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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As Jose Fernandez goes down, here’s a solution to arm injury epidemic - MLB - Tom Verducci - SI.com

If you want to lower the mound, knock yourself out. If you think this will cure the “epidemic” I have a bottle of Arm Cure Vapor that I want to sell you.

It’s time to act again. We have reached a convergence of the biggest on-field problems affecting baseball: the increase in strikeouts, the drag on offense and pace of play caused by increased bullpen usage and the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries on young pitchers. All of those problems can be addressed by lowering the mound. Baseball shouldn’t wait for more young stars to blow out their elbows before deciding to do something about it.

Jim Furtado Posted: May 14, 2014 at 09:02 AM | 60 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: injuries, tommy john surgery

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   1. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4706438)
Throw underhand.
   2. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4706443)
T-ball.
   3. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:08 AM (#4706447)
Verducci is awfully certain that the recommendations to lower the mound will fix the problem. I think the only thing we can be certain about at this point is that we should not be certain of any solution. I'm not saying it won't work but I wouldn't be certain of it at all. Given that the mound has been the same height for 45 years including the careers of some of the most durable pitchers in history (Ryan, Seaver, Sutton to name a few) it seems like we probably should be wary of major changes.
   4. McCoy Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4706448)
Make every pitch thrown over the speed of 90 mph an automatic ball if the batter doesn't swing at it.
   5. BDC Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:15 AM (#4706453)
I suggest a renewed focus on drafting pitchers, instead of the recent tendency to prioritize belly-itchers.
   6. Moeball Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:23 AM (#4706461)
Did I Rip van Winkle somewhere and miss the last several decades?

They lowered the mound in 1969. I was not aware that they had built it back up to 1960s levels again, which is what would have had to have happened for them to be lowering it now.

Did I sleep through this event?
   7. tshipman Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4706462)
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.


Literally the only evidence he cites for his claim are the Mets team doc and Tom House. Mr. Verducci, might be worth putting in a "to be sure ..." graph about how this might not solve the whole problem.
   8. Moeball Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4706465)
Better yet, just keep lowering the mound every few years until pitchers are throwing grenades out of foxholes! Then you could truly have a "rising" fastball as they throw up to the hitters!
   9. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:32 AM (#4706469)


They lowered the mound in 1969. I was not aware that they had built it back up to 1960s levels again, which is what would have had to have happened for them to be lowering it now.


No, I think you can still lower it again. The two heights of the mound in the 60s aren't the only legal options.*

*This is independent of whether you should lower it again, which strikes me as a fecal matter meets paneling idea.

Literally the only evidence he cites for his claim are the Mets team doc and Tom House.


Speaking of flung dung, he's relying on the word of Tom House?
   10. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM (#4706470)
Verducci is much more confident about these things than I am. Pitchers have been blowing out their arms for over a hundred years and I have no idea why lowering the mound will help. I think what's happening now is diagnosis of injuries has greatly improved and what would have been sore arms 30 years ago have much more precise diagnoses.
   11. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4706474)
Better yet, just keep lowering the mound every few years until pitchers are throwing grenades out of foxholes! Then you could truly have a "rising" fastball as they throw up to the hitters!


This would also help keep pitchers safe from line drives, without making them wear unstylish helmets!
   12. Justin T steals bases with his bat Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4706480)
Verducci should be a hockey or football fan. Not just in this but in many areas, he is all for changing rules and regulations on an annual basis to make the game more like what he wants it to be and to correct any deviation. Things work themselves out. There are eras. They make the game more interesting.

There is always something that must be done, with this guy.
   13. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4706486)
I think what's happening now is diagnosis of injuries has greatly improved and what would have been sore arms 30 years ago have much more precise diagnoses.


This a thousand times over. How many times have we heard about players in the "good ol' days" who would throw forever? The Red Sox' resident curmudgeon is Bill Monboquette whose career was over at age 30. At least half of "he's lost it" pitchers in history are actually guys whose arm just shredded. Even ten years ago Fernandez would be diagnosed with "dead arm" and might get a 15 day DL stint and come back to blow himself up.
   14. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: May 14, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4706511)
I think the only real suggestion that makes any sense that I heard from Verducci yesterday (in between Ny-Quil naps) is that young pitchers should be throwing off of flat ground rather than mounds and that they need a damned rest during the off-season. I think there is a huge value in putting your baseball gear in mothballs for a couple of months and doing something else.

I've posted this here before, but my boys play soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring (they are young, 4 and 6). I don't push them and we generally only do our sports activities on practice or game days. They aren't at the point where they want to throw the ball around yet and I am fine with that. They are different than me (I was throwing tennis balls against the wall when I was 4), but that's fine.
   15. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 14, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4706540)
I think what's happening now is diagnosis of injuries has greatly improved and what would have been sore arms 30 years ago have much more precise diagnoses.


*points at nose while pointing at Shooty*
   16. boteman Posted: May 14, 2014 at 11:49 AM (#4706553)
If, as we suspect, the damage was done while these players were children playing Little League and on travel teams, then the problem is self-evident: it's the parents.

Solution: sterilization. No more kids, no more injured kids. QED. Ipso facto. Case closed.
   17. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: May 14, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4706570)
I have what is potentially a really stupid question:

The injuries that require Tommy John surgery--do they hurt? Like ten years from now, when Jose Fernandez is playing catch with his son, or he's helping a friend move his couch...is his arm going to hurt? Or is this an injury whose only effect is an inability to throw 100 mph fastballs?
   18. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4706578)
I imagine it hurts when it's injured, and possibly when performing certain duties until the surgery, but I think that one wouldn't hurt any longer after having the surgery (otherwise pitching would be pretty difficult). Whether 10 years after retirement you start feeling the repercussions, I have no idea (but I don't recall reading anything about it).

As for travel ball, my son just started playing a localized version this year (we do weekend tournaments in the area, but we don't do hotel stays), and thus far I'm a little surprised at the pitching limits (or lack thereof). The first weekend tournament featured no limits, and one of the kids we faced threw about 200 pitches over the course of two days. This weekend's event limits kids to 10 innings over the two days, which isn't a whole lot better as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, SoSH III doesn't like it because he's like the No. 4 pitcher at the moment, so he's not getting the innings he'd like.
   19. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: May 14, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4706585)
Even ten years ago Fernandez would be diagnosed with "dead arm" and might get a 15 day DL stint and come back to blow himself up.


But then the math wouldn't work, unless the 15-day DL stint actually fixed him. If your point is that these players requiring ligament replacement surgery would be misdiagnosed at first, the incident of serious injuries would be the same in the end, as DL stints come to a close and they still can't throw.

   20. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4706620)

Verducci should be a hockey or football fan. Not just in this but in many areas, he is all for changing rules and regulations on an annual basis to make the game more like what he wants it to be and to correct any deviation. Things work themselves out. There are eras. They make the game more interesting.


While there's an opportunity, changes from Krusty's Krackpot Korner:

- Eliminate the DH.
- Raise the mound to 12".
- Limit pitching changes to 1 reliever per inning, barring injury.
- One pitch intentional walks.
- No batter timeouts once the PA has begun.
- Enforced pitch clock.
- Rulebook strike zone.
- Neutral MLB scorekeepers.
- Per Poz, batters may decline walks.
- Managers may forfeit if their team is losing by at least 10 runs (5 runs?) following the 5th inning.
   21. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:13 PM (#4706625)
As for travel ball, my son just started playing a localized version this year (we do weekend tournaments in the area, but we don't do hotel stays), and thus far I'm a little surprised at the pitching limits (or lack thereof)


I kind of see this as part of the problem.. there are a ton of kids who throw for their rec league teams during the week (and weekend for that matter) and the parents just say "okay, let him pitch this weekend, too" for the travelball teams.

If my kids ever play travelball, I'll be a butthead about pitching.
   22. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:26 PM (#4706640)
If my kids ever play travelball, I'll be a butthead about pitching.


Good for you. The town I coach in has a pretty good system. There is a six inning maximum per week but if you play for an out of town AAU team you are limited to 20 pitches in town a week. The logic is that we don't know how much or how little you are being used so we're not going to let you get hurt.

As a coach of two teams (in town and the town run "Elite" travel team) I'm very cautious of how we use pitchers. No kid on either team is allowed to exceed the six inning max overall and even though the elite league doesn't have a pitch count limit we keep our kids to less than the town mandated 85 pitches in those games also. We talk to the kids regularly about the importance of letting us know if their arm hurts as well to try and nip the whole macho thing in the bud.

EDIT: This came out a bit more self-congratulatory than I meant it. I coach with two other guys and it's a joint decision and the coaches of the other age groups have similar approaches. In general the town is pretty conservative with the kids.
   23. DL from MN Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4706650)
If your kid is pitching in traveling baseball they have no business pitching in the rec league as well. Let someone else pitch an inning or two.
   24. Flynn Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:34 PM (#4706653)
I think you're worth a bit of self-congratulations given that you're good for at least 2-3 "Jesus, that coach is letting that kid hang out to dry out there" moments in every LLWS. I remember this one kid - whose coach was letting him throw a curveball - who was just dying out there and his coach was just staring out at the mound. I know LLWS has pitch limits but this kid was clearly, obviously out of gas.

I wonder if the relentless quest for velocity at the MLB level is hurting. The three hardest throwers last year were Harvey, Strasburg and Fernandez - all currently or former TJ recipients. That's not an exhaustive study but it feels like a lot of the really hard throwers are blowing up. Maybe guys should back off the gas pedal a bit.
   25. AROM Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4706658)
Even ten years ago Fernandez would be diagnosed with "dead arm" and might get a 15 day DL stint and come back to blow himself up.


I don't think so. TJ surgery incidence was not at 2014 levels, but it was pretty common. Sometimes pitchers are reported as having a sprain and wind up doing the surgery now, but for Fernandez it's being reported as a "significant tear".

40 years ago, sure, he'd be given a cortisone shot, maybe an extra day between starts, and told to go back out there and pitch.
   26. madvillain Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4706661)
Hawk and Stone were pretty adament that you need to RAISE the mound because guys are putting too much stress on the elbow with the breaking stuff. They made the point that the seams are so tight on the ball these days pitchers have to work harder to put break on the ball and that is stressing the elbows.
   27. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4706666)
you're good for at least 2-3 "Jesus, that coach is letting that kid hang out to dry out there" moments in every LLWS


I hate hate HATE the LLWS. I'm sure the kids love it but I am extremely uncomfortable with putting 12 year old kids on television like that. It just feels wrong to me.

And you get those "that coach is letting the kid hang out to dry" every night in every town in America. We have a 65 pitch limit the first few games (it gets upped to 85 later) and my first year a coach let a kid reach 65 pitches in the first inning. The other thing that always gets me is the failure of the coach to go talk to a kid who is visibly upset. These are 11, 12 year old kids. Once in awhile they need an arm around their shoulder.
   28. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4706669)
Hawk and Stone were pretty adament that you need to RAISE the mound because guys are putting too much stress on the elbow with the breaking stuff. They made the point that the seams are so tight on the ball these days pitchers have to work harder to put break on the ball and that is stressing the elbows.


This is what makes this so tough. That makes some sense to me but Verducci is talking to a couple of PhDs. We just don't know a damned thing, it's so frustrating.
   29. AROM Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4706670)
I don't share Verducci's certainty, but it is true that throwing off flat ground is a step pitchers take in rehab, because it is less stressful than throwing off a mound.

I know from throwing to radar guns that my velocity is 5-8 MPH more when throwing off a mound than throwing off flat ground.

It is very plausible that lowering or eliminating a mound would greatly reduce the strain on pitchers. You might even have pitchers who can throw 150-175 pitches every 4th day without fatiguing themselves. But they would have much less "stuff". Aside from the fastball velocity, I don't have a clue how much such a change would affect breaking balls.

A sudden change to eliminate the mound could very likely turn the flame throwing aces, like Verlander or Scherzer, into the quality of AAA organizational depth guys, the kind you'd expect a 5.50-6.00 ERA from if starting. Then for the average/fringe pitchers, they might pitch like low A or short season guys.

To keep run scoring in check, you'd have to expand the strike zone. Call anything shoulders or below a strike. You can't do much about the bottom of the zone. Maybe widen the plate 2-3 inches on each side. Either actually make the plate bigger, or inform the umps that every righty is a Maddux, and every lefty is a Glavine.

Getting rid of the DH would also help reduce offense.
   30. AROM Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4706672)
I do wonder if the submariners would actually benefit from not having a mound.
   31. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4706673)
While Verducci oversells the certainty here, I see nothing wrong with modifying the mound if needs be to try to protect arms. And if it increases offense and decreases strikeouts, all the better. The game is not carved in stone.
   32. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:53 PM (#4706674)
To keep run scoring in check, you'd have to expand the strike zone.


Or bring the mound down AND in. Of course, then your health worry would be noggin-seeking line drives.
   33. bunyon Posted: May 14, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4706681)
That roundtable was pretty cool, I thought. There was an actual surgeon in addition to Tom House and Kaat and Smoltz had interesting things to say as well. The surgeon said he sees lots of young patients where the dad is all excited that his 12 year old hit 85 on the gun and the surgeon said that's just about the worst thing that can be done. He pointed out that MRIs of 12 year old elbows and adult elbows look completely different due to the 12 year old's being mostly growth plates. He said kids basically shouldn't pitch until their 16 or 17. The group came up with the idea of LL fields should have no mound until age 14 or so at which point they'd raise the mound gradually. The consensus was kids should throw a lot more in informal, low stress, non-pitching environments and pitch a lot less. They thought kids should play multiple sports and cross train. They thought every kid should have a reasonable off-season from baseball.

It all sounded pretty reasonable. It's easy to say that the old timers are just being old farts and dismissing how often guys used to get hurt. But Kaat and Smoltz were clear that they had lots of teammates who developed "dead arms" who probably could have been saved with modern surgery but that the rates were less than we see today. I don't think you can just dismiss the wave of injuries. It's akin to football's concussion issue. If it gets to where none of the really talented pitchers make it to the big league's the game will suck.


Anyway, that roundtable is worth listening to if you get a chance.

By the way, the surgeon (I forget his name) said there was a study correlating pitch velocity with injury rate. No more detail was given but that would be an interesting study to dig up.
   34. bunyon Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:03 PM (#4706689)
While Verducci oversells the certainty here, I see nothing wrong with modifying the mound if needs be to try to protect arms. And if it increases offense and decreases strikeouts, all the better. The game is not carved in stone.

Again with the roundtable, the point (of the experts) wasn't that a lot needed to be done at the professional level to alleviate injury. The experts thought the professional level was very good and cautious with their pitchers. The trouble, in their opinion, is that guys reaching the professional level are already injured to the point that even with extreme babying, their arm will die. They were advocating not flat ground for MLBers but for kids and young players. And dramatically curtailing the amount of pitching young players do.

One big problem with pitch limits in amateur leagues is that it's done by innings. Given the lack of control and poor fielding, an inning can be 50 pitches.

But, basically, you can do all sorts of stuff at the major league level and not change injury rates if the problem is in high school and summer travel teams. Part of their evidence for this is the high and increasing rate of TJ (and other injuries) in low minors and amateur pitchers. We see the problem in terms of MLBers but it's much more widespread than that.
   35. bunyon Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4706691)
GIven my two previous points, the first thought I had was that a smart team might focus on drafting pitchers with proven records of not overworking in amateur leagues. Guys from the north, maybe. Or guys that can demonstrate that they didn't pitch that much as a youngster.
   36. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:14 PM (#4706703)
By the way, the surgeon (I forget his name) said there was a study correlating pitch velocity with injury rate. No more detail was given but that would be an interesting study to dig up.

Honestly, if this is true*, then do we really need to keep searching for a reason for the increase in TJ surgery? It's pretty well established that pitchers are throwing faster than ever, so we wouldn't be surprised that there were more surgeries.

*I have zero idea, but it's a theory I've heard before.
   37. Cris E Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4706707)
Or guys that can demonstrate that they didn't pitch that much as a youngster.

Or guys that ended up primarily as position players even though they can throw hard. Lots of catchers, for example, have cannons and can make it pretty far along in the game without being awesome hitters or runners. Same with poor hitting SS: as the supporting skills start hitting the ceiling you can take these arms and point them towards the bullpen.
   38. Shibal Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4706730)
The important question, one that 38 previous posts haven't addressed, is what does Will Carroll think?
   39. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4706739)
Again with the roundtable, the point (of the experts) wasn't that a lot needed to be done at the professional level to alleviate injury. The experts thought the professional level was very good and cautious with their pitchers. The trouble, in their opinion, is that guys reaching the professional level are already injured to the point that even with extreme babying, their arm will die. They were advocating not flat ground for MLBers but for kids and young players. And dramatically curtailing the amount of pitching young players do.


And I strongly agree with that. A high school junior should never throw 90 MPH.
   40. bunyon Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4706745)
The thing that worried me about the roundtable discussion is that, if they're right, then an entire generation of pitchers are liked screwed. Which will have a negative effect on the game itself.
   41. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: May 14, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4706755)
is what does Will Carroll think?

Meow meow meow meow
meow meow meow meow
meow meow meow meow
meow meow meow meow
   42. Shibal Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4706778)
The thing that worried me about the roundtable discussion is that, if they're right, then an entire generation of pitchers are liked screwed. Which will have a negative effect on the game itself.


I've heard a rumor, from an incredibly unreliable source, that Billy Beane is taking a crash course in Manderin.

Maybe he's just thinking of adopting a kid from China.
   43. Tom T Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4706790)
About 90 minutes south of SoSH, my son is now playing his first year of "live arm" (Bronco)...they are playing a mix of other rec league's "A" teams and some local travel teams. The coach has a serious crush on arm strength (both for pitching and defense...SS has a strong arm, but --- true! --- has yet to succeed in picking up a grounder in any of our games to date!). Anyway, the kids he has pitching are throwing it up there with solid velocity, but I have a hard time believing that Dalkowski had any less of an idea of where the ball was going. Half the kids have atrocious mechanics...I've never seen so many kids throwing without using their body for leverage (i.e., righties are throwing with their left arm just dangling, and almost no hip/torso turn). The coach thinks his kid is going to be a pitcher, long-term, but every time I watch him pitch I only see labrum (curls his shoulder back along way) or elbow issues in his future. The only kid with good mechanics is our #3...a lefty whose dad played college ball in Japan...and the coach doesn't really like having him pitch because he doesn't "bring it" (though, man, that thing MOVES).

The focus on the pitching arms has had some other "interesting" consequences. The coach is having the kids pitch all the BP in practices, so while there is a 60 pitch/game limit (note, NO limit for the week or anything), the kids are ALSO throwing 60 (or so) pitches at least once or twice a week outside of the games. So, I think a couple of the kids are probably averaging 250-300 pitches per week right now. Additionally, the pitchers tossing it (randomly) up there in practice also means that the poor team isn't getting any useful batting practice...they're getting something like 3-4 balls to hit out of about every 15 (on average...the coach's son might be tops at about a 50% strike rate for RHB, but he can't put a ball over the plate for LHP). As a consequence, the kids clearly aren't getting any chance to develop batting-related muscle memory. I just can't fathom why he doesn't pull out a machine or (if he's THAT focused on "live arm" issues) ask a dad to throw some BP...yeah, we may not throw as fast as some of the kids, but at least we can be more consistent (and if our arms shred, well, so be it...maybe it means we can get out of some yardwork later this summer!).

Anyhoo...looks like it could be a looooong season. Only positive sign is that the kids are now starting to hit effectively in games, which I figure is a consequence of finally seeing, you know, STRIKES that they can hit.
   44. dr. scott Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4706791)
No need to lower the mound... just raise the plate.
   45. bigglou115 Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4706793)
I think in these discussions the realistic probability of anything getting done needs to be considered.

First, the idea that you can stop kids from throwing hard. This is my first year coaching little league, and I've just got 9year olds in their first year of pitching. From what I've seen, the only way to stop a kid who can throw hard from throwing hard is not to play him. I managed to cut out all the attempts at breaking pitches, but my kids will sit there and walk the 8 guys in a row it takes to end an inning before they'll throttle back. I'd like to think a high schooler is smarter than that, but how much smarter?

As for year round schedules, those guys will almost always be more advanced pitchers than the ones who take an off-season. It's east for us to say parents should stop doing it, but we're all rational human beings that know we're not dealing with future pros, and some if these kids will get some help with college because of it. You've got to get both MLB and college teams to de-prioritize or even punish that behavior first, which means they'll be picking a) kids they've had less access to, and b) kids that aren't as advanced as the year round kids they'd be asked to avoid. I don't think injuries are so bad that'll happen yet.

Another issue is that while these injuries can kill a teams competitive roster, they aren't killing the pocketbook. These injuries are currently disproportionately high among the young. That means arbitration guys. By the time a player has reached 28 he's already had his injury or he's proven himself to be a relatively safe health bet, so teams aren't losing their big money investments to injuries at a much higher clip. Maybe when the current crop of early 20s guys get to that age that'll change, but I don't expect teams to be proactive here.

Finally, the a-1 super problem here is where kids learn to pitch. Like I said, I have 9 year olds. This is every one of my kids first year on the mound, and every one of them already "knows" how to pitch. Even if they didn't, unless they were on my team it's still a volunteer parent teaching them. I've seen some of the worst deliveries imaginable, and you can't talk these kids out of their terrible habits. I've got one kid who's natural arms lot is low 3/4, every time he throws a baseball it's from that slot, I've done all the drills to see were his armslot should be, and it's low 3/4. Every adult in his life is yelling at him to go overhand with the ball. I wonder how many pitches these kids are going to throw before they finally get their mechanics right. There's nothing to do there to fix that, kids will always learn pitching from woefully under informed people. So I wonder if the proper love isn't to hold off on kid pitch until the kids are a) old enough to be analytical about their mechanics, and b) in the hands of someone with actual knowledge.

Incidentally, I also think unqualified umpires and no control 9-12 year olds create terrible batting habits. Anything close is a strike, so you can't teach kids patience, most 9 year olds will strike out that way, cry, and never trust you again. The result is that in their formative years they have to swing at balls. Heaven forbid you get one kid who literally jumps a foot in the air to hit a ball on the first day. That kid hasn't gotten a hit since then.
   46. Ron J2 Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:18 PM (#4706795)
#25 Bill James mentioned that Sandy Koufax's arm didn't feel right in spring training in 1966. Rather than handle him gently the Dodgers had him go 9 innings in a spring training game. They felt it was important to know whether he was "only a 7 inning pitcher". Interesting the way things have changed.

   47. just plain joe Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4706806)
And you get those "that coach is letting the kid hang out to dry" every night in every town in America


Been that way for many years; I played in Little League 50 years ago, we played twice a week and the league had a six inning rule for pitchers. That was fine but most 10-12 year olds have trouble locating the strike zone with any kind of regularity so there were lots of innings that took 20-25 pitches, or more. I'm sure some kids had to have thrown a lot more than 100 pitches in a six inning complete game. I pitched some and, in all honesty, don't remember having any arm problems. Of course I wasn't all that good so didn't pitch as much as some of the other kids and I wasn't throwing anything other than "fast" balls. That's what happens when you have short, stubby fingers, any attempt to throw a curve ball results in a lollipop for the batter.

I don't have any answers for pitchers getting hurt. They have always gotten hurt; I would guess there are hundreds of pitchers in MLB history who blew out their arm quickly and then disappeared. Thousands more have fallen by the wayside in the minors and earlier than that, pitching for colleges, high schools and in other competitions. At least now we have the ability to diagnose and repair some of these injuries even if we can't prevent them.
   48. Justin T steals bases with his bat Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4706808)
Also, as to Verducci's preference to constantly tweak things to try and maintain his desired state of play, I recall now that his other suggestion I caught earlier this year was to lower the mound because relievers are too good and the games are boring after sixth inning. So he's already pining for this move. What a coincidence that he latched onto another reason for it when it presented itself.
   49. madvillain Posted: May 14, 2014 at 03:38 PM (#4706814)
I don't understand what lowering the mount is supposed to even help with, aren't pitchers going to compensate by now trying to throw their breaking balls even harder? Fastballs put stress on the elbow. 90mph sliders put a shitload more stress on the elbow, no?
   50. Cris E Posted: May 14, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4706835)
Incidentally, I also think unqualified umpires and no control 9-12 year olds create terrible batting habits. Anything close is a strike, so you can't teach kids patience, most 9 year olds will strike out that way, cry, and never trust you again.

This is very true. We've got coach pitch or machine pitch for the 8-9 year olds, but by 10 we're all treated to kids learning to pitch and umpires learning to ump. It's OK by the end of the summer, but those May and June games can really d r a g some nights.
   51. Al Kaline Trio Posted: May 14, 2014 at 09:24 PM (#4707036)
Speaking of flung dung, he's relying on the word of Tom House?


He's risking a patient's life!
   52. Bug Selig Posted: May 14, 2014 at 10:13 PM (#4707074)
I don't understand what lowering the mount is supposed to even help with, aren't pitchers going to compensate by now trying to throw their breaking balls even harder? Fastballs put stress on the elbow. 90mph sliders put a shitload more stress on the elbow, no?


Lowering the mound makes a lot of sense if the goal is to save pitchers from TJ. The elbow basically acts as a spring in a non-ridiculous pitching motion (meaning that of a pro pitcher rather than a 9-year old). The less energy in the reaction (as evidenced by lesser velocity/arm speed) - the less stress on the elbow. The pitcher can try to throw harder all he wants (and there may be a "bad mechanics" effect but we can never protect a guy who is actively trying to injure himself) but physics are stubborn. Equal and opposite and all that.
   53. theboyqueen Posted: May 14, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4707104)
Incidentally, I also think unqualified umpires and no control 9-12 year olds create terrible batting habits. Anything close is a strike, so you can't teach kids patience, most 9 year olds will strike out that way, cry, and never trust you again. The result is that in their formative years they have to swing at balls.


Thank god for this. Nothing is more annoying at the little league level than an infinite series of walks.
   54. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 14, 2014 at 11:58 PM (#4707120)
Thank god for this. Nothing is more annoying at the little league level than an infinite series of walks.


Absolutely. And while it may not be ideal for developing batting eyes (though I'd say this is overstated), it not only makes the game tolerable for the parents watching, but also the 8-12 kids on defense who are otherwise standing around doing nothing. And that inactivity is a genuinely terrible recipe for developing baseball players/fans, which is a far more important task of little league than molding the next Kevin Youkilis.

   55. SandyRiver Posted: May 15, 2014 at 08:14 AM (#4707178)
I don't understand what lowering the mount is supposed to even help with, aren't pitchers going to compensate by now trying to throw their breaking balls even harder? Fastballs put stress on the elbow. 90mph sliders put a shitload more stress on the elbow, no?


Maybe. Jim Brosnan's slider wasn't 90 mph and this is 55-year-old news, but the slider was his out pitch. In The Long Season, he noted that while a slider wasn't as fast as a good fastball and didn't break as much as a good curve, it was "easier to throw and control" than either of those.
   56. Lassus Posted: May 15, 2014 at 08:20 AM (#4707180)
Given my two previous points, the first thought I had was that a smart team might focus on drafting pitchers with proven records of not overworking in amateur leagues. Guys from the north, maybe.

From beyond the wall, even.






Sorry.
   57. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: May 15, 2014 at 08:59 AM (#4707204)
From beyond the wall, even.


Orell Hersheiser?
   58. Al Kaline Trio Posted: May 15, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4707809)
I pitched a lot in little league. Even threw a no-hitter when I was 12 (didn't know it since I had walked so many guys and errors etc.) Anyways when I was about 14 I was practicing before the season and threw 100+ pitches to my dad and my elbow started hurting. From then on I would get pains in the elbow (tendinitis?) Now playing softball if I throw too much it will start hurting. I had to teach myself to shortarm the ball which stopped it and might not even be noticeable to somebody watching me throw.

I think throwing a baseball is bad for your arm.
   59. madvillain Posted: May 15, 2014 at 07:37 PM (#4707831)
@56 -- there is def something to the whole "guys in the north don't throw as much" it's just not possible to play baseball most of the year. Not sure how the kids are doing it now (probably much more specialization in hopes of that scholarship) but at my HS even the really awesome baseball players (including yea, me!) played basketball in the winter and football (or soccer) in the fall. Spring and Summer was HS league ball then American Legion ball and when American Legion finished your arm got a break as you went to two a days for football.

The most the few of us that really were good at baseball would do in the winter is some long toss once or twice a week just to keep the rust off and maintain a baseline. We certainly weren't out there pitching or playing at max effort.

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