By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Chris Sale has been an instant hit with Red Sox fans in his first three months with the team, mostly due to his dominant performances.
It was fascinating, then, to learn what type of preparation goes into each of Sale’s starts. Or, more accurately, what type preparation doesn’t go into his starts.
Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal wrote this week that Sale has just about never shaken off a pitch called by a catcher in his career. Sandy Leon said it hasn’t happened this year, and Tyler Flowers — who caught Sale for six years in Chicago — recalled just one time the Sale shook off a pitch.
Diamond revealed that veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle played a significant role in mentoring Sale, and trusting the catcher’s pitch call was an important part of that tutelage.
What’s arguably more fascinating is that, in the age of analytics and an abundance of available video on hitters, Sale avoids any and all information about opposing batters prior to a start.
“He doesn’t look at scouting reports on the hitters he will face and virtually never uses video, a staple for players across the sport,” Diamond wrote. “Before every game, Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis convenes with the catcher, the bullpen coach and that day’s pitcher to review the game-plan. Sale declines to attend the meeting. He doesn’t see the point.”
As Willis explained to Diamond: “His basic thought is, ‘Whatever I throw, you’re not going to hit it.'”
It’d be hard to argue with the results. After allowing one run over 6.1 innings in a win over Minnesota on Monday night, Sale improved to 10-3 with a 2.77 ERA and an AL-best 0.904 WHIP. He leads all of Major League Baseball with 155 strikeouts and in innings pitched at 113.2, and he’s on track to start the All-Star Game for the second straight season.