Chris Sale burst onto the scene during his first season with the Boston Red Sox, posting a 17-8 record with a 2.45 ERA and 308 strikeouts.
The left-handed ace has had a solid start to the 2018 season, but his strikeouts and velocity have been down through seven starts.
That appears to be by design, however.
Despite all his brilliance last season, Sale tailed off toward the end of the year due to the immense workload he carried throughout the 2017 campaign. So the hard-throwing lefty and manager Alex Cora made it a point of emphasis not to wear the ace out early in the season.
Sale explained the new approach Thursday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria,” giving a sound explanation for the dip in velocity and strikeout numbers.
“Longevity is the key ?? longevity and consistency,” Sale said. “Everyone talks about last year and all the strikeouts, but let?s be honest, the consistency wasn?t good. It was all or nothing. I was going out there punching out 12, or I was giving up six. For me, I would rather be a little more consistent and fill up innings. Strikeouts are cool. I get it. It?s like hitting home runs. But I think sometimes you can get too caught up in looking at strikeouts.
“At the end of the day, if you go seven innings and give up one run, it doesn?t matter if you punched out 12 or punched out four. It?s the same ?? not to mention the fact that having a good defense behind you, guys you trust, takes off a little bit of pressure, deep counts, pitch counts. That?s what we?re trying to avoid.”
So far it’s worked out for Sale and the Red Sox, with the lefty posting a 2-1 record with a 2.14 ERA in seven starts.