Pitching Pr0n: Verlander vs. Sale in September

Posted: September 3, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , ,

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

And so there was Delmon Young, standing in the way of Chris Sale as the budding phenom was attempting to pull off another escape trick. This is the scenario that Robin and co. imagined when the reset the rotation this way. Get Sale a start against Verlander in case we have to stop the bleeding. It worked out poorly, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at why this game was so important/meaningful/fun.

Prologue:

Quote:
Andy: RE: Fantasy Baseball:
“Sorry for the anal rapeage on the last day.”

Chris Sale is having a tremendous year at the tender age of 23. The lefty is putting together a Cy Young caliber year in his first full exposure to the league as a starter. He is lightning in a bottle and the Sox are trying to convert it into a post-season berth. Sale has been off a bit lately. The breaking stuff is still sharp, but there is a noticeable dip in velocity that concerns White Sox fans. He is, however, the unquestioned ace of the staff, armed with the stuff (shit your pants slider with a good change) and good feel for pitching. The White Sox moved him back a few days and matched him up with perhaps the preeminent ace of the modern age.

Justin Verlander is having an off-year. And by off-year I mean that he’s only third in the AL in ERA and WHIP, only second in HA/9, and only second in total strikeouts. Verlander set the bar impossibly high last year when he put a filthy repertoire and a feel for pitching together and created a monster that the AL is having great difficulty dealing with. The man is a monster, and I believe he is the best pitcher in baseball. He toys with you in the early innings, hitting 90-95 on the gun as needed before unleashing the hellish 101 fastball that, grouped with an elite curve/slider/change combo, is just unfair to the rest of humanity. He also manages to pitch deep into ballgames, using superior pacing in his game.

Normally, this should be chalked up as an automatic loss. Losing this game would mean many things. Heading into the Tigers series the White Sox enjoyed a fairly cushy 3 game lead, only a sweep would produce a tie atop the division standings and the Sox had their two aces going in Peavy and Sale. Well Peavy did yeomen’s work, but he pitched sub par according to his 2012 standard, and Scherzer shoved it on Saturday, setting up the improbable sweep that the Sox feared.

I would feel better about the White Sox chances with a 2 game lead instead of a tie. Detroit is an enigmatic team that finds “it” in spurts. They are perfectly capable of rattling off an 8-2/9-1 stretch and that could be bad for the Sox. They needed this game and they had the right guy on the mound.

With the division hanging in the balance, there aren’t many pitchers I’d pick over Sale.

There are none that I would pick over Verlander.

1st Inning

Quote:
Keith Law:
MVGIDP ‘@Buster_ESPN: And Miguel Cabrera leads the majors in hitting into double plays. espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batt…’

Verlander:

There was a time when Verlander struggled against the White Sox. It wasn’t that long ago either. The Chicago White Sox are a historically good fastball hitting team. When Verlander was first called up in 2005 he was a thrower with good stuff. He cranked it to max velocity at all times, and that played right into the hands of the White Sox.

You had to think that maybe the White Sox would find a way to get back to those days when De Aza launched a “get me over” fastball into the right field bleachers. The book on Verlander is that you have to get him early, and when he fell behind Youk I thought this would be a big inning for the Sox. Verlander battled in that first inning, he managed to get 3 strikeouts, the first being on Youk, but he was working from behind consistently. The fastball was gettable, the Sox were sitting on it and laying off the two-seamers down and away, and the junk that he was throwing low. As the inning progressed I realized that they needed to score all the runs they could this inning because that slider/curve combo was sharp today, and he gains a feel for those pitches as the game goes along.

What makes Verlander so dangerous and tough is that he doesn’t get weaker as the game goes along.

He only gets stronger.

Line: 1ip/2h/3k/0bb/1er

Sale:

Chris Sale has struggled against the Tigers in his first season as a starter. He carried a 6+ ERA against Detroit heading into the game, so the first go around would be extremely important. In 2012 opponents hit .197 against Sale the first time they face him in a game. By the third PA the average jumps to a still respectable .241. If Sale is going to go deep, he needs to be solid the first time through the order.

It started dubiously, it wasn’t a lead-off HR, but he did walk Austin Jackson. He had a solid attack against Infante and met Miggy for the first time. Sale hints at a strategy forming in this at bat, which only lasted 2 pitches. He pitched backwards a little bit. Old axioms dictate that a pitcher establishes the fastball first and then moves on to the slow stuff. Sale threw Miggy a slider that was high and away before burying a moving fastball low and in to induce a double play. It was smart pitching and a professional attack on a great hitter, ensuring that Prince Fielder would lead off the next inning.

Line: 1ip/0h/0k/1bb/0er

2nd Inning

Quote:
Me:
“Needless to say, Verlander made it move a little.”

Verlander:

Have you ever had your definition of “Art” questioned? I remember once I was sitting in the waiting room of a mechanic, watching as he bent a metal frame and melded it back together with precision and grace. The craftsmanship bordered on art, and I wanted to call it art, but I knew that would be silly. I did it anyway, and I brought it up in art history class where I was shot down, and perhaps rightly so. “There’s no creativity!” the teacher barked.

I suppose not.

I was reacquainted with that feeling when Justin Verlander struck out Tyler Flowers in the 2nd. Verlander dialed up the velocity to 95 in the first as he had to overcome sloppy control. He brought it back down to the usually 90-92 in the second inning and then he found “it.”

“It” can be many things. “It” can be command/control, “It” can be touch on a fastball, the comfortable grip on a breaking ball, the right arm slot for a change. “It” in this case was a combo of breaking stuff and command.

What Justin Verlander did to Tyler Flowers should be illegal but it was wonderful to watch. It will go down as another strikeout, and you might see it on Sportscenter, but the pure attack of Flowers was sublime. Verlander got Flowers to swing at a fastball, wasted a pitch and then threw two breaking balls that made me wish I could do that just once. I would shit my pants against all MLB pitching, but that combo of breaking stuff is probably the closest we’ll get to the baseball equivalent of “The Brown Note.” All that was missing from that sequence were peace doves going off in the background.

It was Art, and it was masterfully done.

Line: 2ip/2h/4k/0bb/1er

Sale:

Chris Sale is hell on lefties. The delivery that he employs hides the ball extremely well. It’s a lot like Jared Weaver from the left side. The fastball isn’t overpowering, but it’s effective as it just looks like it’s coming from behind you to right over the plate. Prince Fielder is pretty effective against lefty pitchers. When I first saw it I thought that Sale was falling in love too much with his fastball. We’ll see in later innings why I was wrong, but for now, Sale was able to get Fielder to swing at a pitchers pitch and fly out harmlessly to center. Delmon Young followed up with an awful at bat, he was confused by a slider on the second pitch and struck out on a fastball.

Peralta made solid contact and I thought it would lead to trouble, but Sale ate Garcia up on a fastball in and worked out of it once again. Sale’s secondary stuff looked excellent thus far, but the fastball was worrisome at this point. He was trying to establish it, but the Detroit hitters looked like they were getting closer to squaring it up. Sale would need to make an adjustment.

Line: 2ip/1h/1k/1bb/0er

3rd Inning

Quote:
Elizabeth Hathaway, with priorities clearly in order:
“I need Sale to do well tonight. My fantasy playoff is in the balance!!”

Verlander:

This was the point of no return for the White Sox. Verlander wasn’t lights out in this frame, but the stuff was filthy and the way he finished was pretty much a sign that it was lock down time. Verlander started the frame by allowing Hudson to single on a bad fastball.

Then he went to work.

De Aza was bunting at this point. Miggy Cabrera has two bad ankles which severely limits his range over at third. Hawk and Stoney were practically begging for the White Sox to bunt/slap shit his way all series and I can’t fault that logic. Pride and honor probably kept Robin from employing that strategy, but when the chips are down and you’re fighting for your playoff life, pride and honor should go out the window. The White Sox should have taken advantage of that situation and did not. De Aza failed on the bunt attempt and then was fooled by an off speed pitch and hit into a fielder’s choice.

Youk is a pain in the ass in the batter’s box. Even though Verlander hit him, Youk was guessing up there. Verlander had him as he set him up with the classic fastball/breaking stuff combo. Youk was fooled so badly that he half swung and ran into the pitch.

Wise notes:
Change, Nasty. Curve, Nasty. FB up the ladder – great attack, doubled up on fb’s, sequence was filthy.

Paul Konerko is fun to watch at bat to at bat. He has a plan when he goes up there and he adjusts on the fly so well. Paulie has an oval that he will absolutely not go outside of unless the stuff is filthy. Konerko is the guy that I would show to my kids if I was teaching them how to approach an at-bat.

Verlander made him swing like a little leaguer.

Line: 3ip/3h/5k/obb/1er

Sale:

Sale flashes a deeper understanding of craft in the Boesch at-bat. One day, if given the opportunity to grow and mature as a big leaguer with minimal injury, Sale will be the perfect blend of dominant and smart, and the league will bend to his will. As good as he is right now, he can be the dominant ace Verlander is if he stays healthy. I have no doubt. He was hinting at nibbling away with Boesch, putting him in his safe zone. Boesch can relax now, he’s going away with soft stuff, and then he blew a fastball by him with no warning.

Laird didn’t want to take the bat off his shoulder and I don’t blame him. It was a bad walk because Sale missed the zone, not because Laird coaxed it. Laird was passive, Sale did not attack here. He did attack on Austin Jackson and induced a double play.

This was an example of good, smart pitching. Sale is flashing that more consistently now that his fastball velo is trending downwards as the season goes on. This is important in the development of a young pitching mind, you have to be able to be on even when your stuff isn’t great. Sale’s slider is the only pitch that is wowing at this point, yet he is pitching smart and working all corners of the plate at this point.

We have a legit pitcher’s duel on our hands.

Line: 3ip/1h/2k/2bb/0er

4th Inning

Quote:
Matt Spiegel:
“So, haven’t watched a ton of Terry francona this year. Disappointed to hear him being MLB Gruden. Everyone is awesome.

Verlander:

At this point, Verlander has settled into his happy zone and there isn’t much you can do about it when he’s there. The curve/slider isn’t so much a breaking ball as it is a snap dragon from hell. Verlander left a fastball up to Rios and he hit a harmless flyball out to center. After that Verlander punished AJ Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez with breaking pitches. He got Pierzynski looking on a curve and AJ knew it, he calmly left the batter’s box with his head down and a look of confusion on his face that told the whole story. He ramped up the velo on Alexei and made him take a silly swing at an unhittable pitch.

With Verlander settled in it’s up to Chris Sale to not blink.

Line: 4ip/3h/5k/0bb/1er

Sale:

The middle of the Tigers lineup is scary good and the back half of it is absolute shit on a stick. Sale has a test here, and it’s one that young pitchers need to ace in their development. At a certain point, top prospects can get out any AA lineup, even most AAA lineups, but the MLB is a different beast with a steep learning curve. You’re going up against men who have seen everything you have to show them, and it’s up to you to fool them.

Sale had to go through Infante, Miggy, Prince, Delmon, and Peralta. He shoved it to Infante, but then Miggy showed the type of approach that separates the men from the boys. Sale had a good attack, he was working both sides of the plate, but Miggy was waiting for a mistake, and Miggy didn’t swing at pitcher’s pitches. He coaxed a walk and set up a dangerous situation.

Prince Fielder is made fun of quite a bit. I get it, he’s fat and he has dreads, it’s funny in a way. What people overlook is how he’s grown from a slugger to a hitter. He has more walks than strikeouts this year, and while the slugging % is down, he’s become a better hitter this year. Sale worked him carefully, he had him set up for a slider when he hit him inside with it. He had him and then he lost him.

Pitchers fall in love with certain pitches sometimes. When the fastball isn’t working pitchers find ways to work around it. Sale fell in love with his slider in the Delmon Young at-bat. He showed him 3 sliders down in the zone and got him to strike out swinging. This is important to remember, that Delmon saw three sliders in this at bat. It becomes very important in a few innings.

He did much the same with Peralta, didn’t pop a fastball in that at-bat and just threw offspeed stuff. He got Peralta to ground out on a sick slider.

Line: 4ip/1h/3k/3bb/1er

5th Inning

Quote:
Elizabeth Hathaway:
Well I’m indifferent to Sox or Tigers winning, I just want Sale to do well.
Sale gives up a HR to Boesch on a mistake pitch
Elizabeth Hathaway:
Damnit!”

Verlander:

Verlander fell behind on Flowers and let up to issue his first walk of the game. This was the K-CS sequence that had me scratching my head. I’m all for being aggressive in a baseball game against a premier pitcher, but to put on the hit and run with a catcher while the batter has 2 strikes and Verlander is pitching is odd. He’s a good bet to strike the guy out and Flowers is not going to be safe at second. The changeup was sick, and the throw to second wasn’t even that good, but Flowers is slow, so it arrived in plenty of time.

Just like that the dreaded lead-off walk doesn’t matter and Verlander can go back and attack De Aza. Which he did and it was sick.

Line: 5ip/3h/7k/1bb/1er

Sale:

Major League hitting is a bitch.

One moment you’re thrashing around Garcia, making him look like the untested rookie that he is, the next you make a mistake to Boesch and he makes you pay dearly for it. 430 ft. worth of home run later and it’s all tied up. Many things can happen at this point, but this was the junction that I knew Sale wouldn’t get the win. Verlander looked locked in and he can go longer than Sale. All Sale could do at this point was keep it tied.

I think the Laird out was what finally convinced Sale to abandon heavy use of his fastball. Laird hit a big fly ball out to left that he just got under. It was a loud out and it looked like the Tigers were about to break out.

So Sale adjusted and went to the slurve.

Elizabeth: “And for the love of god what was that last play?”
Me: “Twas a Hammertime play, both of them.”

Quick break: There isn’t much in baseball that’s funnier than a pickle. Perhaps a slap hit that the 1b allows to roll, hoping it goes fair, only to bounce off the bag and into fair territory allowing the runner to reach 1st safely. That play was glorious. The pick-off/pickle was equally fun. AJax gave us some grade A entertainment there.

Line: 5ip/2h/4k/3bb/1er

6th Inning

Quote:
Andy: 
“Well this one is done. Gonna need Detroit to continue to suck against the rest of the league.”

Verlander:

Contrary to old SABR dogma, there is such a thing as a pitcher inducing weak contact, and it is documented here. In this inning Verlander got Youkilis to line out softly to third with a good mix of pitches and differing eye levels.

Wise Notes:

LOL Slider
LOL Curve
Weak Contact. Again.

Remember when I said that Paul Konerko has a great approach? This was the at bat that showed it. Remember, the last time he saw Verlander he took an ugly looking cut. Now Konerko was waiting for a pitch, he saw something in the last at bat and adjusted to it. He hit a single, which doesn’t seem like much, but the approach was golden. He didn’t go outside of himself, he remained in his zone and hit a pitch he could do something with. It was a fine piece of hitting.

Verlander dialed it up against Rios and got him to fly out to center. Verlander was in pure attack mode.

Line: 6ip/4h/7k/1bb/1er

Sale:

Infante started the frame with a seeing eye single to left. Sale was then very careful to Miggy and walked him on sliders. Which put Prince on the spot. 2 on with none out and the game/division hanging in the balance.

  1. Slider: strike/sick
  2. Slider: ball (Sale falling into bad habit, needs to get away from sldr)
  3. Change: swing+miss, 1-2
  4. Slider: ball 2-2
  5. Slider: foul 2-2 (CHANGE!)
  6. Slider: K! GREAT attack!

And so there was Delmon Young, standing in the way of Chris Sale as the budding phenom was attempting to pull off another escape trick.

I thought he was going to wiggle out of this at that point, and the game would still be tied. Instead Sale dipped into the well again, throwing more sliders to a guy who’s already seen a bunch of sliders. Delmon Young hit what would be a good pitch in a vacuum. However, Sale’s sequencing deteriorated after the second Young AB and he became to reliant on the breaking stuff to bail him out. Young waited on a slider he could handle and got one, sending the Tigers to first place with one swing.

After that Sale punched out Peralta, gave up a single to Garcia, and then k’d Boesch, but the damage had been done. Pending the BLOLpen, the White Sox had once again been swept by Detroit.

Final Line: 6ip/5h/7k/4bb/4er

7th Inning

Quote:
Me: “Yeah there’s still the Detroit BLOLpen though”
Andy: “Yeah but Verlander may throw 130 tonight”

This was more or less closing time for Verlander. He had a lead, he had a manageable pitch count, he was into the 7th and his stuff was still sick.

AJ Notes: Changeup, still nasty.
2 seamer, still nasty.
Killed with FB’s, nasty.

He walked Flowers and dropped a hammer on Hudson. After 100+ pitches Verlander is just now pumping the velo up to 99 mph.

Line: 7ip/4h/9k/2bb/1er

8th Inning

Quote:
Andy
: “Verlander is a bitch. He’s been talking shit to AJ for years, not sure why.”
Buster Onley: “For those asking: It looks like A.J. thought Verlander was staring him down, and asked what the problem was; Laird waved him to the dugout.”

Verlander:

There isn’t much to say about this inning besides that Verlander finished with dominance. The sequence to Wise was particularly nasty, as was the sequence to De Aza to start the frame. Yes, this was a Sunday lineup, but even so the stuff was biting, and as the game went along, he got stronger and pitched smarter.

Final Line: 8ip/4h/11k/2bb/1er

9th Inning

Quote:
Andy: 
“I know you’re gonna see the new baseball movie, but man I have to download that shit off the net cuz no way in hell am I giving that old bastard my money.”

I hate Jose Valverde, that is all.

Epilogue

Quote:
After watching Valverde suck his own cock on the mound:
Andy: 
“Makes me sick to my stomach watching that cocksucker. I’d say that if he was on a AAA team, he’s just scum! Lol!”

When Chris Sale grows up he will be in the Justin Verlander tier of great. There are probably only 5-8 true aces in the game of baseball, guys that you want starting games 1-4-7 of a World Series. Verlander is at the top of my list. This game if anything showed how smart he pitches. The sequencing by Verlander was absolutely supreme and after the initial trouble he settled in and put the White Sox down.

Sale will learn, it’s all a part of the process. Major League hitting is hard, and this lineup is particularly brutal to learn against. Sale dipped into the well one too many times and he got burned. It happens. He showed enough flashes of smart pitching to believe that pending health, he will be special. Pitching is a craft, one that takes years to hone. Right now his stuff is allowing him to get by. Soon he will hit a rough patch and then he’ll really learn how to pitch.

And then the league is fucked.

September

It’s hitting that familiar fever pitch now. The kettle’s getting hot and it’s screaming for a release. The baseball wave is hitting that crescendo, that peak where every minute detail matters. The pitches are magnified, the losses feel awful, the wins feel euphoric. September is that crazy month where the ragged post season hopefuls beat the ever loving shit out of each other for 30 days. It can be elegant, it can be ugly, but mainly it just is a fight to survive. The White Sox are entering that month tied atop the division, and now it’s like the season started over.

Now the fun shit begins.

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Comments
  1. […] the sequencing – Chris Sale got into trouble last time because he threw too many sliders. Delmon Young saw too many of them and hit a really good slider into the seats. […]

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