What a season it’s been for the Boston Red Sox and their left-handed ace, Chris Sale. Who knew that on August 4th, we’d be sitting here contemplating whether or not the defending World Champions with the highest payroll in baseball will be making the playoffs, let alone the Wild Card game, but here we are. Looking up at the Yankees sitting 13.5 back for the American League East, and now six back of the Wild Card, the patience for the team, or lack thereof, is palpable. Don’t get me wrong, there are a plethora of issues with this group. But not all of them are so glaring that we can pinpoint them. For example, is there something going on in the clubhouse that we don’t know about? Maybe, maybe not. But for a team littered with as much talent as this team has, it’s beyond puzzling that the 2019 Red Sox can’t seem to figure things out.
One of those glaring issues, though? The team’s newly extended ace is having the worst season of his career, and it’s a cause for concern when you think about his future here in Boston.
Something that the team as a whole and Sale have in common right now is that there have been glimmering signs of hope that they’ve figured out whatever issues they’ve been battling. There have been multiple points throughout the season where you could watch a game–or in the team’s case, a series–and believe that the kinks have been worked out and the fans will be getting more of the same product that they became accustomed to last season. But when you sit back and look at this team and Sale today, all you can really say is, “is this season just a lost cause?”.
Honing in on Sale, his campaign has been unbelievably putrid for his standards. While that statement may sound a little harsh, the thing is, if you went and asked Sale himself, he’d wholeheartedly agree and I don’t question that for a second.
Sale turned 30 at the top of the season, just after signing a 5-year extension with the team that would guarantee him a hefty payday of $145 million. The speculation was there about whether or not the team should sign Sale during this past offseason due to his clear shoulder issues that he suffered during the team’s 2018 championship run. It might not be a massive scare for most pitchers with the limited injury history that the rail-thin ace has, but knowing his end of the year pattern being that he tends to fall off as August and September roll around, it was worth noting. There was enough of a warning sign that some believed the front office should make note when deciding what to do about his contract that was set to expire following this current year.
He was unbelievable for a majority of last season, looking like the guy that you expect to see when Chris Sale is making a start. From the start of the year in March through August 12th, his ERA sat at just 1.97 with a WHIP of 0.85. In laments terms, he was utterly dominant and was in the midst of potentially achieving the first Cy Young of his career. But as the season progressed, he landed himself back on the DL with left shoulder inflammation.
The injury was a concern, but the hope was that he’d enter 2019 with full health and the Red Sox new longterm starting option would continue the type of regular season that he had in 2018. Unfortunately though, things became unhinged rather quickly.
On Opening Day in Seattle with the Red Sox taking on the Mariners, Sale, well, to put it softly, had his doors blown off and was knocked out of the game following just 3.0 innings worth of work. He was nothing like the guy who has been a juggernaut on the mound since he really integrated himself into the White Sox rotation in 2012. His devastating slider was anything but, and Seattle did a number on him that was astonishingly alarming. But at the time you could play it all off and wait for his next start.
And in his next start in Oakland, things seemed to straighten themselves out with his 6.0 IP, 3 H, and 1 ER performance. From there, things were up and down to start the year, finishing off April with an unprecedented ERA over 6.00.
From May until the end of June, his numbers were trending more towards what we’ve come to know. Included in this stretch was a complete game shutout in Kansas City which of course, got the Red Sox fanbase on Twitter riled up as we started to see the words, “Sale’s back”. Well, not exactly.
The worst season of his career seems like it’s beginning to snowball and if you’re not concerned about this trend, you’re not paying attention.
Over the past month, Sale’s had to face some of the league’s best which–want an obvious statement?–is something that you need your ace to do if you want to be seen as one of the league’s top teams. Throughout this month, it’s been a disaster as his ERA in that same timeframe sits at 7.47 (six games). His two most recent starts have come against the New York Yankees offense and in both instances, the results have been jarring. Last Sunday’s bout at Fenway Park resulted in him being tagged for 6 ER in 5.1 IP. Following that beating, he briefly mentioned how he gets another chance at them then, next week. Well, that outing came yesterday in the Bronx and things got worse as New York put 8 ER on the board in 3.2 IP.
With an ERA now sitting at 4.68, a WHIP of 1.14 and a record of 5-11–although records for pitchers rarely mean anything–it’s time to be concerned about not only the pitcher but the contract too.
Sale is somebody that this team has to depend on, along with your other elephant-sized deal with David Price, and if this is the result that we need to get used to, how is that going to play out with this team’s near future?
We are currently witnessing the worst season of Chris Sale’s career and believe me, to think that pitchers don’t go through down years is foolish. But is this not something that we should be keeping our eye on? The polar opposite results that have been occurring this year for the lefty are staggering and this is why they’re so alarming. This hasn’t been a year where his numbers are slightly up–or down, depending on how you look at it. Instead, it’s been a bizarre season that’s only drummed up concern regarding a pitcher who is one of the fiercest competitors in the game today.
Is this something that Red Sox fans should genuinely be concerned about? Absolutely, because if this is what to expect over the next five years of this newly inked deal, the Red Sox could have a lot of money tied up that they could use elsewhere.
By no means is the Chris Sale contract a bust–yet. But if Sale doesn’t begin to come back into form if not this season, but early next season, we might be singing a different tune. As the summer wears on into August and September, each Sale start is becoming increasingly interesting. And this will especially be the case if they miss the playoffs entirely.
The frustration boiled over on Saturday while he was ejected giving the home plate umpire an earful. A well-deserved ear full might I add. Maybe the real Chris Sale will be back in 2019, but there’s been little to support that theory as we sit here today.