One of the most important trends to follow in Chris Sale's maiden starting pitching voyage this year will be his ability to get right-handers out. That may seem obvious, but putting it into context, only 55 percent of the batters Sale faced as a reliever were righties. As a starter, he can expect about four of every five batters he faces to hit right-handed.
As Eno Sarris at Fangraphs points out, Sale's funky three-quarters release point may make him more prone to significant platoon splits. He's already exhibited those as a reliever -- against lefties, Sale has a 2.10 FIP; against righties, he has a 3.73 FIP.
Going behind those numbers, Sale's walk rate is slightly higher against righties while his strikeout rate is essentially equal. But the reason for Sale's lessened success (and a 3.73 FIP is still successful, for the record) is a much higher home run rate against righties -- of the eight home runs he's allowed in his career, seven have been to righties.
Against lefties, Sale has been exclusively a fastball-slider pitcher. According to Texas Leaguers' pitch fx database, Sale has thrown a grand total of one changeup against a left-handed opponent in his two-year MLB career. That fastball-slider combo should be effective even with facing batters multiple times through the lineup -- it's that good.
Sale's thrown his changeup 13 percent of the time against righties, though, and it's proven to be one of his more successful pitches. Righties swing at it at a higher rate than any of his other pitches (48 percent) while whiffing at it more than any other pitch (18 percent). The swing and whiff rates on his slider and fastball both go down when Sale faces a righty instead of a lefty.
Back to Sarris' point on Sale's release point -- a well-thrown changeup will mitigate those concerns. Sale's slider may be easier to lay off of as righties have a greater exposure to Sale, but the changeup isn't a pitch they should be able to pick up out of Sale's hand.
No matter what Sale does, he'll see some sort of lefty-righty split. He's so good against lefties that it's inevitable. But success with his changeup should narrow the gap.
27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.
The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.
In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.
Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.
Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.
But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.
While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:
4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen