White Sox

Could Chris Sale strike out 300 batters this season?

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Could Chris Sale strike out 300 batters this season?

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.”

[MORE: Renewed confidence has turned Carlos Sanchez in a threat]

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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

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.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rebuild advice from 3 Houston Astros All-Stars

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rebuild advice from 3 Houston Astros All-Stars

With the White Sox in the middle of a rebuild, Chuck Garfien spoke with 3 Houston Astros All-Stars who explained how they went from a rebuilding team to World Series champions. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman talk about how they dealt with losing, how they learned how to win, the importance of adding veterans to the young core, and how they kept hope alive during the rebuild.  Then later, Chuck spoke with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain trying to understand how he dominated the White Sox for so many years.

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jose Abreu didn’t come to the White Sox to be a leader. But that’s what he is as he took his spot among the best in baseball at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

Abreu is the face of the South Side baseball club and he’s had a stellar-enough first four and a half seasons in Major League Baseball to earn the distinction of a starter in the Midsummer Classic. But Abreu, unsurprisingly, doesn’t look at himself as one of the best in the game. He looks as himself as a hard-worker.

“I don’t believe that I’m the best,” Abreu said through a team translator on Monday. “I’m just a person who likes to work hard every day and try to do my best.”

That humility is nothing new to folks who follow the White Sox on a regular basis. And neither is talk of Abreu’s work ethic, the admiration of everyone involved with the team and a constant talking point from Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all Abreu’s teammates.

Abreu has become as important for his off-the-field roles as he has for his on-the-field production for this rebuilding White Sox team. He’s been described as a role model for all the young players in the organization, whether they’re on the big league roster right now or coming up through the system.

“None of them have told me that yet,” Abreu joked. “But I know that. It’s definitely a compliment, and I take it as something that makes you feel good, something that makes you keep moving forward and to keep trying to help the guys to improve and get better as a team. You feel like that is a big honor, that people think that way of you.”

As good as he feels to be held in such esteem, Abreu didn’t set out to be one of this team’s leaders when he came to the United States. And to be honest, he might not be in his current position if it weren’t for the team’s rebuilding effort. Abreu is one of the few veterans on this team.

“That was something that happened. I didn’t look for it,” Abreu said. “I was always trying to help people and trying to give advice to help people to improve. But I never tried to be a leader. If people say that because of what I do, that’s good, but that’s not something that I’m trying to force or something that I say, ‘I want to be a leader.’ No, that’s not who I am. I am just the kind of person who likes to help people, who likes to give advice.”

Abreu is seemingly the definition of what the White Sox want their next winning roster to be full of. And whether it’s the special relationship he has with fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada or the role-model status he holds in the eyes of his other teammates, both current and future, he’s helping the White Sox develop those kinds of players.

Oh, and he’s generally — though this season has seen an extended slump and atypical numbers — one of the most consistently productive hitters in the game.

Who wouldn’t want all that as the face of the franchise?

“It’s all a blessing. I can’t ask for anything else,” Abreu said. “I’m a true believer that if you work hard, good things are going to happen. That’s why I work hard every day, I try to do my best, I try to improve every day and just to be a better person. Not just a better player, but a better person.”