White Sox pitching coach always knew Chris Sale was on fast track to fame
CHICAGO — The year before the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox, pitching coach Don Cooper and Sale came up with a plan that targeted peak performance in October, should the White Sox make the playoffs.
They called it the hybrid.
They didn’t want to completely abandon Sale’s ability to throw fastballs in the upper-90s, but the idea was that if his stuff was a little more hittable, it could have a two-pronged effect, both saving him innings and keeping his arm fresh late in the season.
“It was done on purpose,” Cooper said yesterday, one day before Sale pitches against his former team for the first time. “In his back pocket, he has 95, 96, 97 miles per hour, but to flip a sinker in there at 90, 90-or-more, and get a groundball somewhere, there’s a lot of value in that, too.
“It was kind of a risk. But I thought, talking to Chris in the offseason, it was the way to go, because to be able to sustain 95 and above for 32, 33 starts and the playoffs, that’s not easy. Also, to be able to go longer in the game, he was striking out a lot of guys for us and he’d wind up going six innings. We needed to lengthen that to seven and eight.
“So that’s why we went hybrid, and we got the seven and eight innings out of him as a constant.”
His fastball velocity hit an all-time low, averaging 93.6 mph on the season, down from 95.6 mph the year before. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.8 per nine to 9.3 per nine.
But the end result hardly changed. He was equally effective in the second half, showing no signs of improved performance due to saved arm strength.
With the Red Sox, the hybrid approach apparently has gone out the window. Sale is averaging 95.4 mph on his…