For The Record: Chris Sale Has Completely Regained His Super Powers

Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves. Getty Images.

There's an old sailor's tale in baseball: if Chris Sale makes more than 25 starts, he will finish top 5 in Cy Young voting. That's the only condition to his success: be healthy enough for 26+ starts, he fucking dominates. 

Look for yourself. It's actually remarkable: 





I know you didn't look so here's a screenshot. I'm not bullshitting you.

Squint away and you will find brilliance.

Look even harder and you'll realize he's on the Atlanta Braves this season. Yes, baseball fans are well aware. Casual sports fans, however, need reminding about this stuff. And those two groups of people are completely different. Consider this for the latter crowd. 

Chris Sale is still very good. There's a lot of opinions over the last couple years that are absolute dogshit. A lot of people who can't hold a four seamer much less throw it accurately to 30 feet said he was washed. A lot of people trashed him for being a looney bin in rehab starts. Then the same people were surprised he wasn't retiring. More surprised the Braves wanted him. And now those same filthy stupid motherfuckers will vote him comeback player of the year. 

All those guys can suck brick. 

Chris Sale is awesome because he is a crazy person. That's a primary-commonality amongst great pitchers. Show me a great pitcher, I'll show you unhinged in all shapes and sizes. There aint no regular Joes slinging plus plus stuff on the big stage. 

Now the reason that matters is because a lot of them take everything very personally. Like to an overwhelming extent. And again, Chris Sale is no different. He has something to prove to himself: he can strikeout whoever, whenever. 

Ergo - the last couple years have been rock bottom. Hurt or in-process of being hurt. Being weak and incapable. Not the guy who finishes top 5 in the Cy Young every year. Carrying a plus 6 October ERA into his late 30's. Just a whole bunch of mental stuff that could rip a guy to shreds inside. 

So then go back to him being a psychopath. He's got something to prove, which makes him want to put in the work to get back to where he can throw his stuff. A lot of guys stop long before they get to Chris Sale's level. And ergo, again, that's what makes Chris Sale great. 

I feel like Chet Steadman


But that's truth. That's something nobody talks about because so few can understand. Even whatever I'm saying now is at best secondhand. In that regard, may I recommend Joe Posnaski's Top 100? 

Listen close enough for long enough and you too will find your own patterns, however shitty they may be. They will be yours.  

I assure you in this regard, my opinion of Chris Sale's mental approach is vetted and verified. He'll stab you with a pair of kitchen scissors if you take him out too early. That's not a joke. 

And I say all that because now it's much easier to reflect on the fact that he's carving dudes for the Braves. 

Specifically, last night he struck out 9 in seven scoreless, 2-hit innings against my Cubs. It was both frustrating and beautiful to watch. 

If you dig statcast data, you'll see not much has changed on pitch usage or velocity. He's been a fastball/slider guy for a long time with a filthy change. So you won't find a sweeper or split or something new in the advanced stuff. 

I've done the research for you so I'll keep it easy. He's throwing more strikes more often early in the count. He's being aggressive, which is a sign that he's healthy. It's nothing fancy or overly special. Just a matter of having the strength to be confident and go back to basics. 

The results are crazy. He's outperforming career averages in literally everything: chase rate, whiff rate, walk rate, strikeout, meatball % (a real thing), all the way to the frequency in which he paints corners. Everything is up and yet nothing has really changed on paper. 

Which alas goes back to Chris Sale, the competitor. The sumbitch who wants it more than you, me and everyone reading this. He could have retired a long time ago and everyone would have started a HOF debate anyways. Arguably the best strikeout LHP since Randy Johnson, no? 

However you want to categorize the legacy, it appears to still be moving and I think that's worthy of the attention of a casual sports fan. Remember Chris Sale? 

He's back and he looks extra pissed off. 

This is not a blog that needs a visual of one good pitch or dominant strikeout. You can use your imagination, I'm sure. 

The broader point is that it's just so cool to me in a time and era when everything is so quantified that we still have an original gun slinger lefty that defies all logic. A ballpoint pen that throws 97 with Steve Carlton's slider, 5 years removed from feeling good about his fastball. 

That's awesome, and if he's using steroids, even fuckin better. 

Which reminds me to circle back with you guys later. I want to see the league authorize each team to designate 3 players at the start of every year that get to use whatever substances they want for the year. I think that would be an interesting wrinkle. Do you go bullpen or power hitting? Use it on a minor leaguer or a veteran. You get 3 guys, who are you picking? 


I'm taking Chris Sale and pumping him full of everything. But again that's a different blog. 

For now just enjoy that he's back. There's nobody else like him. 


Steph Chambers. Getty Images.