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posted: 7/29/2012 12:01 AM

Sale's loss of velocity should concern Sox

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  • Chris Sale's velocity was down in his last start, raising a "red flag" according to sports injury expert Will Carroll.

      Chris Sale's velocity was down in his last start, raising a "red flag" according to sports injury expert Will Carroll.

  • Chris Sale's velocity was down in his last start, raising a "red flag" according to sports injury expert Will Carroll. "The guy is tired, and we have some evidence," Carroll added.

      Chris Sale's velocity was down in his last start, raising a "red flag" according to sports injury expert Will Carroll. "The guy is tired, and we have some evidence," Carroll added.
    Associated Press

 

The injury bug continues to take big bites out of the White Sox' 25-man roster.

On Saturday, workhorse catcher A.J. Pierzynski missed his fourth straight game with a mild right oblique strain.

After colliding in Friday night's 9-4 win at Texas, center fielder Alejandro De Aza (sprained left wrist) and shortstop Alexei Ramirez (sore left wrist) both sat out Saturday's 5-2 victory over Texas.

To top it off, injured starter John Danks (shoulder) told MLB.com that surgery might be an option.

Give the Sox big credit for staying on top of the AL Central with all of their physical woes.

And, depending on whom you talk to, don't forget about ace starting pitcher Chris Sale.

The left-hander didn't look like he'd make it out of the first inning while allowing 4 runs on 3 hits and a hit batter against the Rangers on Friday night.

Sale, however, pulled it together and allowed only 1 run on 3 hits over the next 5 innings en route to winning his 12th game of the season.

The big topic during -- and after -- Sale's outing was his marked decline in velocity.

Sale usually throws his fastball at 95 mph or higher, but he was in the upper 80s at Texas and topped out at 91.

While Sale told reporters in Texas he feels fine and there is no need to worry, we talked to Will Carroll about the lack of zip.

Carroll is a sports injury expert and he writes about the subject for SI.com. He also wrote for Baseball Prospectus and authored three books, including "Saving the Pitcher" in 2004.

Is there a reason for Sale, the White Sox and Sox fans to be concerned about the drop in velocity?

"Yeah, there is," Carroll said. "There have been studies done all the way back to my book in 2004, and there are fantastic recent studies done at FanGraphs by Bill Petti. Now that we have more data, we're starting to learn more things."

Carroll said there are two level of fatigue for a pitcher: in-game and seasonal.

In-game is common, and velocity drops as the innings progress.

Seasonal fatigue is a much bigger concern, and it appears to have afflicted the 23-year-old Sale in his first full year as a starter.

"You can go out there and run one day and recover and run a couple days later and recover," Carroll said. "Well, pitchers don't do that. They're on a schedule and sometimes they don't get back to that theoretical 100 percent. We know it's not 100 percent.

"They can get down to 50 percent and pop back up. If they're getting to 98 percent and the next time is 96 percent, if we're seeing that trend line go down, that's bad and we know it's bad. We don't know how bad because we just don't have enough data to figure that out quite yet. But it's definitely a red flag."

Carroll gave trainer Herm Schneider and the White Sox credit for keeping their players as healthy as possible.

But let's be honest -- Sale is a special specimen, and the Sox have been keeping his workload as light as possible to keep him healthy.

According to Carroll, the White Sox should take extra precaution.

"The guy is tired, and we have some evidence," Carroll said. "If you're doing strength testing, which unfortunately they're not, it's tough to question Herm Schneider at all, but I do wonder why they don't (do) strength testing, why (they) don't have real, solid objective measures to say, 'OK, he's fatigued, we're seeing this in his deltoid, we're seeing this in his lat.'

"We don't have the objective measures to say, 'This is exactly where he is.' So you have to start looking at things like, 'OK the velocity is off, do we skip a start?' do they do what they did earlier in the season and say, 'We're going to make him the closer?'

"I don't know, but you certainly have to start looking at things more creatively than what the Nationals are doing with (Stephen) Strasburg."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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