June. Sale began to diminish usage of his fearsome slider, the one that he’d collected more than half of his strikeouts in 2012-13 with, in hopes that fewer sliders would help maintain the health of his arm.

That was in June. Now it’s January. We have a full season of data to look back upon, and three things should be pretty immediately clear. One, Sale really did use the slider less over the course of the year as compared to 2013: Read the rest of this entry »