So I actually wrote this piece BEFORE Sale’s last start — back when he was 9-0 with a 1.58 ERA. Sale has fundamentally switched his pitching style this year. He is purposely taking a little something off his pitches and consciously going for the strikeout less. This allows him to go deeper into games (he ALREADY has three complete games this year) and creates less wear and tear. There are other advantages too.
But … well, you know the risks of pitching to contact. When balls are put into play, they become potential hits no matter who is pitching. The question of how much a pitcher can control the likelihood of hits is one of the great questions in baseball today. Most pitching coaches and managers and, well, pitchers seem to believe that pitchers have the most powerful impact on Batting Average on Balls in Play (more impact than defense, ballpark factors, luck, etc).
But many analysts and observers (and I lean this way myself) believe that pitchers have almost ZERO impact on BABIP. Fangraphs figures its pitcher WAR based ENTIRELY on strikeouts, walks and home runs.
In this way, Sale is a great person to study. When I wrote the piece initially, he had a .197 BABIP which most of us believe is unsustainable, even for a pitcher as great as Sale.
Then, in his 10th start, he got absolutely rocked because, well, yeah, BABIP. So I reworked the piece.