Watching Chris Sale’s season play out is excruciating, because he appears to be building one of the great performances of his time and the White Sox just keep on losing. He allowed two hits to Texas over eight innings Friday, striking out 14 – you can see it here -- yet the White Sox lost. Again.
The numbers speak for themselves. From the Elias Sports Bureau: Chris Sale is the third pitcher in modern baseball history (since 1900) with 12 or more strikeouts in five consecutive starts (Pedro Martinez in 1999, Randy Johnson in 1998).
Another one: Chris Sale is just the third pitcher in the last 10 seasons to strike out at least 14 while walking none in a game that he didn't win (2013 Yu Darvish: no decision; 2012 James Shields: lost).
There’s nobody else in baseball quite like Sale, with his elbowed and kneed delivery, with his mid-90s fastball. Not only is his stuff excellent, but hitters will also tell you that the difficulty in facing Sale is that there are no repetitions to draw on between the moments you’re in the box against him. There are no other lefties with his arm angle, his height and the funkiness in his delivery.
Sometimes, hitters will call friends on other teams and ask for tips about a particular starting pitcher and about the experience of batting against them, and like college friends studying a language, one hitter can educate the other based on some commonality in the interpretation, to make sense of the information.
But this can’t really happen with Sale, who is more like a Rosetta Stone – someone who has an interpretation all his own.
Really, he is the closest thing we’ve seen to Randy Johnson since the Big Unit retired.