Chris Sale deserves All-Star nod after proving the Braves were right to bet on him

If you remember back to the off-season, Braves newcomer Chris Sale said he felt better than ever. He has surpassed all expectations set for him in 2024.

Tampa Bay Rays v Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

If you dig way back to the offseason, you will find Atlanta Braves newcomer Chris Sale talking about how excited he was to call Atlanta home. Braves fans were fully aware of Sale's impressive accolades but were hesitant to have high expectations for the lefty entered into his 14th season.

In 2020, Sale tore his UCL and was kept off of the mound through the majority of the 2021 season. Dreaming of recovering from injury, Sale was faced with a nightmare in 2022. He began that season on the 60-day IL thanks to a rib stress fracture. When he finally returned, he broke his left pinkie finger in his second start back. That's not all. Later that season, he broke his right wrist in a bicycle accident. It felt like Sale would never return to his former Cy Young self.

Given Chris Sale's history and his age, it is understandable why Braves fans weren't expecting him to perform well or pitch at all in 2024. During the offseason, Sale consistently shared that this was the best he had felt before a season's start since 2018 (by the way he was an All-Star and finished 4th in Cy Young Award voting that season). While that was great to hear, many remained uneasy because they felt like he was just being "professional" and "saying all the right things."

Chris Sale exceeding every expectation Braves had for him in 2024

Now that we are approaching the halfway point of the 2024 regular season, fans realize that Chris Sale meant every word. All he has done this year is go 10-2 (tied for the best in baseball) with a 2.91 ERA and use his wicked slider to punch out 107 batters in just 86.2 innings of work.

Sale has a 2.31 FIP, 11.11 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, and a 2.8 WAR which is tied for sixth best with Detroit's rookie sensation Tarik Skubal. Not only that but Sale's fastball velocity has been impressive despite it sitting around league average (94.7 mph) according to Baseball Savant. He's been able to amp up the velocity to around 97 mph when he needs it, however.

He is elite in almost every other pitching statistic and matches his percentages from 2018 which was his last incredible season. This performance has Sale vying for his eight career All-Star game appearance. You can see a full breakdown of those stats below.

To provide a little more perspective on how efficient Chris Sale has been for the Braves this year, hitters are only batting .204 against him and striking out over 31% of the time. He has also only given up home runs in 1.8% of plate appearances, indicating that when he is not striking batters out, he is still locating his pitches well.

Before joining the Braves, Chris Sale spent seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox and six seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He was an All-Star 7 times and competed for a Cy Young Award what seemed like every year. He had a lot of success in the American League, which is typically known for higher-level offenses.

Obviously, the game has evolved over the last few years and we have designated hitters in both leagues. Sale has also seen a lot of players come and go over his time in the majors. However, it is still worth pointing out that Chris Sale has faced familiar opponents a lot this season. Seven of Sale's 14 starts this have come against American League opponents.

He will face yet another AL opponent on Thursday as the Braves return to Chicago to face the White Sox for one game. Sale is 6-0 in seven games pitched during interleague play in 2024 and has a 3.51 ERA. Through 41 innings pitched, he has allowed 16 earned runs with nine walks and 51 strikeouts.

When the Braves traded for Sale, one of the first thoughts was the advantage he would have facing all of these National League teams who haven't seen him a lot. Atlanta only has four interleague series left this season and fans can expect Sale to continue his dominant performance as long as he stays healthy.

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