The Frailty of the Modern Pitcher

8slim

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If you put 1980s Al Nipper out on the mound he wouldn't be able to get anyone out in today's game.
Obviously, it'd be an "Al Nipper" that has benefitted from 40 years of training, study and nutrition advancements. Those guys are in the league now... and they throw 4 innings a start or something.
 

Apisith

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The problem is that getting pitchers, who have been trained to throw max effort all the time since their pre-teen years, to change their approach on a dime seems unrealistic. Especially when the "reward" would be to see balls thrown at half effort leave the yard.
The ball would have to be deadened to prevent Judge from hitting 70HRs. But yeah, I think that’s the next logical reform to get pitchers to stop throwing at max effort.
 

jim_vh

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Those guys are in the league now... and they throw 4 innings If today's Al Nipper went thru the same development program and was good enough to pitch at the MLB level he'd show the same capability in "innings pitched" as all the other pitchers.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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My question is whether a focus on improving a pitcher's location could be as effective as current efforts to improve velocity/spin. The current model for developing pitching is dedicated to increasing certain metrics (mph and rpm). Achieving these metrics results in scholarship offers and draft picks so a huge industry has been created to pursue those goals. This approach is manifested in the article posted above about Snyder and the Rays approach to pitching, which is to throw a pitch with maximum movement/velocity aimed at the middle of the plate. This is short term effective but appears to be increasing injury, which makes sense since it requires maximum effort.

I don't think a shift from maximum effort to improved control would be effective in changing the way current MLB players pitch (and there could be ways of adjusting the ball and strike zone to encourage a different style of pitching). But I'm more interested in how we as a culture have shifted to this approach of developing pitchers with a focus on maximum effort/velocity/spin, to the point that we have a billion dollar industry set up around it at a youth level, which becomes self-replicating at a certain point.

At the same time, Aaron Nola landed a 7 year/$172 million contract after throwing 92 mph fastballs last year.
Interesting posts; thanks for your perspective. I share some of the same thoughts.

Isn’t a good part of the problem the fact that guys who throw less hard while trying to figure out how to pitch aren’t going get noticed/promoted as much as guys who throw with max effort all of the time? So by the time they become professionals all they know is max effort.

I forgot who said it (Jim Palmer?) but in the “olden days,” pitchers knew how to get people out without max effort so they only used max effort on limited occasions (kind of like what Mathewson wrote). But nowadays, every pitch is max effort or close to it.
 

8slim

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Those guys are in the league now... and they throw 4 innings If today's Al Nipper went thru the same development program and was good enough to pitch at the MLB level he'd show the same capability in "innings pitched" as all the other pitchers.
Exactly, which means he'd throw something like 130 innings in 28 starts.

Are we missing each other here? My point is that, once upon a time, 4th/5th starters could throw 6+ innings a game, completing a bunch of them. Today very few pitchers do that, even the very best starters in the game. And I find that style of play boring. Watching an endless parade of no-name bullpen guys toss the 5th-8th innings isn't my idea of a good time. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Sadly, I know my idea is DOA. Nothing is going to change and we'll see fewer and fewer innings from starters. Coupled with more injuries. And my boredom with the modern game will get worse. Yay.
I don't think it's DOA at all, just that it's going to take awhile. They don't want to make any immediate big changes to the number of pitchers because it would be too jarring to the pitchers and teams, and the effect on the game would be too unpredictable. But there has already been some progress on this over the past few years, and hopefully there will be more.
They changed to limit rosters to 14 pitchers a few years ago, then changed again, cutting down to 13 pitchers in 2022.
At the time of that article in June 2022, 21 of the 30 teams were carrying 14 pitchers on their rosters, and none had less than 13. So there has been some progress already.

And there was talk that the limit eventually might drop to 12 or 11. During the World Series, Manfred said they are considering cutting the limit to 12 pitchers as soon as next season:
https://sports.yahoo.com/world-series-2023-rob-manfred-says-mlb-might-look-to-further-limit-the-number-of-pitchers-teams-can-carry-021028748.html
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred indicated Friday that he would like to attack that trend through restricting the number of pitchers a team can carry — beyond what the league has already done.
Although he later clarified that he didn’t anticipate anything would be changed as soon as next season, Manfred was clear that he’d be willing to further reduce the number of pitchers teams can carry.
“I think the most direct way to get at it is numbers, limiting numbers on the roster,” he said. “We went to 13. I don't think it's had the desired effect. There are a few numbers smaller than 13. Twelve would be next.”
I really hope it does drop to 12 ASAP. The league has been able to successfully define what exactly constitutes a "pitcher" for roster purposes without much issue, and to create a limit to 14 and now 13 without any really damaging unexpected side effects. Let's get to 12 soon please-- but presumably that would take union buy-in. Pitchers in the union would hate it, but it seems like hitters in the union would be in favor of it. And the change needs to be "pitched" to the pitchers that it's being done to help protect them and let them have longer careers, which means more money.

Dropping to 12 and then 11-- while also deadening the baseball a little to encourage pitchers to pitch to contact-- seems like it might be the only way to deal with this situation. At least MLB has already started trying to do something about it.
 

cannonball 1729

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Baselining the proper throwing mechanics in a biomechanical model might provide the next market efficiency. There was concern that the so called inverted W arm action was leading to elbow and shoulder injuries at a faster rate than the so called L arm action. I can't imagine this would be an easy solve. Retraining pitching mechanics of elite pitchers with established arm actions is probably a fool's errand.
My understanding is that L's and W's are both bad because they lead to a timing flaw - namely that the pitcher's torso starts to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back.

Just copy a couple of Chris O'Leary pictures, an inverted W like this:

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leads to a situation like this:

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where the the foot has hit the ground and the torso is starting to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back in order to get into cocked position. When the arm finally reaches cocked position:

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the torso is already moving forward (you can see the belt buckle is already facing the hitter), which means that the arm now has to change directions and whip forward...causing a ton of stress on the elbow.

Meanwhile, someone like Justin Verlander already has his arm up as his foot is striking the ground:

79392

which means no major changes of direction for his arm/elbow.

Anyway, as far as the harder offspeed stuff, one thing I've been wondering about is whether the grips/different approaches are causing issues with respect to pronation - i.e. the idea that once you let go of the ball, your wrist should naturally rotate in towards your body, as shown here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIenH2Kt0rg


Pronating lets your forearm take some of the load off your elbow when you decelerate your arm. Note that in the video, the pitchers (Kershaw and the pitching coach) are throwing curveballs, which spin in the opposite direction from the desired pronation (i.e. they spin away from the body), but the pitchers are still pronating after release. Fastballs are easier to pronate on because the rotation of a fastball just follows your natural arm action.

One potential problem is that if you start out with your wrist already rotated, you can't pronate when you're decelerating (your wrist has nowhere to go), which means that the elbow is taking the brunt of the deceleration. A telltatle sign for this is if the pitcher is pointing the ball to second base in the delivery; if they're doing that, they've already rotated their wrist and can't pronate much more. Here are Ivan Nova and Mariano Rivera showing "point the ball to second" vs. the safer "point the ball to third" techniques:

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Similarly, if we compare Jacob DeGrom with Mariano Rivera at similar points (just before foot strike) in their delivery:

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As mentioned above, breaking stuff also requires more care to be taken to ensure pronation, since the ball has to leave the hand before the arm can pronate (otherwise you're putting the wrong spin on the ball.) Which leads me to an NIH study I was reading:

Seventy-eight pitchers were included in a study by Solomito et al. [22] looking at the association between forearm mechanics and elbow varus movement. They found that pitchers held their arm in supination more while throwing a curveball compared to a fastball. Additionally, the position of the forearm showed no association with elbow varus movement. However, increases in forearm supination have been shown to increase elbow varus movement, which may increase the risk of injury [22].
My horribly uninformed guess is that harder breaking stuff and/or different grips are causing pitchers to pronate less effectively, either by changing the way the ball is held or increasing the amount of time spent in supination, thereby making elbows more likely to blow up.

[Edited to add pictures that actually load]
 
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Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I just did a little look around and can't seem to find anything.... but wasn't there some questioning about "proper" mechanics recently? That the "one-size/style fits all" attempt to systemize how to pitch and keep your arm healthy was actually causing some pitchers damage while it may help some? That basically saying everyone needs to not pitch in an "inverted W" (why not an "M"???) could actually be hurting some pitchers. There was instead an attempt to find each pitcher's bio-mechanics according to their body/arm types.
I know this is a terrible example, but in 7th and 8th I was throwing pretty hard for my age and then moving in to junior varsity we were suddenly learning and attempting "mechanics" and within a few games my entire arm started turning blue after throwing and my fingertips were just killing me. I stunk, could barely throw the ball anymore and quit baseball (other reasons too, but those were among them- biggest was that drugs were way more fun).
 

Archer1979

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My understanding is that L's and W's are both bad because they lead to a timing flaw - namely that the pitcher's torso starts to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back.
Snipping this just for technical reasons, but... this is a great post. It also plays to the thought that I have had in that while pitchers throw fastballs harder, they still need to disguise the off-speed stuff so that the pitcher looks pretty much the same way while throwing a curve ball as he does throwing a fast ball. That is still a lot of torque on the elbow while your body is impersonating throwing a 95/100 mph pitch.

I really have no medical insight to this, but I do know from coaching Little League, that, in our league, curveballs were pretty much discouraged, if not outlawed. The reason was that the young arms hadn't developed enough yet to be able to withstand the strain. In contrast though, the emphasis was to throw as hard as you could first, and concentrate on control second. Those that could do both, ended up the primary pitcher for the team (and there were six inning a week limits). I'm not sure how much other leagues for the younger set, both nationally and globally, adhere to those rules. They might have them but they can be difficult to enforce a the local level.
 

3_games_down

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My understanding is that L's and W's are both bad because they lead to a timing flaw - namely that the pitcher's torso starts to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back.
Great examples!

I believe the argument is for the elbow to be below the shoulder, ideally with the ball pointing in a direction between shortstop and third. A little chair yoga exercise... raise your elbow above your shoulder and rotate your throwing arm back and compare a similar motion keeping your elbow below your shoulder. Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, and Justin Verlander serve as examples of the elbow below the shoulder pitching motions.

Proving out ideal pitching mechanics that result in greater longevity and optimized Stuff+ would serve as a terrific project for a handful of engineers dedicated to a skunkworks project. If big market teams are factoring to lose a year of service as part of their decision making when signing free agent starters then they are essentially building in $20M+ in sunk costs when factoring long term payroll. Investing in projects to reduce pitching injuries would be a smart hedge.
 

cannonball 1729

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Does "pointing the ball toward second" allow more deception than "pointing the ball towards third?"
Good question, and I'm not entirely sure. I think I read somewhere that hitters are mostly focused on a box over the pitcher's shoulder and probably wouldn't see it - I may have read that in discussions on this board about whether the curveball that Josh Beckett threw with a lifted finger in the air would be obvious to hitters. (Specifically, this curveball:

79399)

That, of course, doesn't mean that the answer is no.

I do know that USA Baseball used to give guidance to show the ball to second but stopped recently (i.e. in 2016) due to alarms being raised by the American Sports Medical Institute. So if nothing else, they certainly saw some advantage.

I think most of the things that pitchers do that are mechanically unsound are for better velocity or spin. Tim Lincecum is the example that springs to mind; he would literally jump down the mound:

79402

and then stiffen his front leg fairly quickly:

79403

which meant that the brunt of his deceleration happened with his arm, not with his legs. Which is bad...except that it also added a couple of MPH to his fastball, which is part of why he was so dominant. (IIRC Sandy Koufax did the same thing to some extent.)


Snipping this just for technical reasons, but... this is a great post. It also plays to the thought that I have had in that while pitchers throw fastballs harder, they still need to disguise the off-speed stuff so that the pitcher looks pretty much the same way while throwing a curve ball as he does throwing a fast ball. That is still a lot of torque on the elbow while your body is impersonating throwing a 95/100 mph pitch.

I really have no medical insight to this, but I do know from coaching Little League, that, in our league, curveballs were pretty much discouraged, if not outlawed. The reason was that the young arms hadn't developed enough yet to be able to withstand the strain. In contrast though, the emphasis was to throw as hard as you could first, and concentrate on control second. Those that could do both, ended up the primary pitcher for the team (and there were six inning a week limits). I'm not sure how much other leagues for the younger set, both nationally and globally, adhere to those rules. They might have them but they can be difficult to enforce a the local level.
Thanks! And yes - coincidentally enough, that same study mentions how younger pitchers throwing breaking pitches spend more time in supinated position than do older pitchers because they haven't yet learned proper mechanics. Basically they shouldn't be trying to control a curveball until they learn to control their arms.

I just did a little look around and can't seem to find anything.... but wasn't there some questioning about "proper" mechanics recently? That the "one-size/style fits all" attempt to systemize how to pitch and keep your arm healthy was actually causing some pitchers damage while it may help some? That basically saying everyone needs to not pitch in an "inverted W" (why not an "M"???) could actually be hurting some pitchers. There was instead an attempt to find each pitcher's bio-mechanics according to their body/arm types.
Yeah - I think the whole idea now is something like "how can pitchers throw the baseball without unnaturally straining their arms." There's nothing wrong with making an inverted W on its own - it's just a problem when it causes your arm to lag behind your body.

("Inverted W" was, I believe, a term invented by Paul Nyman, who was one of the people that really worked to spread it as an effective pitching technique.)

Great examples!

I believe the argument is for the elbow to be below the shoulder, ideally with the ball pointing in a direction between shortstop and third. A little chair yoga exercise... raise your elbow above your shoulder and rotate your throwing arm back and compare a similar motion keeping your elbow below your shoulder. Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, and Justin Verlander serve as examples of the elbow below the shoulder pitching motions.
Exactly. One of the interesting things that Chris O'Leary pointed out early in the process of studying this stuff is that NFL quarterbacks never seem to have these types of arm problems even though they also throw a ball hard for a living. And it seems (at least in part) to be because the heavy pads and the need to get the ball out quickly simplify the motion to something more natural - which is to say no inverted W, keep the elbow below the shoulder, show the ball to the sideline and then throw it:

79404
 
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8slim

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I don't think it's DOA at all, just that it's going to take awhile. They don't want to make any immediate big changes to the number of pitchers because it would be too jarring to the pitchers and teams, and the effect on the game would be too unpredictable. But there has already been some progress on this over the past few years, and hopefully there will be more.
They changed to limit rosters to 14 pitchers a few years ago, then changed again, cutting down to 13 pitchers in 2022.
At the time of that article in June 2022, 21 of the 30 teams were carrying 14 pitchers on their rosters, and none had less than 13. So there has been some progress already.

And there was talk that the limit eventually might drop to 12 or 11. During the World Series, Manfred said they are considering cutting the limit to 12 pitchers as soon as next season:
https://sports.yahoo.com/world-series-2023-rob-manfred-says-mlb-might-look-to-further-limit-the-number-of-pitchers-teams-can-carry-021028748.html




I really hope it does drop to 12 ASAP. The league has been able to successfully define what exactly constitutes a "pitcher" for roster purposes without much issue, and to create a limit to 14 and now 13 without any really damaging unexpected side effects. Let's get to 12 soon please-- but presumably that would take union buy-in. Pitchers in the union would hate it, but it seems like hitters in the union would be in favor of it. And the change needs to be "pitched" to the pitchers that it's being done to help protect them and let them have longer careers, which means more money.

Dropping to 12 and then 11-- while also deadening the baseball a little to encourage pitchers to pitch to contact-- seems like it might be the only way to deal with this situation. At least MLB has already started trying to do something about it.
That’s all very encouraging. Thanks for providing me hope!
 

joe dokes

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I think most of the things that pitchers do that are mechanically unsound are for better velocity or spin. Tim Lincecum is the example that springs to mind; he would literally jump down the mound:

View attachment 79402

and then stiffen his front leg fairly quickly:

View attachment 79403

which meant that the brunt of his deceleration happened with his arm, not with his legs. Which is bad...except that it also added a couple of MPH to his fastball, which is part of why he was so dominant. (IIRC Sandy Koufax did the same thing to some extent.)
Tom Seaver used to rail against stiff-leg landings:
79409


79408
 

Harry Hooper

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Some snippets from a Warren Corbett piece on reliever/kinesiologist Mike Marshall [boldface added]:

At 32, he hadn’t put many miles on his arm; he had seldom pitched in youth ball or high school and played shortstop for his first four years in the minors. “I didn’t really start pitching until I was 21 and I didn’t throw a screwball until I was 24,” he said. As a result, he crusaded against abuse of young arms. He thought youth baseball leagues should rotate all players to different positions every inning without making winning a priority.

He recalled that the only teammates who asked his advice about keeping their arms healthy were Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith, and Tommy John. Following his revolutionary elbow surgery in 1974, John enlisted Marshall’s help with rehabilitation: “Mike gave me a series of exercises to do using a shot put, and I did them right up until the end of my career.” John pitched until he was 46. “[W]hen I was with the Oakland A’s, they tested about eight or ten pitchers in their organization. I was 42 at the time, and they concluded that I was the strongest pitcher shoulderwise, strengthwise, and in flexibility than any pitcher in their organization. And I attribute that to Mike Marshall’s exercises.” Sore-armed NFL quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Billy Kilmer and tennis pro Stan Smith also sought him out.

One who understood Marshall’s methods was Dr. Frank Jobe, the pioneer of Tommy John surgery. “Kinesiology, I’m convinced, is the secret of pitching,” Jobe said. “Marshall calls it kinesiology, which is the scientific term. I call it body mechanics. In pitching, it’s balance, rhythm and alignment. If a pitcher has those three things, the stresses on the arm are at a minimum.

“The arm wasn’t meant to throw a ball that hard in the first place. But since these guys do, body mechanics are crucial and Marshall has worked them out for himself—and obviously, to perfection.”

Jobe added, “Pitchers and catchers are generally in better condition than other players, but he’s in better condition than other pitchers and catchers. The legs are so important, and he seems to realize this. I think he works harder at it than anyone else."
 
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OCD SS

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…. And the change needs to be "pitched" to the pitchers that it's being done to help protect them and let them have longer careers, which means more money.

Dropping to 12 and then 11-- while also deadening the baseball a little to encourage pitchers to pitch to contact-- seems like it might be the only way to deal with this situation. At least MLB has already started trying to do something about it.
All of this assumes that teams are going to do what is in the player’s best interest, which sort of ignores how we got here in the first place. Teams like the Rays developed a competitive and financial advantage by burning through arms throwing at max effort and then discarding them for the next guy. This plan basically asks the player to take on the risk to how their career is measured and preform worse in the hopes that the downgrade in performance keeps them healthy. Just by example look at the characterizations of Montgomery where he’s a “#3 at best”* and takes the ball all the time, but just isn’t seen as a difference maker or “elite.”

I don’t like disrupting the even split between pitchers and hitters anyway, but the only way the MLBPA should go along with it is if they just raise the number of hitters allowed in the roster to make it 14 or 15, with a corresponding bump in the 40-man to 41/42. I suspect ownership balks at having to pay more. They probably like adding an extra utility player to the bench, they’re cheaper than a functional pitcher.
 

Yo La Tengo

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Dropping to 12 and then 11-- while also deadening the baseball a little to encourage pitchers to pitch to contact-- seems like it might be the only way to deal with this situation. At least MLB has already started trying to do something about it.
I'm unconvinced that reducing roster size will be effective if the pitchers continue to get lit up if they throw a strike at less than full effort. I think reducing the height of the seams of the ball (this was done in college baseball) would shrink the incentive to throw maximum effort breaking pitches which, anecdotally, are most responsible for injuries. Reduced seams would also allow fly balls to travel faster, so there would need to be a corresponding move to expand a uniform strike zone. The end result would be punishment for pitchers who threw the ball down the middle of the plate, a reduction in the effectiveness of high-torque breaking balls, and an incentive to hit spots on the edges of the strike zone. Location rather than maximum effort.
 

jon abbey

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Personally I don't care at all how long SPs pitch (or even if SPs exist as a separate category in the future, although I don't think there's really any getting around that), I'd like to see 30 player rosters, 15 pitchers and 15 hitters.

I don't see how cutting the number of pitchers on a roster will not add to injuries and there are millions of different ways for MLB games to be memorable for me. The best game I ever went to in person had Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden combining for 19 innings (1986 NLCS game 5) but that game was still less entertaining than the 2017 AL Wild Card game in which NY's ace, Luis Severino, was knocked out after 1/3 of an inning, but NY still came back to win behind career-best outings from David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle (combining for 5.2 scoreless) and an 8 run explosion by the offense:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA201710030.shtml
 

joe dokes

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One who understood Marshall’s methods was Dr. Frank Jobe, the pioneer of Tommy John surgery. “Kinesiology, I’m convinced, is the secret of pitching,” Jobe said. “Marshall calls it kinesiology, which is the scientific term. I call it body mechanics. In pitching, it’s balance, rhythm and alignment. If a pitcher has those three things, the stresses on the arm are at a minimum.

“The arm wasn’t meant to throw a ball that hard in the first place. But since these guys do, body mechanics are crucial and Marshall has worked them out for himself—and obviously, to perfection.”
Not overhand, anyway.
 

astrozombie

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All of this assumes that teams are going to do what is in the player’s best interest, which sort of ignores how we got here in the first place. Teams like the Rays developed a competitive and financial advantage by burning through arms throwing at max effort and then discarding them for the next guy. This plan basically asks the player to take on the risk to how their career is measured and preform worse in the hopes that the downgrade in performance keeps them healthy. Just by example look at the characterizations of Montgomery where he’s a “#3 at best”* and takes the ball all the time, but just isn’t seen as a difference maker or “elite.”

I don’t like disrupting the even split between pitchers and hitters anyway, but the only way the MLBPA should go along with it is if they just raise the number of hitters allowed in the roster to make it 14 or 15, with a corresponding bump in the 40-man to 41/42. I suspect ownership balks at having to pay more. They probably like adding an extra utility player to the bench, they’re cheaper than a functional pitcher.
This right here. I thought about posting responses to this several times, but it all seems moot because there is no incentive for teams to change what they are doing. By and large, teams would rather win now or show pitching prospects who look good now via the max effort approach, rather than develop a pitcher for sustained success at a trade-off of less-than-peak performance. Furthermore, teams have no incentive to make sure pitcher X is still effective into his late 30s, especially if that player is likely 1) going to want more money and 2) might leave and help another team after the first team spent all the time developing them safely.
 

jon abbey

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This right here. I thought about posting responses to this several times, but it all seems moot because there is no incentive for teams to change what they are doing. By and large, teams would rather win now or show pitching prospects who look good now via the max effort approach, rather than develop a pitcher for sustained success at a trade-off of less-than-peak performance. Furthermore, teams have no incentive to make sure pitcher X is still effective into his late 30s, especially if that player is likely 1) going to want more money and 2) might leave and help another team after the first team spent all the time developing them safely.
So many of baseball's issues would be fixed by 1) an electronic strike zone that works and 2) better linking of pay to performance in a player's first few years. The ripple effects of both of these would be fantastic for the sport's health IMO.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'm probably repeating someone else upthread but I missed if this was asked- Why not make the ball slightly softer? It'd prevent HR's and put the ball in play more which would then encourage there to be more pitchers throwing to contact and an emphasis again on defense and contact hitting. The game would be a lot more fun
 

Rovin Romine

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This right here. I thought about posting responses to this several times, but it all seems moot because there is no incentive for teams to change what they are doing. By and large, teams would rather win now or show pitching prospects who look good now via the max effort approach, rather than develop a pitcher for sustained success at a trade-off of less-than-peak performance. Furthermore, teams have no incentive to make sure pitcher X is still effective into his late 30s, especially if that player is likely 1) going to want more money and 2) might leave and help another team after the first team spent all the time developing them safely.
Well, this is true. . .but there are also going to be marginal pitchers who try to tweak themselves with "bad" mechanics over the off-season so they become a viable ML option. If you're 30th on the depth chart, why not roll the dice?

In many ways this is like diffuse-harms issue in the law. You can't really rely on people choosing smart long-term options for themselves, when an effective alternative exists - one with a possible future harm, and even that harm has a fix.

Overall, I think the only way you slow the injury rush is to mechanically change the game to dis-incentivize it. I'm not really sure how you do that. First and best option would be to tweak the game to incentivize a softer pitching style - something that rewards more control, or something that penalizes max-effort. Then it's self-correcting all the way down the line.
 
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In response to the poster up-thread that said they don't care if the starting pitcher even exists...I want to agree with you, because it really shouldn't matter. But to me, it does matter. I have always watched as many Sox games as I can, throughout my youth when not all games were on TV to adulthood where you can watch them all. But baseball is a long season, and it's fun to do other things in the summertime, so no way am I going to watch all 162. However, when Clemens was pitching or especially when Pedro was pitching, it was must see TV. Do you want to go out on the lake on this beautiful day? Not if it's Pedro's day. It was like before we could electronically record everything or watch previous episodes on demand. Back in the day, if you wanted to watch Seinfeld, you had to be home on Thursday night, so you might cancel other plans. And if Pedro was pitching on a beautiful summer day, you might have to stay inside so you don't miss the artistry of a Pedro start. I still love baseball, but I miss those days.
 

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Personally I don't care at all how long SPs pitch (or even if SPs exist as a separate category in the future, although I don't think there's really any getting around that), I'd like to see 30 player rosters, 15 pitchers and 15 hitters.
Yes, but it's pretty clear you're a lunatic when it comes to this stuff.
 

jon abbey

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In response to the poster up-thread that said they don't care if the starting pitcher even exists...I want to agree with you, because it really shouldn't matter. But to me, it does matter. I have always watched as many Sox games as I can, throughout my youth when not all games were on TV to adulthood where you can watch them all. But baseball is a long season, and it's fun to do other things in the summertime, so no way am I going to watch all 162. However, when Clemens was pitching or especially when Pedro was pitching, it was must see TV. Do you want to go out on the lake on this beautiful day? Not if it's Pedro's day. It was like before we could electronically record everything or watch previous episodes on demand. Back in the day, if you wanted to watch Seinfeld, you had to be home on Thursday night, so you might cancel other plans. And if Pedro was pitching on a beautiful summer day, you might have to stay inside so you don't miss the artistry of a Pedro start. I still love baseball, but I miss those days.
Those are two of the five best pitchers of the past 50 years, though.
 

jon abbey

Shanghai Warrior
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Jul 15, 2005
71,701
Yes, but it's pretty clear you're a lunatic when it comes to this stuff.
I'm an outlier on most topics, you should see the opinions I (try to) keep to myself here ('great TV has made film obsolete', 'no one should pay attention to Bill Simmons on any topic'').

But yeah, another way I am an outlier is that I find regular season current MLB as entertaining as the sport has ever been, probably more. I think the playoff system has made the postseason somewhat meaningless in terms of what it proves/shows/demonstrates, but that's a different issue that I've talked about here before.
 

mauidano

Mai Tais for everyone!
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Aug 21, 2006
36,253
Maui
Steady decline in complete games from 210 in 2002 to 34 complete games last year.
It almost doesn't make sense that pitchers are throwing less but seemingly getting injured more. Do you think that pitch counts are higher earlier in games with so many foul balls as a factor in shorter outings?
 

LogansDad

Member
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Nov 15, 2006
30,247
Alamogordo
Steady decline in complete games from 210 in 2002 to 34 complete games last year.
It almost doesn't make sense that pitchers are throwing less but seemingly getting injured more. Do you think that pitch counts are higher earlier in games with so many foul balls as a factor in shorter outings?
There are a ton of factors. I think some of it is that these kids are causing destruction to their arms at such a young age now that major injury has become almost inevitable. They are throwing "less pitches" but every pitch is exponentially (maybe hyperbole, but it isn't a small amount) more damaging.
 

SemperFidelisSox

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May 25, 2008
31,705
Boston, MA
Exactly. One of the interesting things that Chris O'Leary pointed out early in the process of studying this stuff is that NFL quarterbacks never seem to have these types of arm problems even though they also throw a ball hard for a living. And it seems (at least in part) to be because the heavy pads and the need to get the ball out quickly simplify the motion to something more natural - which is to say no inverted W, keep the elbow below the shoulder, show the ball to the sideline and then throw it:

View attachment 79404
Wouldn’t pitching more from the stretch position instead of a full windup achieve this?
 

cannonball 1729

Member
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Sep 8, 2005
3,581
The Sticks
Wouldn’t pitching more from the stretch position instead of a full windup achieve this?
It could, but I think pitchers from the stretch generally just do an abridged version of their windup mechanics. For example, here's Mark Prior from the stretch:

79414

The problem for him is that regardless of situation, when he breaks his hands, his elbows go up, and once you're there, you're basically sunk.
 

RS2004foreever

Member
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Dec 15, 2022
812
There are a ton of factors. I think some of it is that these kids are causing destruction to their arms at such a young age now that major injury has become almost inevitable. They are throwing "less pitches" but every pitch is exponentially (maybe hyperbole, but it isn't a small amount) more damaging.
Part of it is they NEED be really good, because hitters are better than they were. It seems pretty clear that part of the third time through issues are a result of video where a coach can talk to a hitter and they can adjust their approach.

BTW my kid's pitching coach recommended kids pitch from the stretch until they were 14 - it made the delivery simpler.

Some of this has to be kids playing all year round too.
 

simplicio

Member
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Apr 11, 2012
5,697
Part of it is they NEED be really good, because hitters are better than they were. It seems pretty clear that part of the third time through issues are a result of video where a coach can talk to a hitter and they can adjust their approach.
The sharp decline of starter IP coinciding with the 2016 season when ipads were first allowed in the dugout supports that.
 

CarolinaBeerGuy

Don't know him from Adam
SoSH Member
Mar 14, 2006
10,150
Kernersville, NC
My understanding is that L's and W's are both bad because they lead to a timing flaw - namely that the pitcher's torso starts to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back.

Just copy a couple of Chris O'Leary pictures, an inverted W like this:

View attachment 79388

leads to a situation like this:

View attachment 79389

where the the foot has hit the ground and the torso is starting to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back in order to get into cocked position. When the arm finally reaches cocked position:

View attachment 79394

the torso is already moving forward (you can see the belt buckle is already facing the hitter), which means that the arm now has to change directions and whip forward...causing a ton of stress on the elbow.

Meanwhile, someone like Justin Verlander already has his arm up as his foot is striking the ground:

View attachment 79392

which means no major changes of direction for his arm/elbow.

Anyway, as far as the harder offspeed stuff, one thing I've been wondering about is whether the grips/different approaches are causing issues with respect to pronation - i.e. the idea that once you let go of the ball, your wrist should naturally rotate in towards your body, as shown here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIenH2Kt0rg


Pronating lets your forearm take some of the load off your elbow when you decelerate your arm. Note that in the video, the pitchers (Kershaw and the pitching coach) are throwing curveballs, which spin in the opposite direction from the desired pronation (i.e. they spin away from the body), but the pitchers are still pronating after release. Fastballs are easier to pronate on because the rotation of a fastball just follows your natural arm action.

One potential problem is that if you start out with your wrist already rotated, you can't pronate when you're decelerating (your wrist has nowhere to go), which means that the elbow is taking the brunt of the deceleration. A telltatle sign for this is if the pitcher is pointing the ball to second base in the delivery; if they're doing that, they've already rotated their wrist and can't pronate much more. Here are Ivan Nova and Mariano Rivera showing "point the ball to second" vs. the safer "point the ball to third" techniques:

View attachment 79343

Similarly, if we compare Jacob DeGrom with Mariano Rivera at similar points (just before foot strike) in their delivery:

View attachment 79342
View attachment 79344

As mentioned above, breaking stuff also requires more care to be taken to ensure pronation, since the ball has to leave the hand before the arm can pronate (otherwise you're putting the wrong spin on the ball.) Which leads me to an NIH study I was reading:


My horribly uninformed guess is that harder breaking stuff and/or different grips are causing pitchers to pronate less effectively, either by changing the way the ball is held or increasing the amount of time spent in supination, thereby making elbows more likely to blow up.

[Edited to add pictures that actually load]
I’m late to this thread, but wanted to say this is a fantastic post. Analysis like this is what makes SoSH great.
 

joe dokes

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
30,864
The sharp decline of starter IP coinciding with the 2016 season when ipads were first allowed in the dugout supports that.
I often thought that that was somehow connected to pitch-tipping fears exposed by ipads. It made signals take longer (pitch-com may be helping there) and it crossed my mind that it might have caused pitchers to alter their deliveries, increasing injury risk.
 

simplicio

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 11, 2012
5,697
Offense in general had been pretty stable 2010-2015, then in 2016 there was a spike across the board but progressively larger the second and third time through the order for starters, whose third time through the order ERA jumped from 5.05 in 2015 to 5.53 in 2016 (and FIP from 4.41 to 4.78) and kind of established a new normal going forward, while starter length plummeted. Starters faced 32k hitters the third time through in 2014, and that had dropped to 20k by 2021 (rebounding slightly over the past two seasons to 22k).

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/splits-leaderboards?splitArr=42,30&splitArrPitch=&position=P&autoPt=false&splitTeams=false&statType=mlb&statgroup=1&startDate=2003-03-01&endDate=2023-11-01&players=&filter=&groupBy=season&wxTemperature=&wxPressure=&wxAirDensity=&wxElevation=&wxWindSpeed=&sort=23,1
 

oumbi

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 15, 2006
4,212
My understanding is that L's and W's are both bad because they lead to a timing flaw - namely that the pitcher's torso starts to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back.

Just copy a couple of Chris O'Leary pictures, an inverted W like this:

View attachment 79388

leads to a situation like this:

View attachment 79389

where the the foot has hit the ground and the torso is starting to rotate forward while the arm is still moving up and back in order to get into cocked position. When the arm finally reaches cocked position:

View attachment 79394

the torso is already moving forward (you can see the belt buckle is already facing the hitter), which means that the arm now has to change directions and whip forward...causing a ton of stress on the elbow.

Meanwhile, someone like Justin Verlander already has his arm up as his foot is striking the ground:

View attachment 79392

which means no major changes of direction for his arm/elbow.

Anyway, as far as the harder offspeed stuff, one thing I've been wondering about is whether the grips/different approaches are causing issues with respect to pronation - i.e. the idea that once you let go of the ball, your wrist should naturally rotate in towards your body, as shown here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIenH2Kt0rg


Pronating lets your forearm take some of the load off your elbow when you decelerate your arm. Note that in the video, the pitchers (Kershaw and the pitching coach) are throwing curveballs, which spin in the opposite direction from the desired pronation (i.e. they spin away from the body), but the pitchers are still pronating after release. Fastballs are easier to pronate on because the rotation of a fastball just follows your natural arm action.

One potential problem is that if you start out with your wrist already rotated, you can't pronate when you're decelerating (your wrist has nowhere to go), which means that the elbow is taking the brunt of the deceleration. A telltatle sign for this is if the pitcher is pointing the ball to second base in the delivery; if they're doing that, they've already rotated their wrist and can't pronate much more. Here are Ivan Nova and Mariano Rivera showing "point the ball to second" vs. the safer "point the ball to third" techniques:

View attachment 79343

Similarly, if we compare Jacob DeGrom with Mariano Rivera at similar points (just before foot strike) in their delivery:

View attachment 79342
View attachment 79344

As mentioned above, breaking stuff also requires more care to be taken to ensure pronation, since the ball has to leave the hand before the arm can pronate (otherwise you're putting the wrong spin on the ball.) Which leads me to an NIH study I was reading:


My horribly uninformed guess is that harder breaking stuff and/or different grips are causing pitchers to pronate less effectively, either by changing the way the ball is held or increasing the amount of time spent in supination, thereby making elbows more likely to blow up.

[Edited to add pictures that actually load]
Just curious, but why isn't it simply called an "M"?

79472


79473



79474
 
Last edited:

Manuel Aristides

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 7, 2009
231
I assume that when typing ‘M’ isn’t accurate because the arms aren’t perpendicular to the ground (U of MN logo notwithstanding); a ‘W’ gets the angles in play better.
This has always bothered me and your explanation is obviously the right answer. Thank you.
 

oumbi

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 15, 2006
4,212
I assume that when typing ‘M’ isn’t accurate because the arms aren’t perpendicular to the ground (U of MN logo notwithstanding); a ‘W’ gets the angles in play better.
That top pix of the pitcher looks a lot like an M to me. But who am I to dispute the world's existing beliefs?
 

zenax

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 12, 2023
384
Something I did a number of years ago...percent of RBI by Single, Double, Triple, Home Run for AL and NL grouped. This was when I still had Access database software and I could download play-by-play data in CSV mode. I'm just showing the results for the first four years in the 1950s and a couple of years in 2015-16. It's interesting to see the decline in percentage of RBI from singles and triples as time moved on with not much increase with doubles. There were seasons in between with fluctuations in percentage by base hit type. Of course, this doesn't represent all runs as it does not include walks, sacrifice flies, et al., but the total of RBI from just base hits remained fairly even. It would be interesting to add more modern games to this listing but that means learning new database software for me.

Year %1B... %2B... %3B.. %HR...
1950 35.10% 14.86% 4.71% 30.42%
1951 36.02% 15.15% 4.72% 28.91%
1952 36.50% 14.90% 4.65% 29.11%
1953 36.04% 14.29% 4.50% 31.54%
1954 36.13% 13.31% 5.17% 30.71%
2015 28.50% 16.73% 2.75% 39.19%
2016 27.57% 15.32% 2.53% 42.14%

(there has to be a better way to make tables)
 
Last edited:

8slim

has trust issues
SoSH Member
Nov 6, 2001
25,405
Unreal America
Something I did a number of years ago...percent of RBI by Single, Double, Triple, Home Run for AL and NL grouped. This was when I still had Access database software and I could download play-by-play data in CSV mode. I'm just showing the results for the first four years in the 1950s and a couple of years in 2015-16. It's interesting to see the decline in percentage of RBI from singles and triples as time moved on with not much increase with doubles. There were seasons in between with fluctuations in percentage by base hit type. Of course, this doesn't represent all runs as it does not include walks, sacrifice flies, et al., but the total of RBI from just base hits remained fairly even. It would be interesting to add more modern games to this listing but that means learning new database software for me.

Year %1B... %2B... %3B.. %HR...
1950 35.10% 14.86% 4.71% 30.42%
1951 36.02% 15.15% 4.72% 28.91%
1952 36.50% 14.90% 4.65% 29.11%
1953 36.04% 14.29% 4.50% 31.54%
1954 36.13% 13.31% 5.17% 30.71%
2015 28.50% 16.73% 2.75% 39.19%
2016 27.57% 15.32% 2.53% 42.14%

(there has to be a better way to make tables)
This is fascinating.
 

Skiponzo

Member
SoSH Member
Any idea why? It seems that it would make the transition to high school ball more difficult.
It simplified his delivery which allowed him to get his arm into a better position to throw more efficiently and it also had the effect on him of improving his control. It was done as a response to him having a detached elbow growth plate when he was 12. He's thrown exclusively from the stretch ever since and last year had a 1.105 ERA for his HS team (this year in progress). It's likely different for each individual but this worked for him.
 

NoXInNixon

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Mar 24, 2008
5,363
With a limit of 13 pitchers though you still need guys who can pitch 160+ innings a year. Otherwise your pen will become a MASH unit.
There are 1,458 innings in a season. If you divide the innings equally, 13 pitchers need to throw 112 innings. Of course, it's not the same 13 pitchers for all 162 games, guys will go on the IL and you'll bring up guys from the minors. You can easily put together an entire staff where every game is a bullpen game and no one pitches more than 2-3 innings per game.
 

simplicio

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Apr 11, 2012
5,697
You can easily put together an entire staff where every game is a bullpen game and no one pitches more than 2-3 innings per game.
Given that no team has ever done this (for good reason), I'd challenge you to think this through fully and give a detailed explanation of how it's possible, given that nobody has thrown 112 innings in relief in the last 20 years and the last guy to even come close was none other than the cautionary tale of Scott Proctor.
 

Jody Barrettson

New Member
May 24, 2023
4
Given that no team has ever done this (for good reason), I'd challenge you to think this through fully and give a detailed explanation of how it's possible, given that nobody has thrown 112 innings in relief in the last 20 years and the last guy to even come close was none other than the cautionary tale of Scott Proctor.
A team would need to make this a multi -year project starting in the minors. But, if you take a boatload of high school starters and train them as 3 IP/3 days, you could try to run a 3 day rotation of ABC/DEF/GHI, and that still leaves 4 spots for relief work as currently understood.
Tons of logistical, training, contract issues (good luck signing FA P for this model). But I think there is roster space and physiological capacity to make this idea feasible.