Would You Rather Face Chris Sale Or Craig Kimbrel?

by Ben Porter | Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2017
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Either way, you’re striking out

The Boston Red Sox currently have two absolutely dominant pitchers on their staff. The first, as everyone knows, is Chris Sale, and the other is Craig Kimbrel. This blog isn’t to convince you that these guys are good, you should already know that. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I can’t come to a conclusion. If my life was on the line and I needed a hit to survive, who would I rather face? I’m dead either way, but let’s look a little deeper.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume we’re looking at these pitchers from the perspective of a switch hitter who hits at the same clip from both sides of the dish.

By The Numbers

Statistically, both pitchers boast impressive numbers. Superhuman numbers. Sale leads the league in strikeouts with 85, 15 more than the next pitcher. In terms of strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, Sale currently strikes out 13. I would say that it doesn’t get higher, but Kimbrel strikes out 17.8 batters per 9 IP. Every third guy is lucky enough just to get the bat on the ball against Kimbrel. Against Sale, batters are hitting an abysmal .157 clip. Against Kimbrel, they’re hitting .107.

When considering that Sale is a starter and often faces opposing batters three times, I think he is a little bit more impressive statistically. Kimbrel has been amazing, and his strikeouts per 9 number are hard to believe. But I have to think that Sale would fare just as well in a closer role.

Pitch Arsenal

Chris Sale throws three pitches. A fastball (both two-seam and four-seam), changeup, and a slider. His fastball clocks in around 95mph on average and runs all the way up to 98. His changeup ranges from 86-88 and drops off the table. Sale switches up the velocity quite frequently too. I’ve seen his changeups as slow as 83mph and as fast as 90mph. In my opinion, it’s his best pitch. Last but not least is his slider. He snaps it off at 79mph on average, and it has a 10-4 movement on it. I’m on record in a previous blog saying that Sale could throw me a slider that would hit me in the balls and I’d still chase it. I stand by that. He commands each pitch extremely well and mixes up his pitches masterfully. So far, he has thrown 48.4% fastballs and 51.6% offspeed. Good luck guessing what’s coming.

Kimbrel is an entirely different beast. Man does the ball explode out of his hand. He’s basically Wild Thing Ricky Vaughn with command and a slider. His average fastball is 98mph and his average slider comes in at 87mph. His slider has 2-8 movement and is sharp as they come. In my opinion, Kimbrel’s stuff is slightly better than Sale’s. Not just anyone throws an immaculate inning, after all. He’s not a guy you’re likely to square one up off of.


There’s a lot of things you can’t measure when it comes to pitching. These guys have a few of these things. First, there’s Chris Sale’s delivery. He’s got just about as unique of a delivery as any starter in the bigs. With such a herky-jerky motion, it’s hard for hitters to focus. There’s a lot going on and then the ball shoots out. Another aspect of his delivery that makes him near impossible to hit is where he releases the ball from. He steps towards the plate, but the ball comes towards the plate at an angle. Just another thing to further complicate hitting him.

As for Kimbrel, only one thing comes to mind. That’s the intimidation factor. If I stepped into the box and saw this

I’d be shaking like Howie facing Carlos in the Benchwarmers.

Lastly, there’s Chris Sale’s psyche. The man is a sparkplug. A psycho. He reminds me a lot of Jake Peavy on the hill, getting noticeably frustrated with himself after a walk, hit, or simply a missed spot. This is a guy who threw behind Manny Machado and stared him down for about a minute, then struck him out on a 98mph inside fastball on the black. Every matchup is personal for Sale and he wouldn’t dare let you beat him.

Overall, I’d have to say that with a gun to my head, I would rather face Craig Kimbrel. Just to reiterate, I’m striking out either way. So are you. But mentally, I’d be more comfortable facing Kimbrel. The arm action is more standard, the ball is flatter, and I think I’d have a better chance to look slightly less foolish. Kimbrel has been amazing, but I’m staying as far away from Chris Sale as possible.

Follow Ben on Twitter @Ben13Porter

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Ben Porter
About the Author

Ben is a sophomore at Columbia University where he plays baseball. He loves everything about the game and is a little biased toward the Boston Red Sox, Ben has future ambitions of a career in sports media, follow him on Twitter @Ben13Porter

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