Chris Sale recently told Comcast’s Chuck Garfien that he’s aiming to throw 200 innings this year. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but the first concern that pops to my mind is that rail thin frame attempting to carry a workload fit for a front of the rotation “horse”. It could just be a matter of Sale setting a goal and keeping an eye on it all season or even half joking knowing that his size betrays his intentions. He’s been perfectly willing to poke fun at his weight all along. Which is a good thing, with a guy like AJ Pierzynski on your team you’re not going to make it through a day without hearing about it, I’m sure. I made my skepticism for Sale’s hard sell known, remarking on Twitter that if Chris Sale threw 200 innings this summer, I’d eat my hat. This didn’t go unnoticed, of course, so unless I want to choke down some polyester (has anyone suggested this diet to Sale?) I’d better be right.
I decided to employ the often controversial, highly unscientific eyeball test to decide whether or not there has been recent precedent for this. Has a player of less than generous side to side proportions managed to eclipse the 200 inning mark? Going back to 2005 (this is a randomly chosen year and has no historical significance to any of us, I’m sure) I perused the list of pitchers who carried the workload beginning with a crooked number. For the most part it’s the usual suspects. The guys who go out and carry their weight every year, but none of whom are of a stature that would make you question their ability to do so at any point though a few names jumped out as me as possibilities, or at least worth checking into . Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Jered Weaver all checked in with poundage to match their innings weighing over 200 pounds despite looking like some of the thinner starting pitchers in the league. All well clear of Chris Sale’s listed 6’6” 180lbs. Bronson Arroyo comes reasonably close at 6’4 195 per both baseball-reference.com and the Cincinnati Reds website. He’s seemingly maintained his weight through his career and has managed a considerable workload season to season. Cole Hamels is deserved of an honorable mention at 6’3” 195 but the closest I could eye on the list was Gil Meche. Gil, at 6’3” 180lbs threw 216 innings in 2007 and 210 in 2008. I don’t remember Meche being all that thin but I suppose I was blinded by his 8-4 record against the Sox. Sale has a solid 3 inches on him while keeping the same weight so it’s not exactly the same but that’s close enough to question a theory of inability due to frame.
So Sale’s build alone isn’t going to automatically keep him from throwing 200 innings but is it in the best interest of his long term career? I would think that a smaller guy like Arroyo who manages it just about every year (and lead the NL with 240.2 in 2006) is an outlier in his ability to remain uninjured without a large body to absorb some of the brunt of throwing so many pitches. On the other hand, you want to win as soon as you can. If Sale throws 200 innings, not only did he hold up, but he was effective too. That bodes well for our squad on the Southside. Hell, it may even be worth tearing a perfectly good New Era to threads.
The 2005 Chicago White Sox, if you were curious, had 4 pitchers (Buehrle, Garcia, Garland and Contreras) go over 200 IP.