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Friday, May 30, 2014

Want to avoid Tommy John surgery? Don’t throw so hard

Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Jim Furtado Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:58 AM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tommy john surgery

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   1. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: May 30, 2014 at 11:53 AM (#4716100)
Worked for me.
   2. jacjacatk Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4716106)
I wouldn't be at all surprised if velocity/effort correlated with an increase in elbow problems. That article is a long way from proving it, and I've not seen anyone make what looks like a valid attempt to do so, nor have I seen a study that really proves we're seeing more injuries in the first place, rather than just diagnosing more now that we can actually repair them.

Not that it matters all that much to the root of the problem, because if max effort throws shred UCLs but also are effectively required to become an MLB pitcher, I don't know how you're going to stop people from choosing to make them. You could adjust things to make it easier for pitchers to not have to throw max effort all the time, but given that most any adjustment that would do that would also reduce offense, I don't really see that happening.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4716116)

Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson say hi.
   4. DL from MN Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4716119)
Want to never make the majors? Don't throw as hard.
   5. The Robby Hammock District (Dan Lee) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4716120)
Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson say hi.
Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Dwight Gooden say hey.

(All of them had shoulder issues but no elbow injuries, AFAIK.)
   6. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 30, 2014 at 12:56 PM (#4716129)
If a guy who throws 95 can get guys out throwing 90, then they should. Problem is, it's a lot easier to get guys out throwing 95.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4716135)
If a guy who throws 95 can get guys out throwing 90, then they should. Problem is, it's a lot easier to get guys out throwing 95.

If you RTFA, the point is not "don't throw hard" it's don't throw at max effort all the time.
   8. The Good Face Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4716141)
If you RTFA, the point is not "don't throw hard" it's don't throw at max effort all the time.


I thought the problem with this was that there were relatively few MLB hitters that pitchers can reliably get out without using max, or close to max, effort? Also, the changes in bats, weight training, and hitting philosophy (swing hard ALL the time) have made even the "weaker" hitters plenty dangerous if you groove them a meatball.
   9. Barnaby Jones Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4716142)
Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson say hi.


Nolan Ryan had an serious elbow injury in 1967, which might have been a partially torn UCL since he heard a "pop" in his forearm, and his career ended with a fully-torn UCL. Even the most durable pitcher in modern history had his career bookended with these problems.
   10. bookbook Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4716145)
An interesting argument against the DH - it leads to more pitcher injuries.

I know, let's require that the pitcher bat every inning.
   11. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4716147)

If you RTFA, the point is not "don't throw hard" it's don't throw at max effort all the time.


New MLB rule; every pitcher drafted must read "Pitching in a Pinch" before signing his contract.
   12. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4716151)

I thought the problem with this was that there were relatively few MLB hitters that pitchers can reliably get out without using max, or close to max, effort?


I doubt that. Changing speeds has long been a part of a successful pitching regimen.
   13. catomi01 Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4716156)
I doubt that. Changing speeds has long been a part of a successful pitching regimen.


Yes, usually by throwing an off-speed pitch, not just a slightly less-fast fastball - the best off-speed pitches are those with some movement - the best way to get movement involves putting even more strain on the arm. Even a good change usually requires a bit of a screwball/two-seamer movement to be effective.
   14. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:45 PM (#4716157)
I thought the problem with this was that there were relatively few MLB hitters that pitchers can reliably get out without using max, or close to max, effort?

There are a lot of starters who are reasonably effective despite maxing out at 90-92 MPH. A pitcher who can throw 96-98 should be able to dial it back and still be effective.
   15. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:53 PM (#4716160)
Yes, usually by throwing an off-speed pitch, not just a slightly less-fast fastball - the best off-speed pitches are those with some movement - the best way to get movement involves putting even more strain on the arm. Even a good change usually requires a bit of a screwball/two-seamer movement to be effective.


There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. Not all of them are equally taxing.


There are a lot of starters who are reasonably effective despite maxing out at 90-92 MPH. A pitcher who can throw 96-98 should be able to dial it back and still be effective.


Justin Verlander is known for doing this.
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4716162)
I guess no one has ever seen Andrew Romine "hit."
   17. madvillain Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:57 PM (#4716163)
I doubt that. Changing speeds has long been a part of a successful pitching regimen.


The problem though is that the change in velocity on a changeup is related mostly to the grip, you want the arm speed and delivery to be as close to a fastball as possible but the ball is just 4-5 mph slower because of the grip. You're not really saving your arm.

If you are a MLB pitcher and you don't throw over 90 you better be either left handed or have exceptional command and an assortment of "junk" offerings. Better yet, be all three. Mark Buehrle would not be Mark Buehrle if he couldn't spot his fastball on the corners, no matter how good his change is.

The margins for error are much higher on a 95 mph fastball then a 90 mph one. It's what makes the Chris Sales of the world the Chris Sales of the world. He'd be a good pitcher with a 90mph fastball, with a 95mph fastball he's an elite one.
   18. catomi01 Posted: May 30, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4716164)
There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. Not all of them are equally taxing.


Agreed...but (and this is 100 % gut instinct and no research at all) - I would wager many more pitchers are injured by overtaxing their arms with breaking ball and off-speed pitches than over-throwing.
   19. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:14 PM (#4716173)
You're not really saving your arm.


Not necessarily. We're all just fumbling around in the dark here.

The margins for error are much higher on a 95 mph fastball then a 90 mph one. It's what makes the Chris Sales of the world the Chris Sales of the world. He'd be a good pitcher with a 90mph fastball, with a 95mph fastball he's an elite one.


Of course there's more margin on a 95 MPH fastball than a 90 one. Just as there's always been. Nothing about that has changed in the last 10 years.

I simply find it hard to believe the assertion that today's pitchers, alone, must throw max effort on every pitch to get today's batter's out.

In fact, the experience of starters vs. relievers bears this out. Relievers can go more balls out because they throw for short stints, while starters must pace themselves. So we already know that starting pitchers are not throwing max effort all the time. Whether they're putting too much on every pitch is the relevant question. And if they are, it's probably not wholly necessary.
   20. madvillain Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:30 PM (#4716180)
Whether they're putting too much on every pitch is the relevant question. And if they are, it's probably not wholly necessary.


We need a freaking study, didn't something just come out the other week that argued most of these guys' elbows are frayed long before the reach MLB? Like throwing 3 times a week in HS / Legion and regularly going max effort for 130+ pitches.

You're going to have a really, really hard time convincing guys that throw 95 that they'd be better served throwing 92 and it might not even matter if their arms were damaged in HS 10 years prior.
   21. Good cripple hitter Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:32 PM (#4716182)

I thought the problem with this was that there were relatively few MLB hitters that pitchers can reliably get out without using max, or close to max, effort?

There are a lot of starters who are reasonably effective despite maxing out at 90-92 MPH. A pitcher who can throw 96-98 should be able to dial it back and still be effective.


I was reading some Roger Angell last night and I was blown away by his 1976 essay On the Ball, which states that outside of a few successful junkballers / knuckleballers, sooner or later every pitcher needs to throw a "no-nonsense hard one, which crossed the plate at eighty-five miles per hour or better".
   22. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 30, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4716188)
Don't tell me what to do.
   23. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4716196)
Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson say hi.

Yes, the average pitcher should emulate two of the greatest outliers/freaks in MLB history.
   24. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4716202)
I was reading some Roger Angell last night and I was blown away by his 1976 essay On the Ball, which states that outside of a few successful junkballers / knuckleballers, sooner or later every pitcher needs to throw a "no-nonsense hard one, which crossed the plate at eighty-five miles per hour or better".

That was probably just a guess, and it was off. Radar gun readings mentioned by TV announcers typically had starting pitchers in the 90s -- e.g., Mike Torrez (*) at 93 in the 1977 World Series.

I went to games in person in the late 70s, with good seats, and have continually from then through now. The idea that pitchers routinely threw 10 MPH slower than today's is laughable.

(*) No one's idea of one of the sport's elite flamethrowers.
   25. Brian Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4716203)
If you watch film of pitchers in the 50's and 6's it looks like many of them are just playing catch. Not in the Mariano Rivera, "it looks like he's just playing catch" way but in a "Skinny dork playing catch in the backyard" way. Some guys look like they're throwing all out all the time but a lot aren't. The NY-Pittsburgh 1960 World Series tape is a good example.

   26. Ron J2 Posted: May 30, 2014 at 03:53 PM (#4716213)
#3 Walter Johnson (like basically every other pitcher in baseball at the time) became primarily a spitballer. And didn't throw flat out all that often in any case. Only 4 K/IP titles after he turned 25.

   27. Zach Posted: May 30, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4716250)
If you watch film of pitchers in the 50's and 6's it looks like many of them are just playing catch.

An exaggerated windup allows more velocity with less strain on the arm, at the expense of a longer time to the plate.
   28. Bhaakon Posted: May 30, 2014 at 05:23 PM (#4716260)
I was reading some Roger Angell last night and I was blown away by his 1976 essay On the Ball, which states that outside of a few successful junkballers / knuckleballers, sooner or later every pitcher needs to throw a "no-nonsense hard one, which crossed the plate at eighty-five miles per hour or better".


I don't see the issue with this quote. 85 MPH is still about the point where it's impossible for conventional pitchers to succeed, and even that's pushing it. Call it the Barry Zito Line.

Fall below 85, and you'd better have a knuckle ball, a lollipop curve, throw submarine, or be Jamie Moyer.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: May 30, 2014 at 05:50 PM (#4716271)

"Nolan Ryan had an serious elbow injury in 1967, which might have been a partially torn UCL since he heard a "pop" in his forearm, and his career ended with a fully-torn UCL. Even the most durable pitcher in modern history had his career bookended with these problems."

Thus limiting Ryan to just 5,386 IP in 27 seasons.

   30. billyshears Posted: May 30, 2014 at 07:31 PM (#4716302)
In fact, the experience of starters vs. relievers bears this out. Relievers can go more balls out because they throw for short stints, while starters must pace themselves. So we already know that starting pitchers are not throwing max effort all the time. Whether they're putting too much on every pitch is the relevant question. And if they are, it's probably not wholly necessary.


But (a) on a rate basis, relief pitchers are better that starting pitchers on the whole and (b) relief pitchers are often those who couldn't hack it as starters. So a group that was generally determined to be worse than another group performs better than such other group because they have the advantage of being able to pitch at closer to max effort. Of course starters can dial-it back more than they do, but I think there is fair reason to believe that their performance would be adversely affected by doing do. There aren't all that many pitchers who can tolerate material loss of effectiveness.
   31. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 30, 2014 at 09:48 PM (#4716349)
(a) on a rate basis, relief pitchers are better that starting pitchers on the whole

This year
OPS against, first time facing the Batter in game: .688
(closest approximation for first time through the order I could find on BR)

OPS against for RP: .690

It's not pacing as much as it is fatigue. As the game goes on, pitchers can't get as much on the ball, even while going max effort. Run 400m as fast as you can. Then immediately try doing it again. The second 400m isn't slower because you were "pacing yourself".

SP also have to contend with batters who have already seen what they are offering up that night.

(b) relief pitchers are often those who couldn't hack it as starters.

Often times because they only have 2 or even 1 major league caliber pitch. Which doesn't affect them nearly as much in short outings.
   32. Barnaby Jones Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:00 PM (#4716355)
Thus limiting Ryan to just 5,386 IP in 27 seasons.


And Tommy John himself threw 4710 in 26 seasons. This is a thread about Tommy John surgery, not a gunshot wound to the face. Plenty of pitchers who get the surgery throw a ton of innings. My point is that Ryan is not some magic example of "dude who was immune from UCL problems."

People often hold up Ryan and Clemens as hard-throwing injury-free counterexamples to todays fragile pitchers, but both of them had serious arm injuries during their injury nexus years and could have been finished before they got started had they followed slightly different medical advice.
   33. Dr. Phil Posted: May 30, 2014 at 10:42 PM (#4716384)

That was probably just a guess, and it was off. Radar gun readings mentioned by TV announcers typically had starting pitchers in the 90s -- e.g., Mike Torrez (*) at 93 in the 1977 World Series.

I went to games in person in the late 70s, with good seats, and have continually from then through now. The idea that pitchers routinely threw 10 MPH slower than today's is laughable.

(*) No one's idea of one of the sport's elite flamethrowers.


That has to do with how pitch speed is measured. Currently guns and pitchf/x are calibrated to measure close to the release point of the pitcher. A pitch dropping from 93 to 85 mph in 60 feet is perfectly normal.

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