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June 4, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Pictures of Chris Sale That Make Me Uncomfortable

by Ben Lindbergh

In four games from last Tuesday through last Saturday, the Mariners scored 45 runs, which was roughly the same number of runs that they'd scored in the previous two seasons combined. Yesterday, the universe acted to restore order, using Chris Sale as its agent. Sale pitched a complete game against the M's in Chicago, limiting them to two runs on two walks and five hits and pulling the string on Hawk Harrelson's back that makes him say "He gone!" on eight separate occasions.

That was nothing new for Sale, who was just picking up where he left off after winning the AL Pitcher of the Month award for May. The lefty hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start this season. It's a wonder to watch him pitch.

It's also an ordeal to watch him pitch. This picture from the second inning of yesterday's game explains in a way that words never could why Sale starts are simultaneously terrific and terrifying.

The first thing to notice is that Alex Liddi's Italian Little League coach forgot to tell him to keep his eye on the ball. Liddi appears to be staring at third base while he swings, as if coming to the realization that that is the position he plays, and that it exists even when he's not playing it. It might look like the ball he's missing is heading down toward the dirt, but it's actually bouncing up, having already hit the dirt a few foot in front of home plate (where the the mini dirt explosion is). And that's why Sale starts are wonderful: you're apt to see swings like that on 80-mph sliders. Granted, Liddi strikes out a lot, but he hasn't swung or chased all that often, and the previous pitch was a 78-mph slider, so this was the second consecutive slider of about the same speed that he'd seen. Inducing a swing like that in the major leagues is pretty impressive, even if the major leaguer is Liddi.

But whatever you do, don't look above Chris Sale's head, because you might see OH GOD WHY DON'T THEY CALL OUT THE TRAINER oh that's right, Chris Sale's arm always looks like he's trying to scratch his back with his glove in the most painful way possible. This picture makes it look like Chris Sale fell out a fifth-story window, landed on his arm, then drove to the park to start against Seattle. If you stare at Sale long enough, you actually start to forget what a human body is supposed to look like. After I looked too long, I had to write the rest of this post with one hand while massaging my arm with the other.

This post isn't an attempt at mechanical analysis. I'm not trying to point out anything about the inverted W or make a statement about Sale's prospects for long-term success, tempting as it would be to conclude that a pitcher who throws like that and has already experienced elbow discomfort can't be long for the league. If you want some real analysis of Sale's mechanics, ask Doug Thorburn. No, seriously, ask him. He'll probably answer, and he'll use intelligent terms like "hyperabduction" and "foot strike" and "valgus force" and "trunk rotation." The most intelligent term I can muster to describe what Sale does is "Ow."

It used to be that the most disgusting sight you'd ever see on a pitcher's mound was Randy Johnson's elbow or Randy Johnson's hair:

Now, the even the Big Unit's unsightly anatomy has been displaced by the things Chris Sale's body does. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I Google image searched Chris Sale. Here are a few of the revolting results:

One of those wasn't actually Sale, but I defy you to figure out which one. No wonder his face always looks like this when he's throwing:

I want to watch you pitch, Chris, but I wish your mechanics weren't so scary.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Chris Sale,  Randy Johnson,  White Sox,  Mechanics,  Mariners,  Elbow

13 comments have been left for this article.

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