We’re in the “who gives a shit about final scores” portion of the season with the Red Sox already clinching the AL East and the best record in baseball, but that doesn’t mean that everything we’re seeing is meaningless. It’s not. Red Sox pitchers, especially the starters, are gearing up for October.
In the day-night doubleheader against Baltimore, the Red Sox blew the O’s doors off in the day portion, tying a season high with 19 runs scored and set a new season high with 22 hits. That was fun and all, but all eyes were on Chris Sale in the night cap. His line wasn’t anything to write home about — three earned runs on four hits with a walk and eight strikeouts over four and a third — but even less encouraging was the velocity.
Now, as Alex Speier notes, Sale has done this before already this season. It was in a game back in April when Sale said that it was the worst pitching conditions he had ever pitched in. The following outing, Sale’s velocity was back up to an average of 95.67 MPH. There was also some fuckery involved, as some of Sale’s changeups on Wednesday night were registering as fastballs, skewing the data of his average fastball velocity. Regardless of that, Sale was not lighting up the gun by any means, as he only touched 94 MPH a handful of times.
Am I worried? No, not really. Well, not that worried. I know that the haters and the losers want me to be, but I’m not overly concerned. Like I said, he’s done this before and his next start, he was throwing gas. If he’s still doing this in his next start, then there’s surely some cause for concern.
You also have to consider that the 112-loss Orioles are not a team worth airing it out against when neither side has anything to play for. Applying some logic here, Sale’s slider command hasn’t been great since returning from the disabled list. Of the 92 pitches that Sale threw against Baltimore, 29 of them were sliders. It seems as though there was more of an emphasis on getting his slider back to what it was before his DL stint. Despite the lack of velocity, he still punched out eight batters in fewer than five innings.
Sale reportedly identified a mechanical issue, and reiterated that the results of his outing were not related to any injury. You can call bullshit on that if you’d like, but we’re just presenting all the facts here and you’re free to form your own opinions, although I surmise that most “takes” will actually be “hopes” and not what they actually believe to be true.
If you’ve got a dog in the fight and the Red Sox stand in your way of a championship, then I can’t blame you for getting giddy about Sale’s lack of fastball velocity. I guess we’ll know more the next time that he takes the mound. If you’re keeping score at home, that next start will be in Game 1 of the American League Division Series a week from Friday. Amidst a 107-win and counting season, they just had to make it interesting, didn’t they?