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Garrett Sale? Drawing Comparison between Two LHPs

by Breven Daugherity

When it comes to Garrett Crochet, the future is seemingly bright. The 22-year-old is already one of the most reliable weapons out of the White Sox bullpen with less than a year of MLB service time under his belt. After being drafted 11th overall by the Sox in the 2020 draft, he was called up less than three months later in September where he aided the team to the playoffs with a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. He has never pitched a game in the minor leagues.

However, it was not the earned run average statistic that caught the eyes of the game – it was his velocity numbers. Crochet threw 72 total fastballs on the year with an average of 100.1 MPH. In addition to the explosive fastball, the 6’6, 230-pound Crochet also utilized a hard slider that allowed him to keep batters off-balance in all his limited 2020 appearances. 

The idea of a young, left-handed flamethrower contributing out of the pen is something that teams are not always blessed with but are grateful to have. With Crochet doing the things that he’s been doing, all while being fresh out of college, the idea of that kind of pitcher is a true blessing that seems like it should be unprecedented; except for the White Sox, it isn’t. In fact, it was only about 10 years ago there was another 21-year-old Sox left-hander that made their debut named Chris Sale, who was following an extremely similar path. 

MiLB Development

One of the first things that drove comparisons between Sale and Crochet was their paths to the majors, which closely align. Chris Sale was selected out of college by the White Sox in the first round of the 2010 MLB draft with the 13th overall pick, whereas Crochet was drafted 11th overall out of college exactly ten years later in the 2020 draft. Both southpaws were also previously drafted out of high school, with Sale being picked by the Rockies in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, and Crochet being selected by the Brewers in the 34th round of the 2017 draft.

After Sale was selected, the Sox opted to send him to their A+ affiliate Winston-Salem. He came out of the bullpen in four games for the Dash in 2010, posting a 2.25 ERA in four innings. He was then promoted to Triple-A Charlotte and made seven relief appearances to the tune of a 2.84 ERA. After having just 11 minor league games under his belt he made his major league debut out of the pen for the Sox in 2010, less than two months after being drafted. He excelled with a 1.93 ERA in 23.1 relief innings for the Pale Hose that summer. Despite his success in the pen, the team ultimately saw Sale as a future starter. After 79 relief appearances, Sale made his first career start at the beginning of the 2012 season, no more than two years after being drafted.

Crochet, on the other hand, was drafted by the Sox on June 10, 2020, and skipped the minor leagues altogether when he made his debut on September 18, 2020. He immediately became a force out of the dominant 2020 White Sox bullpen when he allowed just three hits and not a single earned run in his first five major league appearances. Despite his perceived future as a starter, the team kept him in the bullpen for the 2021 season, much like they did to Sale in 2011. If the Sox plan to keep Crochet on the same path they have with Sale, it should be no later than 2023 that we’ll see him in the starting rotation.

The Arsenals

Much of the similarity between the two is evident in the statistics. For starters, each pitcher equips a three-pitch repertoire that consists of a fastball, slider, and changeup. In 2019, Chris Sale’s last full season, fastballs accounted for 35.8% of his total pitches with 883 total. His average velocity on the pitch sat at 93.4 MPH, which was a drop-off from his 2018 fastball that sat at 95.2. Sale produced an average spin rate of 2383, a whiff percentage of 28.5%, and 7.0 ft of extension on the pitch in 2019. 

On the other hand, Garrett Crochet is putting up very similar numbers in his first full campaign in 2021. Although he relies more heavily on the fastball than Boston’s ace at 63.6% (453 pitches), their fastballs share more similarities than the eye could possibly see. His fastball has an average of 96.8 MPH while producing a spin rate of 2329, just 54 RPM less than Sale. In addition, his whiff rate sits at 21.2% and extension at 6.0 ft.  

 Sale (2019)Crochet (2021)
Fastball Velocity93.496.8
Fastball Spin23832329
Fastball Whiff %28.5%21.2%
Fastball Extension6.07.0
Slider Velocity79.085.4
Slider Spin24922217
Slider Whiff %35.7%44.3%
Slider Extension5.56.8
Information via Baseball Savant

Although Chris Sale’s slider has been one of the most notoriously nasty pitches in all of baseball since his debut, Crochet has shown flashes of potential to offer a pitch of the same caliber. When it comes to the pitch, both Sale and Crochet utilize hard sliders that complement their heavy fastballs. Crochet possesses more power on the slider at 85.4 MPH versus Sale’s 79.0 MPH breaker. Sale’s spin rate on his 2019 slider was phenomenal at 2492 RPM, and thus far in 2021, Crochet has some work to do to catch Sale’s 2019 mark. However, it’s worth noting that Crochet posted a slider spin of 2415 RPM just a season ago in 2020.

The Results

Despite a few outliers, there are quite a few closely similar parts of each southpaw’s games when it comes to the result of contact. In his 2019 season, Chris Sale’s average exit velocity sat in the 53rd percentile in all of baseball. In addition, both his xERA and xwOBA were regarded as great in the 77th percentile. Crochet is posting extremely similar numbers thus far in 2021 with his average exit velocity in the 44th percentile, and both his xERA and xwOBA sit in the 83rd percentile. Not to mention their xBA’s sit just a percentile apart with Sale in the 79th and Crochet in the 78th, as well as their hard-hit percentage being just a few apart at 54th and 57th, respectively.

 Sale (2019)Crochet (2021)
Avg. Exit Velocity53rd percentile44th percentile
xERA77th percentile83rd percentile
xwOBA77th percentile83rd percentile
xBA79th percentile78th percentile
Fastball Spin73rd percentile67th percentile
Hard hit %54th percentile57th percentile
Whiff %87th percentile77th percentile
Information via Baseball Savant

Batter Plate Discipline

The theory that these two pitchers are similar in nature is backed up by the way major league hitters typically end up with similar results when facing the two. Both pitchers throw from a lower 3/4 arm slot that typically results in a heavy ball, thus the reasoning for Chris Sale’s fastball to sometimes be labeled as a sinker.

 Sale (2019)Crochet (2021)
Zone %50.1%49.3%
Zone Swing %61.6%62.1%
Chase Contact %54.5%49.5%
Edge %41.7%42.1%
Swing %47.4%43.4%
Meatball %7.5%7.4%

Traditional Statistics

Last but not least, I’d like to compare each southpaw’s first full season out of the bullpen. They both immediately contributed to the success of the White Sox early in their careers, but exactly how similar were these numbers?

In 2011, Sale pitched solely out of the pen for Ozzie Guillen and the Sox – and he was very good. He appeared in 58 games and threw 71 innings to the tune of a 2.79 ERA. In those 71 innings, he fanned 79 batters and allowed less than a hit an inning with 52 total. With a total of 288 batters faced, Sale yielded an impressive 1.113 WHIP rating before moving to the Pale Hose starting rotation in the following season.

Ten years later, Crochet is posting somewhat similar numbers in the same role with the Sox. With about a month left in the regular season, Crochet is 16 appearances short of Sale’s 58 in 2011, and 21 strikeouts short of Sale’s 79. The WHIP rating is going to be the closest indicator between the two, and both the ERA and ERA+ are not too far off as well.

 Sale (2011)Crochet (2021)

The Conclusion

Comparing any 22-year-old to a 32-year-old likely hall of fame would usually be a bold sentiment. In this case, however, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between these two not only when it comes to their career paths, but their pitching styles as well. Crochet is a 6-foot-6 lefty who comes equipped with a devastating slider and a 100MPH fastball to complement it, and Sale is a 6-foot-6 lefty ace whose slider is also among one of the best pitches in the game.

Through 0.028 years of service time for Crochet, there’s no denying that he has the potential to be of Sale-caliber down the road. With that being said, he has a lot of work to do to reach the status of one of the best lefties of the past decade, and it would be premature to say that Garrett Crochet will become anywhere as good as Chris Sale is and has been.

Despite Chris Sale’s White Sox career presumably being concluded, he is undeniably one of the best pitchers to ever suit up in a White Sox uniform. Through about a year of Garrett Crochet’s career, there’s no denying that he has a chance to earn the same label once he hangs the cleats up.

Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) / Twitter

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