Trueblood: Solution to Tommy John surgery problem does not exist

From Matthew Trueblood at Baseball Prospectus on March 5, 2015:

One year ago, Cory Luebke was two weeks post-op, the first and only major-league hurler who had undergone Tommy John surgery in 2014, and the only one, in fact, since Matt Harvey hit the surgeon’s slab in October 2013. Within a month, though—in the space between March 18th and Opening Day—there would be six more big-league arms sliced open: Luke Hochevar, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Patrick Corbin, Jarrod Parker and Bruce Rondon. After the season began, the bloodbath continued more or less unabated. The spring would claim the ulnar collateral ligaments of, among others, Matt Moore, Jose Fernandez and Martin Perez. The threat had become ubiquitous.

The anniversary of that dam break has coincided with a series of tangentially related, not-quite-converging conversations about pitcher injuries. First, an Orange County Register feature by Pedro Moura explored the Dodgers’ new habit of stockpiling pitchers with serious or lengthy injury histories. The piece delved into the team’s balancing of the risk and reward those pitchers offer, and (in greater depth) into the club’s growing, large-scale commitment to both biomechanical analysis and long-term, data-driven research into injury prevention. Dodgers President Andrew Friedman said, “I would contend that any kind of advantage in injury prevention is significant,” which qualifies as candor for him.

Then, over the weekend, a long discussion of Tommy John surgery took place at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Glenn Fleisig, the second-most famous name in this arena, led that discourse, so it naturally centered on Fleisig’s two most constant talking points: the pressing need for education and protection of youth pitchers, and the value of biomechanics to the future of injury prevention.

It wasn’t in direct response to that panel discussion, but Nate Silver also weighed in on injury prevention as a common good during the Conference, remarking that he would like to see greater open sourcing of injury data, allowing the public punditry (guys like Silver) to address problematic trends and help reverse them.

There are, I think, three fundamental facts that need to be highlighted whenever we talk seriously about preventing pitching injuries. There are also three deeper conversations, each including its own set of facts, but also demanding careful consideration on a more subjective level.

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Originally published: March 5, 2015. Last Updated: March 5, 2015.