The Red Sox will need Chris Sale to be the Boogeyman in 2022
We’re under a month from when pitchers and catchers are about to report and kick off spring training. As it stands now, that date feels like it will come and pass without a single pitch being thrown. While it’s hard to ignore the lockout, we must turn our sights to the horizon and that means talking about our beloved 2022 Red Sox!
We saw a team this past season that far exceeded any predictions that were placed upon them before the season and that should only ramp up the excitement for this year. One of the things that have me amped up is the fact that we’re about to see a full season of a totally healthy Chris Sale. The Boogeyman as he became known in 2021 when his return was nearing will now have all of 2022 to be a nightmare for the American League.
Sale made nine starts in 2021 after a long hurdle-filled recovery from Tommy John. Boston’s big lefty torched the Minors on his rehab assignment and would soon make his return to a packed Fenway Park. With more than 33,000 fans in attendance, The Condor donned a Red Sox jersey in a real game for the first time since 2019.
He would post a 5.0/6 H/2 ER/8 K line and earned the win in a 16-2 drubbing of the Baltimore Orioles. What we saw from Sale in that return game would set the tone for the rest of his year as he would usually get yanked between five and six innings of work. A smart move by Alex Cora and Chaim Bloom to preserve their investment in Sale’s newly repaired arm.
When the dust settled on the 2021 season, Sale would tally a 5-1 record through 42.2 innings with a 3.16 ERA. For me, the most exciting part of his short return was his 11.0/2.5 K/BB ratio earning him 4.33 whiffs for every walk.
At times, you could definitely see the rust as he hadn’t been in a truly competitive game in a few lunar cycles but it was incredibly encouraging to see him do what he does best again. We also can’t forget that this man threw an Immaculate Inning, the third of his career, putting him in the history books with Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers to complete the feat three times.
So, why do I think he’s going to put fear in the hearts of the AL opposition this year? Simply put, if he can do what he did in 2021 after such a long layoff just imagine what he can do with the handcuffs off and the green light shining bright. Looking at the projections, it feels like some are more confident in what the lanky Floridian can do this upcoming campaign.
Baseball-Reference has Sale’s 2022 topping out at 81.0 IP, 94 K, 26 BB, and a 4.11 ERA. If you hop over to FanGraphs, they’re giving the lefty a bit more shine with 157.0 IP, 193 K, 46 BB, and a 3.57 ERA. I think these two projections are the perfect bookends for what we can expect from him this season as one is more conservative while the other is leaning more toward prime Sale.
The Red Sox got a shot in the arm when he made his return and I can only imagine how excited they are to have him from the get-go, I sure know I am. I don’t know where he’ll fall in the starting rotation as he’s going to be in a battle with Nathan Eovaldi for the top spot.
His salary and pedigree would make you think he’ll be on the mound on Opening Day but it’s hard to ignore what Evo has done the last two years with The Boogeyman on the shelf.
At the end of the day, I’m hoping we get closer to what FanGraphs has for him than BR but just having him on the mound every fifth day is already a plus over last year. Just think about it, the Red Sox dominated the first half of the season without their best starting pitcher, imagine what they can do with him healthy from day one.
I expect Bloom and the Red Sox front office to continue to add pieces to strengthen this roster but having Chris Sale back at 100% right away is already a massive plus. After what they did in 2021, the Red Sox will be taken far more seriously this season and their success will weigh heavily on what the southpaw can produce. If I’m the rest of the American League I’m already trying to figure out ways to counter The Boogeyman, because you know his living rent-free in their minds and nightmares.