The Boston Red Sox were supposed to contend with the New York Yankees for the American League East title. Instead, they are 6-10 and limping into a series against the Yankees beginning Tuesday evening. Chris Sale, the team’s ace, is at the heart of the matter, and if he doesn’t improve soon, the Red Sox will be playing catch-up all season.
Sale is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA, his 13 earned runs in 2019 more than a third of the 37 runs he allowed over 27 starts all of last year. He is striking out a career-low 13 percent of batters faced and walking almost 7 percent, his highest rate since 2012 as a member of the Chicago White Sox. His swinging strike percentage (10.5 percent) is also at its lowest point since 2012, and hitters are making better contact against him than they have in the past four years, hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat once out of every 12 balls put in play.
The most concerning stat for Sale, and the Red Sox, is his four-seam fastball velocity, which has tumbled from an average of 95.6 mph in 2018 to 91.5 mph this season, the most noticeable dip occurring after suffering a shoulder injury late last season. The injury could be a lingering issue but that didn’t stop the team from inking the 30-year-old to a five-year, $145 million contract extension this winter.