Is Alex Cora saving Chris Sale for something bigger?
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (April 14, 2018 – Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images North America).
As of April 15th, Sale has thrown 92, 93, 87 and 93 pitches through his last four starts. In comparison to last year, Sale had 104, 108, 111, and 102. That’s down 12, 15, 24, and 9, respectively. While Darren Hartnell thinks Sale’s lower pitching count is a sign of a new strategy to “keep Sale strong and fresh for when the games matter most,” I think it’s part of something bigger.
The Red Sox have more offensive power that they’ve had in their lineup since at least 2013. 2014 and 2015 saw the Red Sox finish at the bottom of the standings, partly because of the lack of power at the plate. While 2016 and 2017 saw them win the AL East title, people are now speculating that former manager John Farrell had a lot to do with the lack of hustle and motivation on the team. 2018 is also providing to be a much different season than in years past. It appears Cora’s gotten the players motivated on the field, and he’s certainly trying to make Chris Sale and David Price pace themselves. But while a lot of people think it’s part of Cora’s plan for the season, I think it’s part of Cora’s plan to build a dynasty over many seasons.
All the pieces are in place. Andrew Benintendi proved last season that he’s the real deal. J.D. Martinez isn’t struggling to adjust to the Red Sox the way Giancarlo Stanton is with the Yankees. Eduardo Rodriguez is finding a successful balance of pitches on the mound. The Red Sox have amazing defense with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mitch Moreland, who are also strong at the plate. Now that the Red Sox are off to their best start in franchise history, Alex Cora is looking beyond the 2018 season towards a dynasty.
Regardless, it’s smart for Cora to pace Sale’s pitch count. The very last thing Chris Sale needs to do is tear his ulnar collateral ligament and get Tommy John Surgery. According to Jeff Passan’s The Arm, “The elbow injury is now so common that about a quarter of big-league pitchers have had the surgery.” While it can salvage careers, it would set the Red Sox back severely.
The Red Sox aren’t just on pace to win it big this season. If they maintain this formula for the rest of the season and retain key players, it’s a very real possibility that the Red Sox are saving Chris Sale for something bigger, including becoming baseball’s next dynasty.