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May 16, 2014

Raising Aces

The Injury Puzzle

by Doug Thorburn


In a season that has been beset by pitcher injuries, the loss of the game's most electrifying ace, Jose Fernandez, was the straw that broke the collective heart of the baseball universe. How did it come to this?

One of the missions of Raising Aces is to explain the why and the how behind pitcher performance. There are known reasons why a pitcher might be missing his spots, and we understand how he creates movement on his pitches. Unfortunately, we’re far from identifying concrete truths about why and how a given pitcher gets seriously injured.

By day I’m a mild-mannered educator, and right now we’re knee-deep in finals preparation. One of the most useful strategies that I employ with the students is “to know what you don't know.” The method requires an honest analysis of one's strengths and weaknesses, with the goal of isolating potential problem areas in order to optimize the learning process. When we bring this method to bear on the baseball world, it’s important that we appreciate and accept the current state of injury evaluation, in which there are far more questions than answers.

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Related Content:  Jose Fernandez,  Injuries

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Chomsky
(103)

WHAT? No mention at all of the fact he was puking his guts out right before gametime? And management still let him pitch? You forgot a category: Dehydration. Or maybe it should be called, Manager Stupidity.

May 16, 2014 05:42 AM
rating: 0
 
SadMagistrate

Are you implying that his potential/possible dehydration lead to the UCL tear? That'd be a new one!

May 16, 2014 06:34 AM
rating: -1
 
Chomsky
(103)

Check it: http://www.scienceofsocceronline.com/2013/01/heat-dehydration-and-injury-risk.html

May 16, 2014 08:28 AM
rating: 3
 
Chomsky
(103)

Also Will Carroll said this:

Add in that Fernandez was ill before the game and potentially dehydrated, which can have a massive effect on the body, and no one comes off looking good.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2062548-under-the-knife-mlb-injury-analysis-on-fernandez-sabathia-wieters-and-more

May 16, 2014 08:30 AM
rating: 2
 
lheiman

Was this intentionally a demonstration of the point that "It's human nature to attempt to isolate a singular cause when something goes wrong, but science rarely affords us the convenience of simplicity..."?

May 16, 2014 10:04 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

I did indeed forget a category: Health.

This can be internal (ie dehydration) or external (ie the thigh bruise), and it is intertwined with each of the other six categories. These elements were not direct causes for Fern's injury - according to Dr.'s Andrews and Fleisig, UCL's wear down over time rather than pop in a single day - but they may have elevated his risk in that particular outing. Health is also a category for which we have very limited information, and players can be very different with how they respond when health is compromised.

We are also not in a position to assign blame for this injury, and it's too bad that the lawyer's statement have added fuel to the fire.





May 19, 2014 12:45 PM
 
Chomsky
(103)

Also see comments in this thread. Some good stuff there. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jose-fernandez-preventable-or-inevitable/

May 16, 2014 08:29 AM
rating: 1
 
lheiman

Scientists know only too well that when things go wrong, it is almost always the case that multiple factors are involved. Loss of mechanics resulting from his "flu-like symptoms", which others have suggested to be the cause, may have contributed. Do we have any evidence that Fernandez lost his mechanics, something like a change in arm slot or release point, that occurred during this last start before the velocity drop-off?

May 16, 2014 10:10 AM
rating: 1
 
DetroitDale

There was an excellent roundtable discussion on the MLB network just under a week ago. I finally got around to watching it yesterday. Bob Costas Moderated and other panelists included Jim Kaat, John Smoltz, Tom Verducci. It was a very thoughtful, insightful serious back and fourth debate on the issue and highly worth watching. It was a refreshing change from the kind of silliness that passes as discourse on the four letter network these days.

May 16, 2014 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
The Beef

Why is everyone looking to blame someone for this injury? It's like when the SF fans starting crying when Buster went down. Maybe we should start having pitchers throw underhand, because the strain on the elbow is significantly reduced that way. The fact is his UCL couldn't take the power and torque that was being put on it with the way he threw and it got shredded. Stop with the witch-hunting Captain Hindsight. I mean, just read the front cover of BP this year. It seemed like they were expecting an injury from Jose prior to the start of the season, as usual, they were right.

May 16, 2014 21:38 PM
rating: -2
 
huztlers

MLB needs to address this with a new rule. New rules are the answer to everything! If not a new rule, then I bet we can fix this with replay.

May 19, 2014 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
TwinsfanTravis

Why does the fact that kids are beginning to throw breaking pitches at younger and younger ages never factor into this discussion? I do private instruction for a living and I see kids as young as 9 and 10 already throwing a high amount of curveballs and sliders in games. This is an age when arms are developing the most and this must be doing a ton of damage to their arms. To me it's no coincidence that this rise in the level of UCL injuries is happening along with this growing trend. When I was a young ball player, my father and coaches wouldn't even show me the grip for a curveball until i was in middle school. But now there is so much pressure put on these kids by their parents and their coaches in these highly competitive leagues and there seems to be no regard for how they should be properly developed. I think we are now seeing the product of this mentality. I am not a doctor though, so I would like to see this issue addressed by a medical professional.

May 18, 2014 13:24 PM
rating: 2
 
huztlers

The simple answer is that IT WAS NOT A SINGLE EVENT which led to the injury. He is too young to be attempting to do what he was doing. This happened last season when he was promoted #unsustainable.

May 19, 2014 10:34 AM
rating: -1
 
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