For Sale, there are a few goals. One, he wants to keep himself healthy and able to pitch. Two, adding a better changeup should allow him to be effective longer within games. And three, Sale indicates that the changeup helps him keep his mechanics consistent. These things always sound good in theory, but Sale’s gone beyond theory, to the point where he’s genuinely executing. He’s dramatically cut down his slider usage. By our data, he’s increased his changeup usage by 12 percentage points, the biggest hike in baseball. According to Brooks, he’s actually second toHenderson Alvarez, but by the same source Alvarez used a changeup often in the past, so at least for Sale this is significant and new.
And Sale owns a career-high strikeout rate. He owns a career-low walk rate. Since he came off the disabled list, he’s posted a league-leading K% – BB% of 33%. Sale’s gotten better against both lefties and righties, and for an idea of the confidence he’s developed in his change.
For another glimpse at how Sale has kind of phased the slider out, here are his rates of strikeouts for which the slider was responsible:
2012: 58% strikeouts on slider
Sale’s slider is still good. It’s still Chris Sale’s slider. This season it’s been knocked for all of three hits. But Sale hasn’t needed to rely on that pitch, as his changeup has been knocked for just 11 hits despite a large gain in frequency. The one Sale changeup hit for extra bases so far wasn’t even a bad changeup; it was a good changeup thrown to an amazing hitter. Otherwise, the changeup has gotten 20 strikeouts and ten singles. Righties have struck out against the changeup 17 times; they’ve struck out against the slider six times. Last season, those numbers were 34 and 79.
Mr. Sale will be going against the NL ERA leader, Tim Hudson, today; should be a dandy.
On top of the Sale-Hudson tilt, we’re also getting King Felix versus Andrew Cashner. Kevin Gausman and Alex Cobb is also a fun little matchup. And finally, perhaps, the most unexpected interesting matchup of the year: Jake Arrieta versus Nate Eovaldi. Seriously, the Cubs record might not be very good, but their pitching staff has some interesting arms. As a whole, their pitching staff has fourth best FIP in the major leagues; tenth in xFIP. Arrieta is leading the way for their starting five, posting a 2.32 FIP – the fifth best FIP among starters with at least 40 innings pitched. The Marlins’ offense isn’t the joke many thought it would be, but as long as Arrieta can keep Giancarlo Stanton from doing being Giancarlo Stanton he could be in for a good night.
Even though there are a ton of good pitchers going tonight, there are still some favorable matchups for hitters. Matt Garza and his seemingly ever declining strikeout rate are facing the Diamondbacks today. Seriously, his numbers have been a little better lately, but his stuff has just looked lifeless all season. Jorge De La Rosa is facing a Dodgers’ lineup that hits lefties pretty well. Scott Van Slyke, anyone?
Justin Masterson has had command issues and, until recently, troubles missing bats. Nick Tepesch relies on groundballs, unfortunately for him, the Athletics’ offense doesn’t hit many of them. And, lastly, I’m still not quite sold on Chase Whitley as a starter, despite his early success. He has a tough test tonight versus Toronto.
The Daily Five
I usually don’t spend much on catching, but I’m making an exception for Jaso today. He’s always hit right handed pitching very well and he’s been hitting at the tip top of the order most days.
Aramis Ramirez – $6,091
Wade Miley has struggled some this season, specifically with two things: keeping the ball in play and right handed batters. Ramirez has plenty of power and a more than solid track record versus lefties.
Kevin Gausman – $11,660
Admittedly, I’m biased towards Gausman and his splendid, appealing changeup/forkball/thing, but I love his matchup today. The Rays offense has been a little better of late, but not good enough for me not to bet on Gausman’s immense upside.
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Landon is a senior writer at The Fantasy Fix. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter (@joneslandon).