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Alex Cobb to have Tommy John Surgery; Smyly out for year as well


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Tampa will lose Alex Cobb for the next year or so due to upcoming Tommy John surgery.

 

Cobbs has been a very good pitcher the last couple of years when healthy (he's suffered a concussion and an oblique injury), posting ERAs under 3.00. He has, however, only made 22 and 27 starts, respectively.

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Highly troubling to me, this is (yes, I am in Yoda mode). I'm continually amazed by how many young pitchers are going under the knife, and while it seems a lot of people are talking about it, there's no real credible solutions on how to fix this.

 

Is it arm mechanics? Is it how pitchers are managed? Is it the sheer stress being placed on the human body? I think it's a combination of all these things.

 

Pitchers back in the day used to consistently throw 300-350 innings or more. Cy Young threw 400 innings plus five times. The Christian Gentleman, Christy Mathewson, averaged about 275 innings pitched a year for his seventeen year career. Walter Johnson the same for 21 years. Hell, even in the modern era, pitchers did it, too. Bob Gibson eclipsed 275 IP seven times, going over 300 twice. Steve Carlton, the same. These guys got 4,500 to 5,000 innings out of their arms, and never needed Tommy John.

 

In sports, there's this need to be bigger, faster and stronger. I think that today's athletes have pushed the envelope so much that the envelope has started pushing back.

 

Some have suggested that teams start carrying an additional starting pitcher. More days between starts. Fewer pitches. I don't think that's going to solve anything. I think that pitchers have gotten so strong, the amount of stress placed on their arms is just too much. Perhaps there's too much strength, and not enough flexibility.

 

It's sad. You really can't get too attached to a great young starter, because right away he gets hurt, and misses a year with Tommy John.

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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Pitchers back in the day used to consistently throw 300-350 innings or more. Cy Young threw 400 innings plus five times. The Christian Gentleman, Christy Mathewson, averaged about 275 innings pitched a year for his seventeen year career. Walter Johnson the same for 21 years. Hell, even in the modern era, pitchers did it, too. Bob Gibson eclipsed 275 IP seven times, going over 300 twice. Steve Carlton, the same. These guys got 4,500 to 5,000 innings out of their arms, and never needed Tommy John.

 

I'd be willing to bet guys burnt out just as often but they did so in the minors so no one ever heard about it. There were only 16 teams for the longest time so any pitcher that had arm trouble probably never even made it to the show.

"Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the strength or bat speed to hit major-league pitching consistently, and he has no power......He probably has a future as a backup infielder if he can stop rolling over to third base and shortstop." Keith Law, 2006
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I'd be willing to bet guys burnt out just as often but they did so in the minors so no one ever heard about it. There were only 16 teams for the longest time so any pitcher that had arm trouble probably never even made it to the show.

 

See, I have to disagree.

 

Last I read, 40% of pitchers in the Major Leagues have had Tommy John surgery. While some have had the surgery before getting there, a lot of these guys are reaching the Majors, and then having what would have been career ending injuries back then. It didn't happen back in the 60s, 70s and even the 80s, at least with any frequency. You look at all the greats...I can't think of a single great pitcher who blew their arm out in this way, and had to retire prematurely because of an injury that is happening with frightening frequency today. The number of teams really had nothing to do with it. 16 teams, or 30 teams, that's still a few hundred Major League pitchers. Which of them blew out their arms? Sandy Koufax had to retire because he was in great pain when he pitched. But, he was still the best in the game. Had he torn his UCL, he'd have been stopped dead in his tracks.

 

The fact is that pitchers throw far fewer innings now than they did back in the golden era of baseball. Not only that, but pitchers back then used to throw complete games left and right. Going back to Koufax, in his four greatest seasons, 1963 to 1966, he won 97 games and had a 1.86 ERA for those seasons. And he threw an unbelievable 89 complete games.

 

Since 2000, Roy Halladay leads all Major League pitchers with 65 complete games, only he got those 65 in 370 starts across fourteen seasons. Second best is Livan Hernandez with 39. I would think that in the later innings, when a pitcher is tired, that would be when a pitcher is most at risk of an injury. But today's pitchers don't throw complete games. They throw fewer innings per start. And their arms are blowing out at a rate previously unseen in Major League history. Velocity might be a tick or two higher on average, but there were plenty of guys hitting 100 mph, or close to it, and they never had arm problems like these.

 

This is a relatively new phenomenon, within the last 20 years or so, and now it's becoming more and more common to the point where you expect to see a great young pitcher have it.

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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I remember being told by an AFL trainer that if a pitcher goes under the knife in the minors, he has something like a 5% chance of ever pitching in the big leagues. Of course, very few pitch in the bigs anyways
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One time I was looking up the pitch counts of the infamous Spahn vs Marichal 7/2/63 game, and I came across an interview with Juan Marichal, and this quote from it has always stuck with me: "Pitch counts? You're not going to have a strong arm if you don't throw. That's why I think I threw so many complete games, because I used my arm. I loved to throw. The only way you can get a strong arm is by throwing. Today, 70, 80 pitches and you're out."

 

I think there is a lot of truth to that, but I also tend to agree with what 'stache said with regards to pushing the envelope and higher arm stress. I think the eye test can get you to the crux of what is at play. Look at some video of any 5 MLB pitchers from say the 50s or 60s. Compare the fluidity of delivery and evident arm stress to video of 5 current MLB pitchers, especially some of the younger "flamethrowers." The difference is certainly notable.

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Here's a theory, based on personal experience and observations: with increased studying by hitters of pitchers (through video and scouting), a pitcher needs to disguise his pitches to be successful. This has led to less throwing of pitches such as curveballs where the elbow is cushioned (and less disguise) and more throwing cutters where the elbow is not cushioned (and more disguise).

 

I've noticed (in general) MLB'ers returning from TJ surgery are more susceptible to tipping pitches, whereas others have the same violent snap look on fastballs and breaking pitches.

 

Mike Pelfrey is an example of a post-TJ pitcher, where I can tell if he's throwing a fastball or offspeed based on his motion. Perhaps this is how most pitchers threw before micro-analysis of every aspect of the game.

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They also didn't throw as hard back then. When I first started watching baseball in the late 70's/early 80's, any pitcher who threw 90mph was "throwing gas". Now that's almost considered a soft-tosser. Sure, there were a few back then who could get it into the 90's, but not like today when almost everyone does.

 

You also have to throw into the 90's to get drafted high. If you throw upper 80's in high school you might get drafted in the middle rounds as a "maybe he can develop" guy. If you throw mid-80's, forget it - you're playing college ball, and maybe not even D1. That means more stress and throwing harder at a younger age.

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I agree with the last few posts. So much scouting and a competitive game making pitchers throw mid/high 90s much more often, disguise pitches, throw more sliders, etc. I think it is less about "throwing the ball with Billy down the street every day to strengthen your arm" and more about the evolution of the game to be much harder for a pitcher to succeed. Guys have needed to throw harder and throw more pitches to succeed.
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they also werent throwing all year around from when they were 10 years old, either.

Posted: July 10, 2014, 12:30 AM

PrinceFielderx1 Said:

If the Brewers don't win the division I should be banned. However, they will.

 

Last visited: September 03, 2014, 7:10 PM

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Everyone brings up a lot of great points, and they ALL are probably part of the reason for the rash of TJ surgeries.

 

- Kids throw earlier and more often

- Players throw harder

- Players throw pitches that put more stress on the arm

- More complete positional (and the DH) - pitchers can't 'relax' against a weaker batters as in the past (example, in 1970 shortstops had a .638 OPS. In 2014, they had a .689 OPS).

 

These - and other things - probably just add up to make this the 'norm'.

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It's unfortunate for players to lose a year+ of playing time, but Tommy John also isn't a career ending injury, either. Some of these guys are just as strong if not stronger when they come back.

 

I used to think this was a serious issue that needed to be addressed in baseball, but with everything that's been mentioned as far as how hard these kids now throw, how much they throw in the off-season (not giving their arms time to naturally rest), and specialization, elbow issues might just become part of the norm, unfortunately.

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There was a pitching coach in the '70's (I want to say Johnny Sain but that might be wrong) who maintained modern pitchers were not throwing enough. The '72 White Sox had a 3 man rotation for much of the year (Wilbur Wood 49 starts, Tom Bradley 40, Stan Bahnsen 43). The '72 Brewers had nobody starting more than 30 games (Jim Lonborg 30, Bill Parsons 30). Of course, the White Sox never stuck with it so there was no real experiment in that sense.

 

The theory was that pitchers never fully developed their arm strength but used them as if they had. As others have mentioned, old time pitchers threw many more innings. Last year was the first season that complete games fell below 0.02 percent.

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old time pitchers also saw their careers end as soon as they got injured, because contract values were a pittance compared to what teams invest in even prospects with today's game.

 

I don't think I'd want to go back to a pitching management model that required MLB pitchers to have offseason jobs in order to eek out a living.

 

Today's game with ballparks having shorter fences favors pitchers who strike guys out - velocity and sharp breaking stuff are king with strikeouts. During the era when pitchers threw more and didn't throw as hard, they were often pitching in ballparks that had at least one area of the field where it was damn near impossible to hit a home run - if you had good outfielders, they could turn alot of those high-arching 420' bombs into outs. Plus, hitters in that era on average couldn't hit the ball as far, either.

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Brewer Fanatic Contributor

 

I don't think I'd want to go back to a pitching management model that required MLB pitchers to have offseason jobs in order to eek out a living.

 

I remember Richie Hebner, a 3B/1B who played back in the 70s and 80s, was called the Gravedigger. So how'd he get that bad-ass name?

 

He dug graves in the off season at a cemetery.

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I've posted a book about this on many occasions.

 

It's not how hard players are throwing, nor is it pitching mechanics, people have been throwing as hard as their bodies will allow with poor mechanics for 100+ years.

 

The root cause here is over training; young kids specializing in a specific sport before they get out of high school (this used to be just a college thing but now regularly happens in middle school) and playing that sport year round. I could go on for 10 pages regarding specialization and everything that is wrong from both a personal and athletic development standpoint but I don't have the time to post or defend that kind of in depth look at what it is happening.

 

The 2 core issues in the body caused by over training are strength deficiencies in opposing muscle groups which puts extra stress on the tendons and the fact that there is no longer an off season for the tendons to heal. There is very little blood flow around the tendons in our body so they take much longer to repair themselves, recovery time for tendons is measured in months, not days or weeks.

 

So by training muscles in one direction (just throwing) you combine extra stress on the joints over a longer period of time with little to no recovery... well the result should be obvious.

 

As usual the people discussing these issues across various forums on the internet are for the most part completely under-qualified to do so. They don't have the robust base of knowledge necessary to discuss the issues intelligently so we end up with TJ surgery being viewed as performance enhancing, when it's no different than an ACL repair, and we have any of number of similarly infuriating myths being perpetuated.

 

One needs to understand physics, geometry, bio mechanics, biology, athletic strength training, flexibility, injury treatment, injury prevention... basically a very broad background and understanding of science, medicine, and sports, then how they all fit together. Most people inside of baseball only know that great athletes can basically pitch however they want and learn how to throw strikes, but they have no idea why that is, when the "why" is really all that matters in this type of discussion.

 

If you want to reduce TJ surgeries then force pitchers to take 2-3 months off from throwing every year and athletically strength train their entire body including their arms. Instead kids are throwing 10s of thousands of pitches before they graduate high school and are somewhat physically mature so you are taking bodies that aren't prepared for the stress then applying over training... so this is where we are.

 

It's 2015, we should have been past the "baseball players shouldn't lift weights" mantra in the 80s but baseball is incredibly slow to adopt change and we're still talking and reading about other misnomers such as "players growing out of a position" and so on. Or you'll have pitchers like former Brewer prospect Cody Scarpetta, who needed TJ and couldn't throw enough strikes and probably doesn't understand why, "giving back" by teaching young athletes how to also not throw strikes. My point is that this ignorance doesn't come from a bad place, rather it's just continually pushed and retaught to the next generation by well intentioned people who don't really know any better.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato

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