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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roher: The Verducci Effect Is Overworked And Broken Down

Every study I could find on the Verducci Effect suggests that it at best doesn’t exist and at worst is backwards. David Gassko’s 2006 study focused on the possibility of a decline in performance, and found an increase:

Jeremy Greenhouse’s 2010 follow-up focused on injuries and also found nothing. JC Bradbury came up empty. Brian Burke used a card game to show how randomness, not overuse, is the likely culprit. Tom Tango expressed his concerns (there’s elaboration in the comments.) Scoresheetwiz found nothing too.

Deadspin is still a leaking boil of a website, but someone pointed me to this and it was pretty interesting.  Maybe someone can ask Verducci about it.

Lassus Posted: January 19, 2012 at 07:30 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   1. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 19, 2012 at 07:44 PM (#4040743)
Predicting pitcher injuries is a fools errand. Remember Pitcher Abuse Points? Any minute now, Livan Heranandez and Randy Johnson are going to break down.
   2. Boxkutter Posted: January 19, 2012 at 08:03 PM (#4040761)
Predicting pitcher injuries is a fools errand. Remember Pitcher Abuse Points? Any minute now, Livan Heranandez and Randy Johnson are going to break down.


Have to agree for the most part. PAP, Verducci, Inverted W... personally I don't think any of them are sure signs of a pitcher breaking down. But, (without reading this article) I did always believe though that they can increase the chances of injury. And all of them combined don't lead to good things (ask Mark Prior). But really, I just think pitchers have a certain amount of pitches in their arms. Once they reach that number, it's downhill. Everyone's body is different. Some can hold up for 20+ years in the majors and pitching 240 innings a season. Some break down after Little League.
   3. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: January 19, 2012 at 08:44 PM (#4040787)
Any minute now, Livan Heranandez and Randy Johnson are going to break down.


Hey, Randy has retired a few years back, so they were right! He is done! Eventually Prince Fielder will retire too and his critics will be right!
   4. Squash Posted: January 19, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4040811)
I'm more than a little amazed that a somewhat boilerplate, not really researched article that Verducci tossed upon ESPN.com one day has created such a long-lasting moniker, must less been taken as seriously as it has been. And yet Buster Olney's groundbreaking Productive Outs manifesto languishes in the annals of forgotten history. Where's the justice?!
   5. Squash Posted: January 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4040835)
Everyone's body is different. Some can hold up for 20+ years in the majors and pitching 240 innings a season. Some break down after Little League.

I think that's pretty much truth. I think we can safely say lots of pitchers get hurt. We have no idea which individual pitchers will get hurt at this point in time. But lots of them will. I don't know how much radiation your average Joe Schmoe pitcher can take, but it seems like the smart thing to do would be to take multiple x-rays over the course of year and see how it's going in there. Some teams already do this. You wouldn't rid the world of the "one bad pitch" injuries, but you could probably nab a few wear-and-tear ones.
   6. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:17 AM (#4040894)
Deadspin is the bomb. How can you hate on a site that just exposed ESPN's Grantland as one of the biggest violaters of the proposed SOPA?
   7. Bhaakon Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:33 AM (#4040940)
Predicting pitcher injuries is a fools errand.


I don't know, there seems to be a pretty strong correlation between a signing an expensive long-term contract and injury (he said half-jokingly).
   8. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 05:35 AM (#4040969)
Deadspin is the bomb. How can you hate on a site that just exposed ESPN's Grantland as one of the biggest violaters of the proposed SOPA?


Grantland is for water cooler sports fans, despite claims it is for hard core, thinking mans sports page. Where was this story? I was just on Deadspin and missed it...
   9. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: January 20, 2012 at 07:34 AM (#4040973)
And all of them combined don't lead to good things (ask Mark Prior).


Or maybe Prior was going to break down anyway. I'm not saying you're wrong, as Prior was used somewhat irresponsibly. In fact, you're probably right. But there's no way to know for sure. I'm a believer that heredity trumps lifestyle when it comes to everyday health concerns (not that it gives you carte blanche to load up on cholesterol or whatever - just that not everyone needs to be as cautious). I think pitchers are similar in the sense that some are "born durable" and others aren't - yeah, it will help to not let them throw 140 pitches.

Fact is, some guys are going to break down no matter what - and some won't. Just look at all the modern babied pitchers that go under the knife every year. I'd say a pretty low percentage of major arm surgeries are realistically attributable to usage issues (other than the incredibly general shared theme that throwing a ball overhand repeatedly is an unnatural action).
   10. Elvis Posted: January 20, 2012 at 08:58 AM (#4040985)
Where was this story? I was just on Deadspin and missed it...


Simmons/SOPA
   11. zack Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM (#4041069)
Fact is, some guys are going to break down no matter what - and some won't. Just look at all the modern babied pitchers that go under the knife every year. I'd say a pretty low percentage of major arm surgeries are realistically attributable to usage issues (other than the incredibly general shared theme that throwing a ball overhand repeatedly is an unnatural action).


I don't know that it's all nature. For one, I think there's way too much pitching and not nearly enough throwing for kids these days. You want an iron arm? Go throw rocks at the barn for 4 hours a day from ages 8 - 16. Or maybe it is nature, and it was just that all that rock throwin' sorted out the glass kids before they got anywhere, who knows.
   12. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4041072)
None of this necessarily means that overuse doesn't lead to pitcher injuries - it could simply mean that modern usage patterns have eliminated the degree of overuse that leads to significantly greater injury risk.
   13. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:34 AM (#4041081)
Most recently posted on Grantland:

This fun Bill James piece on the best pitchers duels of 2011.

Grantland has as many misses as hits, but they aim higher than anyone else, and they're paying a whole bunch of truly good writers. Just thinking of things I enjoyed that probably wouldn't have been published somewhere else, "The Rise of the NBA Nerd" from December was a neat little piece of pop sports sociology.

I'm not that much of a Simmons fan, but he's done a Good Thing.
   14. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4041085)
I don't see any evidence for the "only so many pitches in his arm" theory that gets bandied about here.

Pitcher injuries are virtually random, like getting a cold.

Data point Stephen Strasburg.
   15. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4041088)
None of this necessarily means that overuse doesn't lead to pitcher injuries - it could simply mean that modern usage patterns have eliminated the degree of overuse that leads to significantly greater injury risk.
Has anyone done the research to produce a historical injuries database? There should be enough of a sample, even if you just go back into the 1970s, to enable researchers to draw some legitimate conclusions. But so far as I know, no one's done the legwork yet. Without an injury database, I don't know how you get anywhere, objectively.
   16. BFFB Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4041102)
Or that there is so much noise there's nobody has found a way of identifying it.
   17. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 20, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4041117)
I highly doubt pitcher injuries are "random". Humans bodies differ in their ability to handle different kinds of stresses, and different kinds of stresses affect human bodies in different ways.

The work of identifying (1) which pitchers have bodies that are more likely to hold up to the stress of a baseball career and (2) which workloads produce stresses that will lead to greater numbers of pitcher injuries is particularly difficult because each thing you want to discover is a confounding factor for the other thing you want to investigate.

The bad science of PAP - start with the conclusion that pitches thrown are a determinate stress on pitchers' bodies and work backward from there - shouldn't be the end of the story. But, as I said, without a real injuries database, I don't know how these studies can be done.
   18. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4041146)
I think the idea that pitcher injuries are "random" is too simplistic. That we haven't identified why they happen and maybe can't identify why doesn't mean there isn't some perfectly rational and measurable reason.

Grantland has as many misses as hits, but they aim higher than anyone else, and they're paying a whole bunch of truly good writers.


Agreed.
   19. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4041166)
There are too many things going on with a pitcher from ages 10-40 to be able to distill much about cause and effect.

I mean, yes, Mark Prior's rotator cuff would be fine right now if he chose to work as an accountant rather than as a pitcher, but beyond that, we really don't know anything.
   20. Perry Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4041167)
Grantland's turned me on to some good writers I didn't know about, like Charles Pierce. And they're giving regular space to Brian Phillips, who for my money is the best soccer writer around, certainly in the US anyway. Two points in its favor.
   21. Karl from NY Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4041171)
Good points here. I was skeptical as anyone, but it's nice to see detailed treatment in the links in the article.

I'd expect that most of the "effect" can be explained by the lack of a control group: any young pitcher regardless of workload who performed well enough to get noticed is likely to regress the next year, since part of that performance was probably luck.

I like the offhanded debunking of the SI cover "jinx" too. Same effect: whoever got to the cover probably didn't do it by dominating, but by being an unexpected and lucky story, who's expected to regress to the mean. You also run into ridiculously broad definitions of "jinx", since any team that was ever on the cover but didn't win the championship turned out to be a failure.
   22. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM (#4041188)
There are too many things going on with a pitcher from ages 10-40 to be able to distill much about cause and effect.
This may indeed be the case. That doesn't mean it's "random", though, that means that the sample and data are insufficient to discover the patterns of causation.
   23. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4041276)
I would guess that there are ways to measure degree of "injuredness", though. If you could reliably diagnose an injury pre-clinically, you could study factors that might lead to increased amounts of injury. A good study (which has maybe already been done, for all I know) would take a group of incoming college freshman baseball players, give them an all a battery of MRIs and diagnostics upon their entry, keep meticulous records on their training and health behaviors, and give them yearly MRIs (or other imaging) and injury records. I would guess some useful information would come out of that.

Of course, it would probably cost several million dollars, which would be hard to justify compared to say, cancer research.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say I don't think PAP was that bad a idea, at least to start with. It makes intuitive sense that if you have an activity that it known to be dangerous and cause injury, then doing more of that activity would lead to more injury. The problem was saying it was a good predictive model before it was half-way decently tested. I would be it might be predictive for the general population, but not for an already highly specialized and selected population like MLB pitchers.
   24. John Northey Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM (#4041337)
It would be interesting to see something about body type measured for pitchers.
You have...
Ryan/Clemens/Halladay - classic athlete, good height but not too much, strong looking and not muscle bound but not fatty either
David Wells/CC Sabathia - viewed as fat, thought to break down but somehow keep going
Pedro Martinez/Satchel Paige - scrawny, expected to collapse if a stiff breeze comes around but still keeps going

There are many other types, but those are 3 classic body types that somehow all have had success in the majors even though most felt two types would not last at all.

A good study should factor in height/weight/age/pitches per start/'stress' (many tight games)/etc. I recall Nolan Ryan preaching a lot about exercising his legs - feeling that strong legs = less stress on the arm and it is hard to argue with the results but I cannot recall hearing any other pitcher talk about that outside of Satchel Paige who was famous for not running at all.
   25. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4041352)
I recall Nolan Ryan preaching a lot about exercising his legs - feeling that strong legs = less stress on the arm and it is hard to argue with the results

Tom Seaver, too.
I'll always love that, after Ryan threw his 7th no-hitter, he went ahead & hit the stationary bike, just like he did after every other start.

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