Chris Sale has used an unorthodox delivery to vault himself into the upper echelon of today’s pitcher-centric Major League Baseball. But with a rash of elbow injuries throughout baseball, should we be concerned about Sale’s future?
The start of the 2015 MLB season is coming up soon and this marks a special time for fans of the sport. There is something special about the thrill of watching the first pitch on Opening Day.
As great as it is for people to cheer for their favorite player and team, there is a dangerous trend around baseball, and it’s about the health of pitchers. There are several pitchers over the past year or so that have undergone Tommy John surgery, and you begin to wonder if there is an end in sight.
The reality is that all pitchers, whether they’re starters or relievers, are susceptible to injury and you can’t predict when the next pitch thrown, might be their last.
One pitcher who, thus far, has managed to avoid going under the knife is Chicago White Sox southpaw Chris Sale. Sale has been one of the best pitchers in the American League since he made his debut 2010. He has a blazing fastball in the mid-90s, along with terrific command of secondary pitches that continues to baffle the opposition.
It’s somewhat surprising that Sale hasn’t missed a considerable amount of time due to his throwing mechanics. The question regarding Sale is should the White Sox be concerned about his long-term effectiveness?
The left-hander uses what is called an inverted W delivery. This means both elbows are above his shoulder at the moment his front foot hits the mound. This puts plenty of torque on both his shoulder and elbow, which is could cause complications later in his career.
Sale has been pitching in the Majors for five seasons with this delivery, and it’s probably too late to alter it in a way that will put less strain on his shoulder.
The impressive part for Sale is that he is pitching for the ideal team in the White Sox. They have a superb trainer in Herm Schneider, along with his staff and a pitching coach in Don Cooper that is much respected. I think the White Sox have a solid plan in place for their ace, and they wouldn’t do anything that would to jeopardize his future. He did spend some time on the disabled list during late April of last season, due to a strained flexor muscle in his left arm, according to ESPNChicago.
However, upon returning at the end of May, he went back to his dominating ways and had no problems ending the season strong. He posted a 2.17 ERA in 26 starts with 206 strikeouts and surrendered just 13 home runs. One reason that the strain occurred could be the rise in innings pitched. He went from tossing 94.1 innings in his first two seasons to 406.1 innings in the next two years, which is a substantial increase in that time frame.
Sale’s delivery mechanics aren’t the type you would teach players in High School or College to emulate, but it’s worked for him so far. If the White Sox felt his delivery was a problem, they would have changed it when he was in the minors. That said, it certainly appears to put him at greater risk than a pitcher with a more orthodox delivery.
The old statement that says, “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” certainly applies to Sale. He does have a delivery that makes you ponder if he is next in line for surgery, but don’t dwell on the negative.
Let’s just enjoy Sale for the masterful work he accomplishes each time on the mound.