Despite a painful loss, Chris Sale dominated the Rays in his first start of 2018. Let’s zoom in on that outing and try to uncover more about the staff ace.
Chris Sale enjoyed a quietly fantastic Opening Day start. In six innings of work, the young lefty allowed one hit and no runs while fanning nine. But this is par for the course for Sale. He is, of course, one of the most dominant pitchers of our generation.
Many others have spoken at length about Sale’s dominance on a macro scale and for good reason; Sale currently owns the greatest strikeout to walk rate of any pitcher in baseball history with more than 1,000 innings thrown. He has a career ERA, FIP, and xFIP below three and has produced more than five fWAR in each of the past four seasons. Last season in particular Sale led all big league starters in FIP, fWAR, and virtually every category relating to strikeouts.
But what those stats don’t tell you is why Sale is unhittable. How does the young ace approach hitters, and why do over 30 % of the hitters he faces go down on strikes?
In an effort to shed some light on those questions let’s put a single inning from Sale’s performance yesterday under the microscope. We are going to analyze, batter-by-batter, the very first inning of Sale’s 2018 season.