SEATTLE -- Chris Sale likely has eight starts left this season, which gives him a viable shot at 300 strikeouts.
Having struck out 214 batters two seasons ago, Jeff Samardzija has an understanding of just how incredible a feat it would be for Sale to accomplish.
In his bid to become the first pitcher to achieve 300 strikeouts since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002, Sale has 222 strikeouts over 164 1/3 innings in his first 24 starts. Were he to maintain his current averages, Sale should pitch 54 2/3 innings the rest of the way with 74 strikeouts, which would put him at 296.
“It’s really hard,” Samardzija said. “It’s definitely a mindset. The coolest thing about Sale is he’s clearly been a strikeout pitcher his whole life because it’s not new for him.
“I was excited and it was a lot of work (to get 214). I was really exhausted after that year.
“I wasn’t used to being the strikeout guy, but for Sale its almost just like another day’s work for him.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has roughly seen 848 of Sale’s 959 strikeouts in person. He has seen it more than most and knows the capabilities of his lanky left-hander. Even he’s captivated by Sale, who has struck out 29 batters in his past two starts and has 12 games this season with at least 10 strikeouts.
“When you measure it against what you’re seeing around the league and what you’re seeing with history, it is impressive,” Ventura said. “You’re starting to look at the efficiency of what he does. He’s had some games where five, six innings of it was him striking people out. That’s the part that becomes impressive. Once you get up over 11, 12 strikeouts, you’re really eliminating a lot of work for the defense. It puts a lot more work on you, there’s a lot more work to striking people out than just let him hit it and let the defense go.”
Samardzija also is stunned by the efficiency and Sale’s ability to routinely throw between 110-120 pitches. Sale has averaged 12.16 strikeouts per nine innings this season, the highest total since Johnson’s 13.41 in 2001. Were Sale doing this 40 years ago, Samardzija believes he’d easily eclipse 300 strikeouts because his innings total would be more like 250-260.
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When Johnson struck out 334 batters in 2002, he did it in 260 innings while Schilling finished with 316 in 259 1/3 innings. Sale could still achieve the feat even though he’s on pace for about 219 innings. If he maintained his current average for Johnson’s 260 innings in 2002, Sale would strikeout 351 batters.
“To strikeout 300 without throwing that many innings is really, really impressive,” Samardzija said. “If Sale had 300 innings and struck out 300, that’d be one thing. But he’s going to probably do it in 220 innings, which if you the math is really more impressive. It’s unbelievable. It’ll be something down the road we’ll look back on and say ‘Geez, that was unbelievable.’ ”
As outrageous as his run has been, Ventura thinks Sale could accomplish the feat. Ventura knows it would take a lot of work but Sale is up to the task.
“Of course he can,” Ventura said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why he can’t. We’ll have to wait and see.”