His clear third pitch, Sale throws his changeup just over 15% of the time and has good downward movement on the pitch. In 2019, hitters had a good amount of success off the pitch as they slashed .279/.319/.523 which is good for a wRC+ of 126. The LD% off the pitch also jumped in 2019, making it interesting to see if Sale can bounce back with the pitch in 2020.
Thrown from a 3/4 armslot with Chris Sale’s distinct motion, this pitch gets on you quick and is extremely effective. Despite the success, there are some red flags as the pitch only averaged 93 mph in 2019 compared to a career average of 94.6 mph. Look to see if Sale can increase his velocity a few ticks in 2020 and continue to dominate with his fastball.
Still an elite strikeout pitch, Sale’s slider for the first time in his career was his most used pitch. It unfortunately gained .100 points of wOBA from 2018 to 2019 as batters made more contact with it. With sale (hopefully) healthy for 2020 his slider should be able to bounceback.
There are so many reasons Sale’s four-seamer is so devastating. The lefty throws it practically sidearm at 95+ mph (third year in a row his fastball has gained velocity) with a ton of movement. It’s amazing hitters even make contact with it 73.3% of the time. For the third year in row, this pitch increased its swinging-strike rate to 14.8%, and it had a K rate over 40.0 for the second year in a row.
Sale’s slider is the Destroyer of Worlds—or at least of batted balls. Thrown 872 times, it was hit for just a 6 (!!!!) wRC+ and a minuscule 3.6 FB/HR%. Thrown from a near-sidearm slot, his slider can start from the far left side of the plate and end up at a right-hander’s back foot. With its 18.1 SwStr% and insane 48.9 K-BB%, hitters don’t stand a chance if Sale continues to throw this pitch this well.
A true Money Pitch in 2018, Sale’s changeup racked up a 41.0 O-swing%, 48.5 zone%, and an obscene 19.6 SwStr%. This pitch has a devastating sharp break at the end that almost resembles a slider but looks like his fastball coming out of his hand. Its only real weakness seems to be that since it works so often out of the zone, it has a bit of an elevated walk rate at 9.3%, but that is more a product of the pitch’s usage than a lack of control.
Sale’s only negative pitch according to pVal (-3.2), his sinker appears to have been the victim of some weird outcomes in roughly 281 offerings. It had a BABIP of .380—which was over 50 points higher than its previous high mark. Another piece of weirdness was that the sinker increased its swinging-strike rate to 8.2%, yet its K rate dropped from 7.2% to 1.7%. Given that the pitch was worth a 5.0 pVal both of the last two years, expect a rebound.