Author Topic: As [Jose] Fernandez goes down, here's a solution to arm injury epidemic [pitchers]  (Read 892 times)

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Online DCPatriot

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As Fernandez goes down, here's a solution to arm injury epidemic
Tom Verducci


Jose Fernandez, 2013's NL Rookie of the Year, was off to a 4-2 start with a 2.44 ERA this season.

 The reaction has become a cliché. A young star pitcher blows out his elbow and his team can't believe it because it treated him with kid gloves. This time it is Jose Fernandez, 21, of the Marlins who is shut down and his manager, Mike Redmond, who provided the stock disbelief.

"We've protected him," Redmond told reporters Monday. "We've been consistent in how we've used him, with his workload. We've given him extra days. That's a question I don't think anybody has the answer to."

Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Dylan Bundy, Jameson Taillon, Fernandez ... it's the same old story. Same old rhetoric. All "babied." All hurt. It's time for some new perspectives. The idea that careful professional workload is the gold standard of prevention -- the "saving bullets" theory -- seems much too simple now. It's not working.

What should be studied is the effect of extreme velocity on a young arm. As the major league average velocity has jumped in the past four years, a similar spike is occurring in the amateur market. The stress of violent pitching, including before pitchers turn pro, is threatening young arms. Think about this: Last September, at the end of a rookie season in which he threw 172⅔ major league innings, Fernandez averaged 97 mph with his fastball. He was just 20 years old. And the sweep, spin and velocity of his slider were like nothing we have seen since Kerry Wood, who also broke down at 21.

 "What you have to remember is that every incremental increase in velocity increases the force by multiples," said one MLB medical professional who did not want to be named. "It's like the Richter Scale. And quick jumps in velocity are particularly troublesome. We have a pitcher who can throw 97, but we don't want him to. He's much better off throwing 94.

"So far we've seen an inordinate amount of Tommy John surgeries this year this early. People say 'we're on pace for . . .' but you can't go by that. Will it level off? Will it increase? You don't know the answer. But the scary part is that statistically the month with the most breakdowns has been June. We're not even there yet."

The typical major league pitcher experiences about 40 pounds of force pushing down on his arm and shoulder as he raises the baseball to the "loaded position." Years ago the biomechanical experts at the American Sports Medicine Institute studied cadavers to see just how much force a human arm could withstand. They increased the force on the arm until the ligaments blew apart. What they found was that the human arm broke apart at 40 pounds of force. In other words, pitchers routinely work right up to the line of the body's limit.

Now imagine all of that force on a teenage arm. Just the other day I spoke with another former first-round pick out of high school, Matt Cain. He was drafted in 2002. On the day a Giants scout discovered him as a senior at Houston High in Germantown, Tenn., Cain said he was throwing 89 mph. (He hit 94 by the end of that season.) Elite high schoolers today throw in the upper 90s -- and they do so more often in year-round competition under stress (travel ball, tournaments, showcases, etc.). And they are breaking down at an increased rate.

Last month I wrote about how pitchers are damaged even before they sign pro contracts and before they get the kind of kid glove treatment Redmond referenced. I found that high school pitchers drafted among the top 30 picks from 2010-12 were five times more likely to blow out their elbows than top 30 high school picks from 2002-09. And if Fernandez needs Tommy John surgery, the incidence will grow to six times more likely, with 38 percent of elite high school draft picks getting Tommy John surgery before age 22 (six of 16).

 What used to be an injury of attrition (Tommy John was 32 and had thrown more than 2,000 major league innings before his groundbreaking surgery) has become an injury of too much too soon -- too much velocity and too much stress. The average age of the 22 major league pitchers to need Tommy John surgery this year is just 23.4 years old.

Wait, it gets worse: A study out just this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons found that year-round play in the amateur market has contributed to a 10-fold increase in Tommy John surgeries for youth pitchers.

What can be done? It's time for Major League Baseball to lower the mound -- and for the entire amateur market to follow its lead. When I took part in an MLB Network roundtable discussion last week on the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries, what struck me as most profound was the statement of fact by both Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek and biomechanics expert and former pitcher Tom House that the greater the slope of the mound the greater the forces that are applied to the arm. Reduce the height of the mound and you reduce the forces upon the arm.

It makes perfect sense. What makes no sense is that 13-year-old kids are pitching off the same size mound as major league pitchers. Little Leaguers should be throwing off flat ground. (What's the first step for pitchers as they come back from injury? They throw off flat ground. Why? It's less strenuous.)

There happens to be another compelling reason to lower the mound besides saving the elbows of pitchers: the game needs offense. People, especially inside the game, are not paying nearly enough attention to how the game has been bastardized in just the past five years by the increase in velocity and the specialization of bullpens. Games are getting longer and longer with less and less action -- a terrible combination in any era, but especially this one in which commerce and culture move at a quickened pace. The proliferation of pitching changes (men standing around killing time, pitchers warming up after they just spent the past 15 minutes warming up) and strikeouts are harming the pace of action more than anything else.


Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20140513/jose-fernandez-miami-marlins-injury/

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Online DCPatriot

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I couldn't disagree more with Tom Verducci here....

The pitcher's mound was fifteen (15) inches until 1968...when it was lowered to ten (10) inches because of "incredibly low scoring". 

The reason that pitchers are throwing their arms 'out' is because of their love of the radar gun.  Too many pitchers are enamored with trying to throw over 93 mph.

"Pitching" is not "throwing".  Pitching is the art of upsetting a hitter's timing on his swing.   

The problem is not that athletes are bigger and stronger.  That's crap.   The problem is the shrunken strike zone, which used to be the top of the letters to the knees.

Today, it's the belt to the knees....essentially 1/3 smaller.

It's impossible for a batter to 'protect' the entire plate.   He must choose/prepare to look for something inner half or outer half.

When you take away that extra five inches in mound height, the effect of the breaking ball...curves and sliders...the batter has a helluva lot less to protect and can wait on his pitch.

Raise the mound and call the damned rulebook strikezone and pitchers won't be inclined to throw harder...ala Ryne Duren, he of coke-bottle eyeglasses   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryne_Duren

"It aint what you don't know that kills you.  It's what you know that aint so!" ...Theodore Sturgeon

"Journalism is about covering the news.  With a pillow.  Until it stops moving."    - Iowahawk

"You can lead a liberal to the Truth, but you can't make them Think" - damned if I know

Offline SouthTexas

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I know the fix!  They can start throwing underhanded!

Have a thirteen year old grandson that pitches and it scares the hell out of me that he won't have much of an arm by the time he's out of high school.

Offline sinkspur

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The Rangers have lost their young phenom--Marty Perez--who will likely have to have Tommy John surgery, and Matt Harrison, their former ace, has to have discs fused in his back. That will likely end his career.

Something's going on.  More and more pitchers are going down.  Even if they slow the velocity, sliders and breaking pitches can tear up an arm just as fast.

From  "A Shining City on a Hill"

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Online Bigun

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I couldn't disagree more with Tom Verducci here....

The pitcher's mound was fifteen (15) inches until 1968...when it was lowered to ten (10) inches because of "incredibly low scoring". 

The reason that pitchers are throwing their arms 'out' is because of their love of the radar gun.  Too many pitchers are enamored with trying to throw over 93 mph.

"Pitching" is not "throwing".  Pitching is the art of upsetting a hitter's timing on his swing.   

The problem is not that athletes are bigger and stronger.  That's crap.   The problem is the shrunken strike zone, which used to be the top of the letters to the knees.

Today, it's the belt to the knees....essentially 1/3 smaller.

It's impossible for a batter to 'protect' the entire plate.   He must choose/prepare to look for something inner half or outer half.

When you take away that extra five inches in mound height, the effect of the breaking ball...curves and sliders...the batter has a helluva lot less to protect and can wait on his pitch.

Raise the mound and call the damned rulebook strikezone and pitchers won't be inclined to throw harder...ala Ryne Duren, he of coke-bottle eyeglasses   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryne_Duren


Absolutely SPOT ON DC!

They have RUINED pro baseball and now have done the same to pro football!

Offline GourmetDan

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They have RUINED pro baseball and now have done the same to pro football!

Oh well... people worship sports and sports figures too much anyway...



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Offline katzenjammer

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I couldn't disagree more with Tom Verducci here....

The pitcher's mound was fifteen (15) inches until 1968...when it was lowered to ten (10) inches because of "incredibly low scoring". 

The reason that pitchers are throwing their arms 'out' is because of their love of the radar gun.  Too many pitchers are enamored with trying to throw over 93 mph.

"Pitching" is not "throwing".  Pitching is the art of upsetting a hitter's timing on his swing.   

The problem is not that athletes are bigger and stronger.  That's crap.   The problem is the shrunken strike zone, which used to be the top of the letters to the knees.

Today, it's the belt to the knees....essentially 1/3 smaller.


It's impossible for a batter to 'protect' the entire plate.   He must choose/prepare to look for something inner half or outer half.

When you take away that extra five inches in mound height, the effect of the breaking ball...curves and sliders...the batter has a helluva lot less to protect and can wait on his pitch.

Raise the mound and call the damned rulebook strikezone and pitchers won't be inclined to throw harder...ala Ryne Duren, he of coke-bottle eyeglasses   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryne_Duren


Yes, I still can't understand why the strike zone has had the top third of it cut off!!  I comment on that frequently when I watch baseball with my son, he just rolls his eyes at me at this point.

Online DCPatriot

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Yes, I still can't understand why the strike zone has had the top third of it cut off!!  I comment on that frequently when I watch baseball with my son, he just rolls his eyes at me at this point.

Baseball authorities learned long ago about the American's penchant for "action" and getting bored after 5 minutes. 

They figured the majority couldn't appreciate "no-hitters" and shut outs.

To me....there's nothing sweeter than a 1-0 final score.  At any level.

It requires great defense and a pitcher that can out-guess hitters by spotting the ball where the batter ain't expecting.

"It aint what you don't know that kills you.  It's what you know that aint so!" ...Theodore Sturgeon

"Journalism is about covering the news.  With a pillow.  Until it stops moving."    - Iowahawk

"You can lead a liberal to the Truth, but you can't make them Think" - damned if I know

Offline katzenjammer

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Baseball authorities learned long ago about the American's penchant for "action" and getting bored after 5 minutes. 

They figured the majority couldn't appreciate "no-hitters" and shut outs.

To me....there's nothing sweeter than a 1-0 final score.  At any level.

It requires great defense and a pitcher that can out-guess hitters by spotting the ball where the batter ain't expecting.

Yes, agreed on all points.  And your point on "throwing" versus "pitching" is spot on.  The guy that most folks are saying is the best pitcher in both leagues this season (so far) is that guy Tanaka that the NYY brought in, I think he pushes his fastball up to 91-92 at most, he is earning his keep by location location location....

Online DCPatriot

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Yes, agreed on all points.  And your point on "throwing" versus "pitching" is spot on.  The guy that most folks are saying is the best pitcher in both leagues this season (so far) is that guy Tanaka that the NYY brought in, I think he pushes his fastball up to 91-92 at most, he is earning his keep by location location location....

Yeah, they say being proficient at baseball is to constantly making adjustments to the adjustments your opponents are making.

Soon, they'll be swinging at his 1st pitch because once you're behind in the count with him, you're essentially on defense and usually dead meat.   Then....even if you foul one straight back on the screen (which means you've timed the pitched perfectly....your 'reward' is having to become a purely defensive hitter.

Guess you can tell, I LOVE beisbol!   LOL!

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Online Bigun

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Yeah, they say being proficient at baseball is to constantly making adjustments to the adjustments your opponents are making.

Soon, they'll be swinging at his 1st pitch because once you're behind in the count with him, you're essentially on defense and usually dead meat.   Then....even if you foul one straight back on the screen (which means you've timed the pitched perfectly....your 'reward' is having to become a purely defensive hitter.

Guess you can tell, I LOVE beisbol!   LOL!

It was once my passion but they have ruined it!

Online DCPatriot

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It was once my passion but they have ruined it!

Can't get enough of it.   And I'm blessed to have the Baltimore Orioles AND the Washington Nationals...AL/NL respectively, right in my backyard.  They're both at or near the top in the standings.

Have to wonder though...how much more Buck Showalter could get out of the guys on the NATS than Matt Williams is getting.

Because the Orioles have been "over-achieving" now for 2 years.  LOL!
"It aint what you don't know that kills you.  It's what you know that aint so!" ...Theodore Sturgeon

"Journalism is about covering the news.  With a pillow.  Until it stops moving."    - Iowahawk

"You can lead a liberal to the Truth, but you can't make them Think" - damned if I know

Offline katzenjammer

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Yeah, they say being proficient at baseball is to constantly making adjustments to the adjustments your opponents are making.

Soon, they'll be swinging at his 1st pitch because once you're behind in the count with him, you're essentially on defense and usually dead meat.   Then....even if you foul one straight back on the screen (which means you've timed the pitched perfectly....your 'reward' is having to become a purely defensive hitter.

Guess you can tell, I LOVE beisbol!   LOL!

I Love baseball too, DC.  Beyond the inherent beauty of the game, it is a wonderful distraction away from the rest of the crap that we deal with lately!!

Offline katzenjammer

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It was once my passion but they have ruined it!

Did you lose interest after the strike?  I can't count the number of guys that have told me they stopped watching completely ever since the strike.  Geez, thinking back, that was in the mid 90s, I can't believe how the years fly by anymore...

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Did you lose interest after the strike?  I can't count the number of guys that have told me they stopped watching completely ever since the strike.  Geez, thinking back, that was in the mid 90s, I can't believe how the years fly by anymore...

Yes! That was the last straw for me.  I pretty much feel the same about all professional team sports.  Bunch of over paid crybabies and the owners are even worse!


Still love the game and luckily have a very good college team here that I follow.

Offline massadvj

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Lowering the mound will only increase the pressure on young pitchers to increase the velocity.
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Offline katzenjammer

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Yes! That was the last straw for me.  I pretty much feel the same about all professional team sports.  Bunch of over paid crybabies and the owners are even worse!


Still love the game and luckily have a very good college team here that I follow.

In addition to college teams, almost every place in America has minor/independent league teams that are often a lot of fun to attend.  And it is mind blowing to me how tiny the dent in the wallet is for tickets (with excellent views) and as much as you'd like to eat!

Offline massadvj

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In addition to college teams, almost every place in America has minor/independent league teams that are often a lot of fun to attend.  And it is mind blowing to me how tiny the dent in the wallet is for tickets (with excellent views) and as much as you'd like to eat!

I have even more fun watching the local softball teams duke it out at my neighborhood park.

As for the major leagues, I think they ought to dress the pitchers up in ballerina tutus, have them do pirouettes halfway down toward the plate, then stop and serve up the pitches underhand.  That should solve the game's marketing problems.  It will bring in the much sought-after LGBT community, along with women and metrosexuals, and there will be plenty of scoring to satisfy the fans' appetites.
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Offline katzenjammer

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I have even more fun watching the local softball teams duke it out at my neighborhood park.

As for the major leagues, I think they ought to dress the pitchers up in ballerina tutus, have them do pirouettes halfway down toward the plate, then stop and serve up the pitches underhand.  That should solve the game's marketing problems.  It will bring in the much sought-after LGBT community, along with women and metrosexuals, and there will be plenty of scoring to satisfy the fans' appetites.

You're suggesting they don apparel appropriate for an NFL QB?   lol

Speaking of softball and underhand pitching, every so often I come across a college women's softball tourney on TV, I am always fascinated at how fast they can zip that ball over the plate with those underhanded windups!

Offline jmyrlefuller

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In addition to college teams, almost every place in America has minor/independent league teams that are often a lot of fun to attend.  And it is mind blowing to me how tiny the dent in the wallet is for tickets (with excellent views) and as much as you'd like to eat!
There's a local rec league (post-high school amateurs, but higher caliber than a beer league) that opens up this weekend. I'm thinking about attending the opening game tomorrow; some of my old high school friends are on the team.
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Offline jmyrlefuller

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Update:

Went to the game this afternoon. I ended up getting pressed into scorekeeping even though I haven't done it since elementary school and I didn't learn all of it (fortunately by inning 3 I found the cheatsheet). It was a heck of a game. Down 7-4, heading into the bottom of the last inning. Our guys score two runs, have the bases loaded; all we need to do is score a hit to tie.

The pinch hitter strikes out; we lose by the narrowest and most agonizing of margins.

Considering we're just a bunch of guys having fun in a relatively serious league (we're self-managed, the others aren't), I'll say we did pretty well.
"Just because people in positions of authority are stupid, it doesn’t mean you have to go along with it." —Arlo Guthrie

"In the excitement of great popular elections, deciding the policy of the country, and its vast patronage, frauds will be committed, if a chance is given for them." —Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

“No government program ever dies of its own accord.” ―unknown


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