The Tommy John Epidemic

Tangled Up In Red

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I wonder if there is a middle ground way to regulate tackiness without going back to the days of excessive goop.
They've taken a (small) step in this direction by centralizing and standardizing rosin bags - with a tackier-than-before blend. Been in use for a couple seasons now...
 

joe dokes

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The difference from stock car racing is that the restrictor plates apply to all competitors equally. But there are two sides to the competition in baseball - hitters will probably destroy slower stuff now. Any change has to account for that.
Maybe if you give pitchers some advantages (larger strike zone, softer baseballs, sticky stuff), but also require pitchers to throw a significant minimum number of pitches per appearance barring injury?
Taking away some hitters' body armor might help pitchers. In a vacuum, hitters will destroy slower stuff. But pitching is more than just throwing hard stuff. But that brings us back to the chicken-and-egg that we won't get not-max-velocity pitchers until there's a demand.

Yeah, I'm personally completely fine with all of that. The 5 inning win rule already should be gone as it's quite anachronistic, Luke Weaver is currently 3-0 with a 6.35 ERA and has pitched a total of 5.2 innings. They also should dump the 162 innings needed to qualify for pitching leaders, as fewer and fewer pitchers make it there.
Also I am sure I'm in the minority but basically I don't care at all how a team puts together nine innings of pitching. I enjoy watching most relievers just as much as most starters. Of course, I also don't get why people prefer routine flyouts or groundouts (the majority of ours) to strikeouts, I love strikeouts.
My issue with the elimination of the "starter" as we've known it is that "starters" have a different skillset than relievers. (whether it's endurance, or the ability to throw different pitches) . This is all theoretical at present, but I'm not a fan of eliminating that "skill," so we end up with 7 pitchers per game with one quality pitch.
The game was in the process of eliminating speed and defense until they tried some changes to avoid having teams fielding 8 DHs.
 

jon abbey

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Perhaps we disagree on what the problem is?
The biggest problem in MLB IMO, outside of needing an electronic strike zone ASAP, continues to be the disparity between how guys get paid before arbitration. Anything that can be done to rectify that will have many helpful ripple effects, but for now, teams have a seemingly endless supply of minimum salary guys to shuttle in, and once they become expensive or hurt, they can just move onto the next ones.
 

BaseballJones

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Could be. Or not insist on a pristine ball for every pitch.
I've already advocated for un-juicing the balls, but this is also good. I hate that a ball that bounces in the dirt is immediately tossed aside for a brand new ball. It's ok if they get a little beaten up. You don't want them to have cuts in them or such but man, a ball that bounces in the dirt can be pitched again, for pete's sake.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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Why is he so confident that human capability hasn’t improved? Isn’t it always improving?
I assume he's using Twitter shorthand for saying "humans haven't improved to the extent that velocity has increased."

Bill James wrote a few years ago that the big change from baseball in the 70s to today is that today every single hitter is a thread to go yard, and in the 70s that simply wasn't the case. Combine that with more hitter-friendly ballparks, and the ability to hit for some sort of power is now more widely spread throughout baseball. To compensate for that, pitchers have amped up their velocity instead of easing off or pitching to contact.
 

Mantush

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Does anyone know where I can download a list of pitchers that have had Tommy John and/or elbow injuries over the last 10 years and then pitch data (# of pitches thrown, spin rates, velocity) for all pitchers? Or do I need to do some web scraping? If someone can point me in the direction of the data, I'm an econometrician (by degree, not profession) and have some dead time at work this week.
 

CarolinaBeerGuy

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Does anyone know where I can download a list of pitchers that have had Tommy John and/or elbow injuries over the last 10 years and then pitch data (# of pitches thrown, spin rates, velocity) for all pitchers? Or do I need to do some web scraping? If someone can point me in the direction of the data, I'm an econometrician (by degree, not profession) and have some dead time at work this week.
@Brand Name probably has access to this.
 

Wingack

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I get that, but I wouldn’t expect a lot of guys to sustain season ending injuries in the first week of the season. Maybe I’m wrong.
I am not so sure about that. I kinda feel like we hear about a bunch of people getting TJs every spring training, once they get back on the mound, they tear something.

And even what you say is true that more TJs will happen later in the year, that should be reflected in those other years too.
 

Theodoric

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Old man screaming at clouds: how about teaching them to throw a proper changeup again? Hitters have basically proven they can catch up to a fastball no matter how hard it's thrown. But pitchers as electric as Pedro and unelectric as Jamie Moyer proved that you can make a hitter look silly if you can sufficiently change speeds. Velocity and spin rate looked good initially, but now it just looks like a dead end with an arm falling off.
 

Jace II

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Why is he so confident that human capability hasn’t improved? Isn’t it always improving?
Because UCLs cannot be meaningfully strengthened through exercise. Muscles can get bigger and mechanics can get more fluid, but all of that increased force is still being channeled through the elbow. That weak link is no stronger than before and can't carry the strain over thousands of cycles.

He's also being tongue in cheek anyway, referencing species evolution, which obviously operates on much larger timescales than ~2 generations. Stronger UCLs don't make humans any more likely to reproduce successfully anyway (at least it hasn't worked for my friends yet), so there's no evolutionary push there.
 

Murderer's Crow

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Is it still true that Japanese pitchers have far fewer injuries and less frequent TJS? What are they doing differently besides pitching with more rest?
 

McBride11

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Because UCLs cannot be meaningfully strengthened through exercise. Muscles can get bigger and mechanics can get more fluid, but all of that increased force is still being channeled through the elbow. That weak link is no stronger than before and can't carry the strain over thousands of cycles.

He's also being tongue in cheek anyway, referencing species evolution, which obviously operates on much larger timescales than ~2 generations. Stronger UCLs don't make humans any more likely to reproduce successfully anyway (at least it hasn't worked for my friends yet), so there's no evolutionary push there.
I meannnnnn, theoretically it would improve the fitness of the mate as a pro pitcher could provide more resources and support more offspring.
Of course that isnt how society works these days nor is 150 years of baseball enough to influence that outcome
 

Jace II

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I meannnnnn, theoretically it would improve the fitness of the mate as a pro pitcher could provide more resources and support more offspring.
Of course that isnt how society works these days nor is 150 years of baseball enough to influence that outcome
But pro pitchers seem to have the same shitty UCLs as everyone else, hence this whole thread right? Maybe MLB can find a way to locate and influence individuals with superior UCLs but no pitching skills to procreate at a higher volume so as to deepen the available gene pool. If Manfred was good at his job, anyway.
 

Mantush

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Thanks! @Mantush would this suffice?

EDIT: After clicking through the link, it’s a database for the surgeries, but not the additional info you’re seeking.
It does. I think I can export data from baseballsavant (will have more time to look into it tomorrow).

I should be able to spend some time looking at things more in-depth tomorrow and on Wednesday. If anyone has some ideas for some hypotheses to test, I'm all ears.
 

ZMart100

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My solution is to lower the mound to reduce the gravity assist pitchers get and decrease velocity. That should reduce strain. To compensate for decreased velocity the ball can be altered.
 

Jace II

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Also pitching once a week and with tackier balls.
If the extra 1-2 days off each starting pitcher has in Japan does actually make some difference in ligament recovery, they could theoretically mandate that in MLB. That if you start a game and go more than some threshold of innings (or total pitches, even?), you can't pitch again until the 6th day after (which they could loosen in the playoffs to the 5th day or whatever). Thus basically mandating a 6 man rotation in the regular season.

They'd probably have to add a pitcher roster spot as well to make that work. Obviously there are a ton of other factors at play, so who knows if this makes an appreciable difference when all incentives align towards throwing an inconsistently-grippable baseball as hard as possible from middle school on.
 

Max Power

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Traditionally Japanese pitchers threw a lot more than American ones, even if they only went once a week in games. Their side sessions were long and frequent. The idea is that you train to pitch by constantly throwing, just like a jogger becomes a marathoner. I don't know if that's still the case.
 

Jace II

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Traditionally Japanese pitchers threw a lot more than American ones, even if they only went once a week in games. Their side sessions were long and frequent. The idea is that you train to pitch by constantly throwing, just like a jogger becomes a marathoner. I don't know if that's still the case.
Right, so it's probably more about constant ultra-max-effort over thousands of reps than it is about the number of reps. Distance runners (who DO get cyclic ligament fatigue injuries anyway) don't compete to pound their feet into the ground as hard as they can on every step.

I know this has been referenced a bunch before, but it just feels like where this is going is that pitching is becoming a fungible commodity that doesn't get paid well anymore. Velocity can be taught and it pays, but it also kills, so you burn out before you escape arb years and actually get paid. Teams can get similar results by continually throwing max-effort elbows into the grinder for minimum money, and the youth baseball system now is built to help them do this. This means that other parts of pitching craft (like adding a strong 3rd or 4th pitch, or learning elite command) don't get as developed, and there's a sameness to every inning and game.

From a fan perspective, it feels less than ideal, because there's less continuity and story to it. 10 indistinguishable relievers that throw upper nineties and will likely get hurt and be replaced by 10 different guys in 1-2 seasons anyway is hard to get hooked on. This is economically optimized, but I think it's rare that optimal economic outcomes are fun things you seek out in your spare recreational time.
 

joe dokes

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Throwing overhand is an unnatural use of the arm. TJS is much more unusual in softball pitchers. (no. I have no idea where this goes).
 
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DanoooME

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I'm surprised modern medicine hasn't figured out (yet) how to make a UCL that is stronger than the original. Probably the body would end up rejecting it, but that's really the only physical solution to correct the problem (as people have noted above, there's no way for you to make it better yourself).

The underhand point joe dokes makes above is interesting. Have any sidearm/submarine pitchers had TJS? I'd have to dig into that database @Brand Name mentions above.

All these TJS happening this year and then Tejay Antone says "Hold my beer"
 

ThePrideofShiner

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Old man screaming at clouds: how about teaching them to throw a proper changeup again? Hitters have basically proven they can catch up to a fastball no matter how hard it's thrown. But pitchers as electric as Pedro and unelectric as Jamie Moyer proved that you can make a hitter look silly if you can sufficiently change speeds. Velocity and spin rate looked good initially, but now it just looks like a dead end with an arm falling off.
Hey, some of us had to suffer through JA Happ for a number of years. I'd rather watch my favorite pitcher's arm explode on the mound, than suffer through anymore Happ starts.

Throwing overhand is an unnatural use of the arm. TJS is much more unusual in softball pitchers. (no. I have no idea where this goes).
Also, this post made me think of this story I saw roll by this weekend. A Division II softball player pitched for the school's baseball team in between games of a softball doubleheader. This is the way of the future.

https://apnews.com/article/woman-baseball-pitcher-softball-infielder-9a0cd6e389262ba2cd2f03ae6568345e
 

Jed Zeppelin

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I don’t know if this is a crazy hot take or what but at what point do we welcome PEDs into the game with open arms for the sake of injury recovery? And can it help with prevention (thinking about A-Rod and co never missing a game)?

I’m all for fixing the infrastructure contributing to the TJS epidemic but it’s unclear that there will be appetite to do so from the youngest levels of development. And I don’t see the spin rate/velo push going back in the tube, just like you won’t see NBA going back to less efficient methods of scoring without significant rule changes.
 

Comfortably Lomb

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I don’t know if this is a crazy hot take or what but at what point do we welcome PEDs into the game with open arms for the sake of injury recovery? And can it help with prevention (thinking about A-Rod and co never missing a game)?

I’m all for fixing the infrastructure contributing to the TJS epidemic but it’s unclear that there will be appetite to do so from the youngest levels of development. And I don’t see the spin rate/velo push going back in the tube, just like you won’t see NBA going back to less efficient methods of scoring without significant rule changes.
If beneficial and safe (I'll leave it to MDs to define "safe" and not the league, media, or fans) they should be.

I'm somewhat surprised we don't see more Bartolo Colon type retirements to get off the testing radar, a year off enjoying the best modern science can provide, and subsequent return to the game in playing shape. The money seems good.
 

SirPsychoSquints

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I don’t know if this is a crazy hot take or what but at what point do we welcome PEDs into the game with open arms for the sake of injury recovery? And can it help with prevention (thinking about A-Rod and co never missing a game)?

I’m all for fixing the infrastructure contributing to the TJS epidemic but it’s unclear that there will be appetite to do so from the youngest levels of development. And I don’t see the spin rate/velo push going back in the tube, just like you won’t see NBA going back to less efficient methods of scoring without significant rule changes.
There's no reason to think PEDs would keep the UCL safer.