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Wednesday, June 19

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White Sox Thu Jul 02 2015

Sale's Strikeout Streak Survives for Sox

Chicago White Sox On Tuesday night, and against the MLB-best Cardinals no less, Chris Sale struck out 12 batters to become the second pitcher to ever strike out at least 10 in eight consecutive starts.

Sale has been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball since 2012, and baseball as a whole has become a strikeout-contingent game. While Sale's feat isn't surprising, being good for 10 Ks a game is still very impressive. How has this streak come to be?

Over the last eight games, Sale has faced some good offenses in not just the Cardinals (who are league average but still extremely pesky) but the Orioles, Astros and Rangers (twice). All of those clubs are top-10 in baseball in runs scored. But, while those teams can score, they also pile up the strikeouts. Those three teams, along with the Rays (a team he also faced) are top-10 in the league in total strikeouts. These offenses don't view strikeouts as a negative compared to other outs, and Sale is a power pitcher. Round peg, meet round hole.

As for Sale, he has increased his strikeout rate (obviously) and his walk rate has remained the same. According to FanGraphs, his 94.5 average-MPH fastball is the fastest it's been since he became a starting pitcher three seasons ago. He attacks hitters with low-and-outside pitches to both righties and lefties, which are the best spots to get batters flailing and to get a generous called strike. His splits say that he is almost equally as effective against righties and lefties and at home and on the road.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Sale's dominance is that his defense is making him worse, but it hardly matters. His BABIP (.299) is the highest it's ever been and his FIP (2.09) is much lower than his already-stellar 2.87 ERA.

Considering he's only had one bad outing this year (eight earned runs in three innings against the Twins on April 30), and that he's pitched at least into the seventh inning in each of his last 10 starts (and six starts with eight innings pitched), Sale has the ability to keep this streak going. He's slated to face the Orioles on Sunday as of now, but manager Robin Ventura has indicated that Sale might be bumped back to Monday, where he'd face the Blue Jays. Though the Jays have league's best offense and are only 18th in team strikeouts, the start would be at home.

If the run stays alive Sale will put it up against the Cubs at Wrigley next weekend. The Cubs have the second-most Ks in the league. After that will be the All-Star break and the second half of the season, where the Royals, Cardinals and Indians await.

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