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The Strike Zone

White Sox ace Chris Sale hits DL with flexor muscle strain in pitching elbow

 Sale threw 127 pitches on Thursday and GM Rick Hahn says the Sox are erring on the side of caution, though the MRI shows no ligament damage. (Brian Kersey/Getty) Sale threw 127 pitches in his start on Thursday. The MRI shows no structural damage. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

The White Sox placed their ace Chris Sale on the disabled list on Monday with a flexor muscle strain in his left elbow. It is the first time in the 25-year-old's career that he has hit the DL and the first time he has had any issues with his elbow. That's an encouraging history considering how much the rod-thin, six-foot-six lefty looks like he is going to snap in half when firing mid-90s fastballs to the plate. Like most pitchers with extreme body types, Sale has long been considered an injury risk, with some mechanics experts pointing to the "inverted-W" formed by his elbows in the middle of his delivery as an additional red flag. Fortunately, for both Sale and the White Sox, a flexor mass strain is not a major injury.

That said, you never want to see your ace hit the disabled list, particularly with any sort of arm injury. Both Sale and the White Sox were off to strong starts this season. With their win over the Tigers Monday night, the White Sox pulled up to .500, put their run differential in the black, and are now just one game behind Detroit in the American League Central. The White Sox boast the major league's hottest offense in the early going, leading the majors with 5.45 runs scored per game, but Sale had, unsurprisingly, been by far their best pitcher, going 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA and his usual strong peripherals through his first four starts.

Since moving into the White Sox rotation in 2012, Sale has been among the game's best pitchers but remains somewhat under-appreciated due to poor run support and his offense-inflating home ballpark. However, when you turn to the advanced stats you see that Sale leads all American Leaguers with 300 or more innings pitched since the start of 2012 with a 142 ERA+, two points better than Justin Verlander's mark, and is second only to Clayton Kershaw over that span in Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement among pitchers (13.9 to Kershaw's 14.4 and Verlander's 13.1). It's ironic, then, that Sale took a swipe at those very advanced stats in a recent profile by Yahoo's Jeff Passan:

"All I know I've got to do is give up less runs than we score," Sale said. "I don't care about anything else. Not the numbers. Not the ISPFMLBLSSRs and whatever else Brian Kenny has come up with to define what makes a good player or not."

Reminded the numbers love him, Sale said: "I don't love them back."

Sale doesn't need to love the numbers. That's my job, not his. One thing I'm sure we can agree upon, however, is that baseball will be better once he's back on the mound compiling those numbers. For proof, look no further than Tuesday night's pitching matchup. Sale was originally scheduled to face off against Verlander Tuesday night with one game separating the White Sox and Tigers atop their division. Instead, Chicago will be forced to go with left-hander Charlie Leesman, a rookie groundballer two years Sale's senior who will be making just his second major league start and has a lousy ISPFMLBLSSR.

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