Since breaking into the big leagues in 2010, Chris Sale has drawn endless comparisons to Randy Johnson. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not hyperbole. The 6’6″ leftie some call “The Condor” is a nightmarish blur of sharp edges and kneecap and elbows on the mound. In terms of pure fear factor, there’s not a pitcher in baseball I wouldn’t chose to face over Sale.
As a lefty hitter you haul your ass reluctantly into the batters box like a dead man walking: Sale has held LHB to a 68 OPS+ for his career (meaning 32% worse than league average). But as a righty, while you may have a better shot at getting on base, you are facing the imminent danger that is his slider.
Last night vs. Baltimore, Sale struck out notorious free-swinger Mark Trumbo on a slider that hit him in the knee. After they were done sharing a laugh (a nervous laugh, for Chris Sale’s slider is not partial and does not discriminate, and in the unevolved animal part of their brains they knew that nobody is immune or above its devastation) the White Sox broadcasters said “that’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen.”
So, for your viewing pleasure, here are the instances I could find of Chris Sale inducing a swing-and-miss on a pitch that would otherwise have resulted in a HBP.
Victim 1: Torii Hunter
It’s hard to see due to the grainy quality of the video but this slider, after it’s done breaking about ten feet, it lands on Hunter’s back foot. This is the way Chris Sale preys on most of the unfortunately right-handed victims in this post: a sweeping slider that starts outside and drops diagonally down-and-in just as it crosses the plate. Most of the time the batter will move his back foot out of the way or the ball will hit the dirt just beside the back foot, but sometimes it goes the extra distance and plunks the batter. (Side note: If anyone is interested in seeing the dank slow-mo GIFs of the close calls, shoot me an tweet at @PopOfTheGlove)
Here is a still of the ball hitting his foot:
Here is a still of Hunter planning a fake trip to the bereavement list for the next time Sale is scheduled to face the Tigers. Something about his faithful old golden retriever passing away from leukaemia after a long battle. Robin Ventura ate it up.
Victim 2: Derek Jeter
O Captain! My Captain! The time will come when Derek Jeter seizes the means of video production and this atrocity will be righteously scrubbed from the history of baseball frame by frame and the legacy of Derek Jeter will once again be gleaming and unblemished.
Here’s a still of a blurry blemish on Jeter’s back foot:
Victim 3: Eduardo Escobar
S/O to Pitcher List for this surprisingly hard-to-find GIF. Apparently people don’t care about Eduardo Escobar at all. Two things to love about this one. First, the ridiculous bird-like pose Sale strikes after releasing the ball. Second, how Escobar seems to almost trip over the ball after flailing hopelessly at it.
Here’s a still of the ball resting on top of his foot:
Victim 4: Chris Denorfia
See Denorfia. He is pale and weak. See him crumple to the dirt and kneel before The Condor. Absolutely nasty stuff from Sale.
Here’s a still of the ball about to strike him on the side of the knee:
Victim 5: Mark Trumbo
This is the slider that inspired this post, and it might be the filthiest one I’ve ever seen. Besides Trumbo and Denorfia, every victim fell prey to a slider that was headed for the dirt. This pitch starts out a few feet outside and would have been caught by Dioner Navarro more than a few feet inside had it not met Mark Trumbo’s knee along the way.
Here’s a still of the ball meeting Mark Trumbo’s knee:
Victim 6: Torii Hunter, once again
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and Torii Hunter is a living breathing example of that principle. Two years after being humbled by Sale’s slider, Hunter courageously got back on the horse … and then this happened:
Here’s an angle from the side:
Here’s a still of the ball hitting off his lower shin:
After finding out from Joe Mauer that Hunter’s faithful old golden retriever had succumbed to lymphoma moments before first pitch on that beautiful clear summer day, Sale sent Hunter a gift basket with a thoughtful note apologizing for embarrassing him at such a vulnerable moment.
That night, Hunter devoured a meal of white chocolate bark with incredible gusto while perusing his career .289/.304/.600 line vs. Chris Sale on Baseball-Reference.com and chuckling to himself, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
IMPORTANT PABLO SANDOVAL UPDATE
While this isn’t a slider, it’s still too important a GIF to not include: