August 17, 2017
This isn’t my idea. (Always a rousing way to start an article!) You may read this and conclude that I’m a moron. I’m not saying that’s wrong! I’m just saying that your logic in saying so may be fallacious, if you’re basing it on the proposal here. It isn’t mine. I’m just reporting it.
Craig Wright is a prominent baseball analyst. He was the first front office sabermetrician for the Rangers, way back in 1981. During a 10-year stint with the Dodgers, he’s widely credited with promoting the abilities of 62nd-round draft pick Mike Piazza.
In 1989, he published two books. The Diamond Appraised, co-written with Rangers pitching coach Tom House, is a pioneering sabermetric text, promoting concepts such as homefield advantage; pitcher development, deployment, and workload (and catcher ERA). He wrote the second book, The Man Who Stole First Base, with Eric Nadel. Wright and Nadel collaborated on a popular radio show, A Page from Baseball’s Past. Wright was the show’s primary researcher and writer, and Nadel was the producer and narrator.
So it was no surprise, given both his stature in the analytic community and his areas of expertise, that Wright was invited to write a chapter in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2015. His contribution, “The Explosion of UCL Injuries,” traces the growth of ulnar collateral ligament injuries and the resultant Tommy John surgeries, noting: “Something is going on in the major leagues that is making the UCL more vulnerable to serious injury, and it is trickling down into the ranks of amateur pitchers.”
Wright noted that while sliders were originally thought to be disproportionate culprits in the rise of UCL injuries, it’s velocity that’s the major problem. Throwing harder, not surprisingly, leads to more stress on the arm. He also noted that high workloads create more stress, though Wright is not an advocate of strict pitch limits, except for young pitchers or those recovering from an injury. Instead, he supports a target average pitch count for pitchers, with variance allowed on either side of the target.