Carleton: Do some pitches do more damage than others?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on July 1, 2014:

In their recent “position paper” on preventing elbow injuries in Major League (and Minor League and College and High School and Little League) Baseball, Drs. James Andrews and Glen Fleisig had an interesting recommendation for young pitchers: Don’t throw with 100 percent effort on every pitch. The arm, particularly the elbow, isn’t made to take that much stress all the time.

In a recent article at the site RotoScouting, Ben Flajole picked up the idea from a more pragmatic point of view. He looked at the case of Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, who was recently shelved by Tommy John surgery. Last year, Fernandez played on a Marlins team that, outside of Giancarlo Stanton, was, shall we say, offensively challenged. Despite his heroics, he was pitching either behind in the score or with only a small lead more often than the average bear. On another team, he might have had the luxury of throwing more innings in which he was ahead 7-2, and where he wouldn’t have had to worry as much. (Even if he gives up a leadoff home run in the inning, it’s only 7-3.) Flajole suggests that because Fernandez was often pitching with the game “on the line” he might have over-extended himself a bit and pitched at max effort more of the time than most, and that that could have contributed to his eventual demise.

I know that there are already some people snickering at the idea of pitchers “pitching to the score,” but the idea at least passes the silly test. Pitchers might view some hitters or situations as more important and might alter their arm action accordingly. Whether or not that’s a logically sound strategy to follow is irrelevant. Humans aren’t logical creatures and pitchers are human. Whadayasay we take a look?

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Originally published: July 1, 2014. Last Updated: July 1, 2014.