Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 9/4/12

One of the bigger pre-season storylines this year was the numerous relievers who were being used in their respective rotations. A number of them struggled, but a few have exceeded expectations. Jeff Samardzija has relied heavily on his split-fingered fastball and has had a solid season; Lance Lynn was an all-star; and then there’s Chris Sale — the player who made the most seamless transition.

Sale relies on his slider more than all but five qualified American League starters, and while his fastball and changeup combination has been big reasons for his success, the slider without a doubt is his out pitch. As a reliever, Sale got away with being close to a two-pitch pitcher, despite having a solid changeup in college. He used his changeup about 12% of the time against righties, but Sale and the White Sox staff understood the pitch needed to become a more heavily used offering if he was going to be successful in the rotation. Sale now throws the pitch 25% of the time against righties, though he doesn’t use it at all against lefties. The pitch’s success has been a large reason why righties have just a .289 wOBA against Sale — an impressive number for a first-year starter. But even with the success of his changeup, only 21 of the 162 batters he has struck out fell victim to the changeup. The slider, on the other hand, has been the pitch. It’s been used on 95 of his 162 strikeouts and accounts for 59% of his Ks.

The key with the slider is the movement, rather than the speed. At about 79 miles per hour, it’s not a pitch that derives much of its success from power. No left-handed starter in the league averages more horizontal movement with their slider. And his vertical movement ranks No. 4 among all pitchers in the league. His delivery has a lot to do with the movement on the pitch, since the lower your arm slot, the more movement on the pitch. At that arm slot, the roughly 92 mph fastball and the 80 mph slider become more difficult pitches to hit.

As you can see, the pitch is far from overpowering. Still, the pitch’s movement — combined with the deception — made two very impressive hitters look rather silly. One was caught looking, the other whiffed. With Sale’s low arm slot and his low 90s fastball, the slider is deadly against lefties. And since he has such a nice fastball-changeup combination against right-handed hitters, the pitch remains effective.

What’s been especially impressive about the slider is that it wasn’t expected to be Sale’s dominant pitch when he was drafted. For example:

Project Prospect: “There is a chance the slider turns into a quality pitch, but it is currently below-average.”

Keith Law: “He’s thrown a loopy curveball and a harder slider, with a better chance to make the slider work from that low slot, but neither is an average pitch and he primarily works with the fastball and change.”

Sale’s slider development has likely been the biggest key to his career 2.80 ERA in 257.1 innings. The fastball and changeup are key to his repertoire and all three of his pitches are above-average. But it’s his out pitch that allows Sale to be an elite starter, rather than a middle-of-the-rotation arm. His changeup is continually evolving and might soon take over as his primary pitch against right-handed batters, but it’s the slider that’s been most responsible for Sale’s spectacular season.

Thanks to @oakfaninva for the .gifs


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Ari Fleischer: Belichick 'can get away with' shutting down media

RG3 on team's expectatons: Not asking me to be Superman

Bills' Kromer issues suspension statement without apology

Report: Patriots restructure Rob Gronkowski's contract

Agent: Rory McIlroy not booked for PGA Championship practice

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Tom Brady, NFL to appear before judge on August 12

Report: Bradford, Eagles hope to sign short-term extension

Aaron Rodgers: TV networks have ‘too much access’

Adrian Beltre completes cycle, gets mad when assaulted

Gruden had to convince Dan Snyder to bench RG3

Jim Mora turns P. Diddy fight into recruiting pitch for UCLA

Gronk, Big Papi go 'country' in latest Dunkin Donuts video

Phillies showing signs of future success

Mortensen on false Deflategate report: Still figuring Twitter out

Sheldon Richardson is down, but is he out?

Would Phil Jackson have taken Towns or Okafor first overall?

Seven Big 12 Heisman candidates for 2015

Will Manziel be good enough to be Browns’ backup plan?

Cowboys exec on Dez fight: 'I do think it's a good thing'

Baseball season in New York has been better than expected

WATCH: Giants players fight during training camp

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger Woods on Twitter

Report: Rousey to star in film based on her autobiography

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

MLB season in NY better than expected

Adrian Beltre gets mad when assaulted after HR

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker