Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Chris Sale

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Fenway Park on April 10, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 10: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Fenway Park on April 10, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Friday, May 11, the Blue Jays will oppose the the lanky lefty, Chris Sale. The Blue Jays will oppose the Red Sox with Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez will have to do his best to suppress the Red Sox offence since Sale has caused trouble for the Blue Jays his entire career.

Chris Sale’s season has been about as dominant as one would expect from a perennial Cy Young candidate. In eight starts, the lefty has posted a 3-1 record, 2.02 ERA, 0.939 WHIP, and an insane 225 ERA+. The Blue Jays did manage three earned runs against Sale in April, but, knowing Sale, this will only provide motivation for him to dominate Friday night.

Blue Jays fans are familiar with the range of pitches that Sale offers. However, as a refresher, Sale will offer the Blue Jays hitters a fastball, sinker, slider, and a circle change.

The lefty uses his fastball the most, 38.7% of the time to be exact. While it is listed at an average speed of 92.7 mph, this is not consistent. Sale has proven to have the ability to add and subtract on his fastball velocity in order to confuse hitters and upset their timing. A clear example of this ability, through March, April, and May, Sale’s fastball velocity fluctuated from 94.32 in March, 93.36 in April, and 95.83 in May.

Sale features his slider the second most. Pitching out of an extreme 3rd base side release, the southpaw fires home sliders 26.1% of the time—averaging a slow velocity at 79.2 mph. Despite the slow velocity, the slider has great movement and is particularly devastating based on where it is released. The lefty outstretches his long arm and breaks home a slider that has the potential to sweep and drop. For righties, it looks to be in the other batter’s box before breaking. For lefties, it comes in looking like it might hit you before it breaks off. Understandably, the slider has produced 60% whiffs/swing in May.

Sale has utilized the sinker 17.6% of the time while averaging a speed around 90-93 mph. The sinker has been a great groundball pitch for the lefty, producing groundballs at an insane 68.75% of balls in play in his April starts. Look for the sinker from Sale when he needs to get a groundball to get out of an inning. The ability to induce worm burners with a single pitch is an important ability for Sale; he does not usually pitch to groundballs, producing them just 41.7% of the time.

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Finally, Sale features a circle change a fraction less than the sinker, at a use rate of 17.5%. The circle change is quite quick, averaging a velocity of 87.0 mph. Despite its relatively high velocity, it produced whiffs/swing at a great 51.06% clip during Sale’s April starts.

If the Blue Jays are going to hit Sale, his weakness is his sinker. The Sinker has allowed a BAA of .353 in April and .333 in May. However, with a SLG against the sinker of just .412 in April, these are most likely just grounders that found the right hole. Thus, to mount a rally, the Blue Jays would have to string hits together in clutch moments.

It probably doesn’t need to be reiterated to Blue Jays fans, but Sale will strikeout a lot of batters. Currently the lanky lefty is sixth in the majors in K9 at 11.6 and holds a great K rate of 32.3%.

The Blue Jays have a host of batters with experience against Sale. Josh Donaldson, Curtis Granderson, Lourdes Gurriel, Teoscar Hernandez, Luke Maile, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, Yangervis Solarte, and even Richard Urena have stepped in against Sale.

No Blue Jays batter fears Sale more than the Canadian backstop, Russell Martin—in 14 at-bats, Martin has taken the collar. When they hit him, Donaldson, Smoak, and Morales hit Sale hard. Donaldson has a .980 OPS in 27 at-bats and Smoak has a .815 OPS in 22. Interestingly, the best hitter for average against Sale is Kendrys Morales. The Cuban has 10 hits in 34 at-bats, along with a great .932 OPS.

Chris Sale is nasty and, at times, downright unfair. However, the Blue Jays got to him once already this year. Realistically, though, don’t be surprised if Sale looks for revenge Friday night and cuts through the Blue Jays like they’re a throwback White Sox uniform.

Next: Series with the Red Sox an early, crucial crossroads