Pitcher Spotlight: Chris Sale

I’d like to introduce a new feature at FanGraphs: the pitcher spotlight.  While I will continue to try to highlight unique skills or aspects of the sport in other pieces, Major League Baseball is overflowing with quality pitching and interesting prospects worth addressing.  To cover a wider range of pitchers, these posts will be a regular but relatively brief look at a pitcher’s repertoire.

This week’s subject is 24-year-old Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale, who is fresh off a dominating 13 strikeout performance in his last start.  Sale is a deceptive low arm-slot lefty who fully utilizes his quality four pitch mix, which includes a four seam fastball, two seam fastball, slider and changeup.  Here are those offerings in the usual composite graphic with footage stabilized and synchronized to provide a relative look at their movement and velocity.


As well as an isolated look at the fastball-slider combination.


Like most left handed pitchers, Sale focuses on his breaking pitch vs left handed batters, but uses a more even mix vs right handed batters.  The changeup in particular has seen a spike in usage, up from 15% in 2012 to 20% this year.


To get a look at Sale’s pitch selection in game action, I’ve selected two pitch sequences.  First up, Oakland right handed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.


As you can see, even with Sale’s arm slot, he’s not an easy guy to hit, even for right-handed batters.  Here’s a match up with lefty Michael Bourn.


While breakout performances may take precedence, any reader input on upcoming subjects is welcome. There are a lot of interesting pitchers in baseball to cover, but I’d love to hear who you’d like to see get put in the spotlight.

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Drew Sheppard is a writer for FanGraphs, graphic artist and GIF enthusiast. If you have a topic you would like Drew to take a look at in the future using overlay GIFs, please let him know in the comments here or on Twitter @DShep25.

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I really like the new piece! I’d love to get your opinions on Brett Cecil’s recent success and his repertoire. I think he goes fairly unnoticed given the fact that he’s been one of the Blue Jays’ go-to set-up guy this season, but he’s really flashed some All-Star quality stuff and a fast improvement in his control and K%.

Thanks again!


Yeah I agree. Cecil has been the best middle reliever in baseball after being a disaster starting pitcher. What makes him such a great middle reliever but such an awful starter? Maybe some side by side GIF’s to compare and contrast.