The writer, Matt Buschmann, is currently a starting pitcher for the Athletics top minor league affiliate.
I’ve been in professional baseball since 2006 and every year there seems to be a rash of injuries that plague pitchers. This inevitably leads to an eclectic mix of baseball people comprising a panel trying to explain the injury epidemic on local and national baseball television shows. Each time I catch one—and there were several in 2014 due to a slew of spring training injuries—I’m left shaking my head in frustration….
This sudden realization that locating pitches is paramount leads to a lot of young pitchers making mechanical changes. Their once athletic motion built around throwing fastballs with some giddy-up morphs into whatever motion that allows them to throw the ball where they want. As a result, the built-in mechanisms of an athletic motion to protect the arm (for instance, take stress off the elbow and shoulder) slowly disappear. The shoulders begin to level out and the head has less movement and begins to take a more linear path down to the glove. Instead of the hips leading the head, it starts to become the other way around. While these little adjustments will lead to more consistent command down in the zone, they also hang the arm out to dry.
It is at this intersection of velocity and control where the highest risk for injury seems to occur. The pitchers whom have the best of both worlds seem to be the ones breaking down. It’s also no secret that these pitchers are the highest paid and most successful, therefore creating more high-profile injuries. When promising phenoms like Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and Stephen Strasburg go down with injuries, people want explanations. They talk about factors like pitch count and overuse, but I don’t think that’s the root of the problem. It masks the underlying issues.
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