Chris Sale said it’s “not time to panic” after his start last night.
— NESN (@NESN) September 27, 2018
Chris Sale’s performance last night didn’t inspire confidence in many Red Sox fans. Against a 100-loss team playing out the string in the second game of a doubleheader, Sale couldn’t get through five innings, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk. It was his worst outing this month, and likely his last appearance before starting Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park one week from tomorrow. Still, it doesn’t change my outlook for this team.
Despite last night’s rough outing, his September numbers aren’t that bad. While he didn’t have a decision this month, the Sox went 3-1 in the four games he started in September. His ERA of 3.75 wasn’t great, but not a complete disaster either. He still struck out 18 and walked just one, his WHIP was 1.00 and his opponents’ batting average was .239. Not up to the usual Chris Sale standards. but again, not a complete disaster either.
Where I notice a big difference is Sale’s opponents’ batting average on balls in play. Generally speaking, a normal BABIP is around .300. Through August, Sale’s opponents’ BABIP was .276, so maybe Sale benefited from some good defense behind him. In September, though, his opponents’ BABIP was .357. I’m not sure what’s to blame for the 81-point swing, but perhaps Sale just got a little unlucky at times in September. If the Red Sox are back at full strength in October and play meaningful games for the first time in a month, maybe that BABIP for Sale’s opponents goes back to being closer to the league average.
Maybe the most disappointing September number for Sale is his number of innings pitched: 12. But he did throw 92 pitches last night. If he can touch 100 pitches again next time out, maybe we don’t see the Chris Sale who struck out 11 Yankees and allowed one hit in seven innings on June 30, but maybe we get something closer to that which will still allow the Red Sox to survive and advance.