Carleton: Matt Harvey and the increased risk from extra innings

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 28, 2013:

If you haven’t heard the news, New York Mets wunderkind Matt Harvey has been diagnosed as having a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Harvey has said that he wants to avoid surgery if possible, but this sort of thing usually ends up with a visit to Dr. Tommy John for James Andrews surgery. As per usual, everyone on Twitter remembered their extensive medical training and pitching mechanics expertise and did the most productive thing that they could: lay blame for Harvey’s unfortunate circumstances at the feet of his pitching coach, his manager, his conditioning, his conditioner (the hair kind), his genetic makeup and, of course, dumb luck.

Any time a team loses a young pitcher like Harvey for an extended period of time, there’s an inevitable period of mourning and second-guessing as to what could have been different. Even for fans of other teams than the Mets, it’s sad to see a bright star like Matt Harvey go down. Is there something that could have been done?

Warning! Gory Mathematical Details Ahead!
A few months ago, I did a study on what really predicted whether pitchers would sustain an injury, based on markers from the previous year (or two). Using a database of injuries that we maintain here at BP, I was able to locate all pitchers who had Tommy John surgery from 2002-2012 and check what risk factors would be obvious at the beginning of the year. In the original study, I found that elbow injuries (of any sort) were most closely associated with a previous elbow injury, as well as with a low home run rate and the raw number of pitches thrown the year before.

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Originally published: August 28, 2013. Last Updated: August 28, 2013.