January 17, 2013
The Keeper Reaper
Starting Pitchers for 1/17/13
Today is another theme day at Keeper Reaper as we look over the relievers converted into starters last year and determine how worthy they are of being protected.
Sale appeared in the majors the same year he was drafted, throwing 23 strong innings (after just 10 in the minors) out of the bullpen for the Sox in August and September of 2010. He threw another 71 great innings in 2011, and it looked like he could be the next great closer in the American League. Having been drafted as a starter, the Sox decided to move him back into the rotation, and he flourished beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. It’s just not that he was successful; it’s how quickly he was successful.
Of course, it wasn’t all roses and rubies (new phrase, use it!); his mechanics are so wretched that they will make your arm hurt worse than Hawk Harrelson makes your ears hurt when watching a game, and he came back down to earth in July through the rest of the year. His 3.6 K/BB wasn’t too far from the first half’s 3.9 mark, and his 9.5 K/9 topped his 8.5 from the first half. His ERA, however, ballooned from 2.19 to 4.03 and his WHIP from 0.96 to 1.34. The worst part was his home run rate exploding from 0.4 to 1.4. Righties obliterated his fastball to the tune of a 1077 OPS in the second half after he kept it at 685 through the first half.
Sale essentially experienced his regression in-season. That doesn’t mean we won’t see some in 2013 too, though. His 80 percent left-on-base rate was 5.5 percentage points higher than the league average for relievers, so betting on him beating the league average for starters by 8.5 percent again is a bad idea. After pumping Sale as a buy candidate in 2012, I recommend practicing caution with him as a keeper for 2013. I can envision ranking 20-25 starters ahead of him.