Chris Sale: fantasy ace or pitfall pitcher?
The electric southpaw's 2012 was a tale of two halves, obviously. There was really no better hurler prior to the All-Star break (2.19 ERA, 8.59 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 0.44 HR/9 and .255 BABIP against). After it, few were tougher to stomach (James McDonald comes to mind), considering the credibility they'd built up (4.03 ERA, 9.47 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, 1.41 HR/9 and .338 BABIP against).
Recall that his heaviest workload as a pro, prior to last year, came as a reliever in 2011 (71 frames), and that he pitched only 103 innings as a starter in his final season at Florida Gulf Coast University, in 2010, along with 33 2/3 stanzas in relief as a pro that year. There were bound to be some corrections of his phenomenal first-half rates, and the potential effects of burnout were only going to compound them. The scare caused by elbow tenderness he experienced in May didn't help matters. The White Sox gave him an occasional extra day or two of rest in the dog days of summer, but they didn't shut him down.
Fantasy owners are probably taking a bigger risk than necessary if they're willing to entrust Sale with their top pitching spot in his age-24 season. The Verducci Effect is a fable, but the lefty's innings total did increase by more than 120, not 30, from the previous year. We can't know how Sale's arm and body will react until they do.
Still, it's worth noting that Sale's peripherals didn't take a nosedive the way his results began to do so last season. The aim of his offseason workout regimen is to increase his endurance, and it's definitely not a bad thing that he'll be skipping the World Baseball Classic. His superb control rate contributed to a 15.72 pitch-per-inning rate, making him one of the majors' more efficient starters, in a vein similar to Cole Hamels'. Sale has the skills of a future Cy Young Award-winner, so one can't pass him up easily.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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