One of the bigger pre-season storylines this year was the numerous relievers who were being used in their respective rotations. A number of them struggled, but a few have exceeded expectations. Jeff Samardzija has relied heavily on his split-fingered fastball and has had a solid season; Lance Lynn was an all-star; and then there’s Chris Sale — the player who made the most seamless transition.
Sale relies on his slider more than all but five qualified American League starters, and while his fastball and changeup combination has been big reasons for his success, the slider without a doubt is his out pitch. As a reliever, Sale got away with being close to a two-pitch pitcher, despite having a solid changeup in college. He used his changeup about 12% of the time against righties, but Sale and the White Sox staff understood the pitch needed to become a more heavily used offering if he was going to be successful in the rotation. Sale now throws the pitch 25% of the time against righties, though he doesn’t use it at all against lefties. The pitch’s success has been a large reason why righties have just a .289 wOBA against Sale — an impressive number for a first-year starter. But even with the success of his changeup, only 21 of the 162 batters he has struck out fell victim to the changeup. The slider, on the other hand, has been the pitch. It’s been used on 95 of his 162 strikeouts and accounts for 59% of his Ks.
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