Red Sox: Chris Sale must be at his best if Boston wants to contend
The Boston Red Sox are optimistic that their ace will be back to full strength when Opening Day rolls around, and they’ll need him at his absolute best.
As each day gets scratched off the calendar it feels like every other team in the league is bolstering their pitching. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are trying to unload some of theirs due to some very unfriendly contracts. With that said, one man that will be beyond important to the success of the 2020 Red Sox is Chris Sale.
The Boston ace had the definition of a rollercoaster season in 2019 and would even see his campaign shut down early in order to heal up. He was able to avoid Tommy John surgery in favor of some PRP therapy and rest. Red Sox Nation got an update on the southpaw recently as he was finally cleared to begin throwing ahead of next season. If all goes well this winter then we should be seeing Sale on the bump for Opening Day.
Now that the Yankees have corrected their main issue from a year ago with the signing of Gerrit Cole, Boston doesn’t have the luxury of having a poor rotation. Even as the season was slipping through their fingers in 2019, the rotation was good enough to keep them in the fight until the end. That won’t work in 2020 though and it all starts at the top with Sale.
It’s crazy to look at his numbers from this past season and then remember that he had not one but TWO immaculate innings. With how his 2018 ended and how his 2019 progressed he had no business achieving that feat, let alone twice. The Condor is a maniac in all the best ways and we saw that during the World Series when he wanted to fire his comrades up.
When you look around the American League there are teams that feel like they can be easy wins but more often than not there isn’t a real night off. More importantly, now that Cole is in the AL East, the Red Sox will have an even harder time in their own division. Add in Charlie Morton in Tampa and the top three teams in the division have serious dudes on the hill for any Game 1 scenario.
If he truly is on the path to being fully healthy then I think the Red Sox have a serious chance at getting back to October baseball in 2020. Sale had what would amount to being the worst season of his ten-year career having gone just 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA.
There was a drastic increase in runs and earned runs as he saw both metrics nearly double, 39/80 and 37/72 respectively. Oddly enough, even as Sale’s other numbers rose greatly his walks only increased by three from 34 to 37.
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Two areas that felt automatic during the World Series run in 2018 were his innings and strikeouts, both were down in 2019 and it was felt all season long. When you watched Sale it never felt like he had everything clicking on a nightly basis.
He could quickly cruise to two outs in an inning and then need a double-digit pitch at-bat to get the final out. If Chris is healthy that just doesn’t happen, he gets you out when he wants you out, you don’t get a say in the matter.
The names in the Red Sox starting rotation are some of the best in the game and sadly they all happened to hit a snag at the same time. David Price and Nathan Eovaldi were also bitten by the injury bug and Rick Porcello never got out of the starting blocks. Eduardo Rodriguez was the only member of the staff to find any success last season and will look to add more to the rèsumè in 2020.
I’ve appreciated how Boston has handled not only the injury but the recovery for Sale. We’ve seen it time and time again where a player rushes back from an injury too soon and finds themselves in a much deeper hole than they were initially in. I’d much rather the training staff take their time to let his body not only work through the PRP treatments but also heal from the initial injury.
If Boston wants to find any success this upcoming season it will all begin with the health and of Chris Sale. As the lead man in the rotation and one of the leaders in the clubhouse, he sets the tone for those around him. It feels as if everyone else in the league is adding to their arsenals while the Red Sox are going to need to rely on the pieces they already have. With a pitcher the quality of Sale leading the charge, that’s a hell of a weapon to have in your holster.