Thorburn: The frightening reality of the modern pitcher

From Doug Thorburn at Baseball Prospectus on April 15, 2016:

I fear for the modern pitcher. Little League, travel ball, college, the pros—we are witnessing a revolution in the way that pitchers are grown, used, and eventually discarded, with results that look good in the box score but which claim the limbs of countless hurlers every year.

Injury rates are up across the board at every level of play, and pitchers are throwing harder today than they ever have before, such that a “60-grade” fastball of 10 years ago might qualify as a 50-55 grade now, sliding from plus to average (though not every scout has adjusted his/her scale, nor have they adjusted the scale in a uniform way). Scientific minds no less esteemed than Dr. James Andrews and the crew at ASMI have firmly established the link between velocity and injury, as throwing harder requires greater joint loads and effectively tests the limits of the human body, limits that are discovered only once an individual breaks down.

The results are perpetuating the problem, because strikeout rates are up, run-scoring is down (4.22 runs/game from 2011-15), and the modern ballclub no longer expects 7-8 innings of effective pitching, but rather 100 pitches of max-effort performance by one player, followed by a bucket brigade of 20-pitch flame-throwers. It’s interesting how the term “effort” was considered a pejorative term to describe a pitcher’s delivery for years, and to some evaluators it is still a red flag, yet the system that has been created is one that encourages such aggression on a regular basis.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 15, 2016. Last Updated: April 15, 2016.