Dissecting Chris Sale’s Mechanics

FarvinMoosey

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Jul 20, 2005
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If you wonder what in the world is going on with Chris Sale's mechanics, come take a look at the .com. I break down the team's latest ace addition and why a lot of his unconventional movements add up to the very successful whole.

Check it out if you have a few. Comments are of course welcome and encouraged.
 
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Khabibul35

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Mar 27, 2006
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Nice article. However, I'm curious if any of these particular aspects of his mechanics makes him a more of an injury risk (or could one argue less???) than the standard pitcher. I'm sure it's been discussed before, but it'd be interesting to see strain/injury risk discussed as part of this the point-by-point analysis.
 

TonyPenaNeverJuiced

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Jun 7, 2015
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Check it out if you have a few.
Wonderful article - great break down and very, very comprehensive.

It'd be interesting to see strain/injury risk discussed as part of this the point-by-point analysis.
I believe the reason you haven't, and why his former pitching coach told anyone who thought he was prone to injury to bug off, is because it's a vastly overstated issue. There's a few areas you could point to to say he could get hurt. In order from the wind-up:

1. How quickly he raises his front leg: Doesn't matter - unless he's opts out of quads stretches or something. No different than a quick-pitch or a Japanese style delivery - it's just a way to wind up, as alluded to in the article.

2. Dipping his back leg: Like Farvin this is not encouraged when someone learns to pitch, but plenty of pitchers do it (Kershaw anyone?). Sale's frame, unless he truly shuns the weight room, should be able to support that long, lean leg.

3. Elbow height: He's not Randy Johnson, no, but his hand is above his elbow, which is consistently above his shoulder. The torque, as highlighted in the article, also has the effect of alleviating the singular stress on arm muscles - his body is working all in the same rotational direction, and his elbow is not bearing an unnecessary burden to get to the release point in time to be in sync with the rest of his mechanics.

4.The locked knee: Farvin nails it:
FarvinMoosey said:
Sale’s locked knee is an active part of his throwing motion as soon as it happens. Every part of me wants him to stop doing this, but there is a purpose. This locked leg is now the fulcrum of his entire, massive, mostly horizontal rotation. If you have ever played tetherball, you can envision how fast that ball comes around the rigid center point with a good hit.
As long as his upper body is not trying to rotate around that knee, he's fine. Sale moves towards first base during his wind-up, and stays to that side - it means he's not twisting over any knee muscle/ligament, merely stiffening. Strengthening can make that work.

5. Plant foot: I have to disagree with Farvin here. One reason to point your foot towards the first base side of the plate is to keep your upper body from rotating towards third - you use it as a kind of directional brake - your body wants to finish a little more squared to the on-deck circle than home plate, but the degree of difference is actually pretty negligible.

I worry about two things with Sale:

1. How low his lead foot goes after he drops his knee. Any bit further down (poor mound quality or just sheer bad luck) and he could be falling over himself with some pretty mean momentum. He's so consistent and has been doing it long enough you assume this will never happen, but it exposes him for longer than most other pitchers.

2. That he continues to rotate his body after after he's naturally done with his mechanics. His momentum is gone, so he rotates slower, which puts him in a worse fielding position. Now, he can commit a bunch of errors before I'll be calling for his knee cap, but it means he's not in the best of positions for any come-backers. The first GIF in the article exemplifies what I've noticed over and over with Sale: he has a tendency to flinch.

That was quick but hopefully I address most of it.
 

FarvinMoosey

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Appreciate the feedback, thanks.

5. Plant foot: I have to disagree with Farvin here. One reason to point your foot towards the first base side of the plate is to keep your upper body from rotating towards third - you use it as a kind of directional brake - your body wants to finish a little more squared to the on-deck circle than home plate, but the degree of difference is actually pretty negligible.
Very interesting point, thank you for bringing it up. I especially like the bolded, that is a great phrase and something I will watch for in future breakdowns.
 

ToeKneeArmAss

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Great article Farvin!

What seems important to me in any pitcher's delivery is what goes on during the critical, sometimes violent fractions of a second around the instant of release.

I isolated a few frames of the gif you posted to illustrate. Upon planting, Sale is in near-perfect form -

1.jpg

Front foot is down, knee is slightly bent, elbow at 90 degrees, ball showing toward first base. Frankly if I saw only this frame I'd probably not be able to identify it as Sale.

Just before release, he squares his torso. Elbow and forearm drag a bit, head seems forward a bit to me, but it's still pretty good form, imo. Note that front knee is still flexed.

2.jpg

In this next frame is arm is such a blur you really can't tell what's going on. But what's interesting to me is that it's only now that his front knee begins to straighten.

3.jpg

So while in real-time is almost appears that Sale is landing and pivoting off a straight leg, when you break it down it becomes apparent that he lands flexed and then extends into locked position to enable the "big rotation". I am not a kinesiologist, but it strikes me as far less stressful to flex upward into this pivot than if all the force was going downward into a locked knee.

And here we see the end of this critical portion of his delivery, with his arm coming through (and in this case pronating, presumably imparting a tailing action to a fastball), front leg now fully extended.

4.jpg

I guess my point is that as funky as Sale's mechanics are (and I would include myself among those who at the time of the acquisition thought he might be arm trouble waiting to happen), he's actually pretty solid through the high-stress part of his delivery.
 

FarvinMoosey

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Sweet breakdown. In going through this I too was going back and forth watching that locked knee event. It's one of the areas that I went back and edited several times through my draft process. First it was essentially, he's pivoting on a locked knee (watching real time), but then ended up at his momentum carrying him into that locked position, as you point out above.

That first screenshot you have is incredible. I agree, I doubt I would be able to pick that out as Sale, and would likely tell you his rotations are going to be normal.

In terms of the knee, I have started looking at Pomeranz and I actually have more concerns about his right knee than I do Sale's.

Also, this analysis:
head seems forward a bit to me
...is a great catch, and something I am will be more keen to hone in on in the future.