What are the real mechanical precursors of pitcher injury? And what is the real lesson of Mark Prior's injury history?
Pitching mechanics are a bit like long-snappers in football, in the sense that we hear about them only when something goes horribly wrong. Mechanics rarely enter the discussion until a pitcher gets hurt, but when an ace succumbs to injury, the village folk grab their torches and pitchforks to go on the hunt for blame.
Experience has taught me that there is rarely an isolated cause for a pitcher's injury, with confounding variables that include mechanics, conditioning, workloads, genetics, and plain old luck. The pitching delivery is a high-performance machine, with a multitude of moving parts that must work efficiently in concert for the system to perform at peak levels, and any weak link in the system can lead to a breakdown.
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It's no coincidence that the Red Sox are dropping games left and right given the injuries they have been dealing with recently. Youkilis had been affected for some time by the sports hernia, which was present even before his hip bursitis first flared up earlier this year. The aching lower abdominal pain from the sports hernia has been flaring up episodically, most recently on Thursday, along with the hip bursitis.
An epidemic of elbow injuries has many major leaguers crash landing on the disabled list, Gordon Beckham survives a close encounter with a baseball, Bronson Arroyo suffers back pain, and the Giants get bad news about Buster Posey.
Today marks Memorial Day in the United States, the occasion when we honor those brave souls who lost their lives serving our country. Do your part to honor those lost by thanking those still here. The next time you see a soldier, ask to shake their hand.
The Injury Expert's magic number is down to two for a career column milestone and he has further discussion of a controversial supplement.
On Monday, I wrote about the conflict of interest between Liberty Media owning a supplement company that sells substances on MLB's banned list and owning the Atlanta Braves. I want to clarify a couple things. First, Liberty Media is a giant conglomerate of assets, of which both Bodybuilding.com and the Atlanta Braves are just a small part. It's not "wrong" to sell supplements, just a conflict of interest if you also happen to own a baseball team. Also, I want to be very clear that I'm not removing the responsibility for taking the banned substance from those players that have tested positive. MLB provides a list of products and Jack3d, Oxy Elite Pro, and "any product that contains Methlyhexaneamine, DMAA, dimethylpentylamine, geranamine, Geranium oil, or extract" are specifically noted. Agents were warned as well in a memo sent out from the MLBPA with specific warning about "Jack3d" after a series of recent positive tests. MLB teams have athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and more resources available for athletes to check substances before taking them and putting themselves at risk.
Hurts strike down two of the Yankees' "Core Four" in Posada and Rivera, along with other medical news from the majors.
Jorge Posada (strained calf, ERD TBD) If you read what I told you about—or actually, passed on from Ben Wolf—on Friday, then the calf strain for Jorge Posada shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Posada's injury to the back of his right knee was in a bad spot and this kind of cascade is very predictable. The bigger cascade worry would be a knee injury, but a calf strain would be a close second. Wolf's insight doesn't help the Yankees, who now have to go with Francisco Cervelli in the meantime while hoping that Posada can heal up. The Yankees are anticipating that Posada will be ready by the end of the week, but a Grade I strain might not heal up enough for catching. They'll wait until the end of the week to make a decision on the DL, since they'll get the off-day on Thursday, but I get the sense that they don't want to go into the Boston series short-handed.
Top teams lose top talents in the AL, B-Rob's bad break in Bal'mer, and a double dip of Hawk citations in today's injury roundup.
Joe Mauer (heel bruise, TBD)
The term "stone bruise" is kind of archaic and not really that helpful, but it's accurate when it comes to describing what has happened to Mauer. He injured his heel on a play at first base: he was 'stretching' on a close play and hit heel-first, hard. With the type of cleats he wears, it seems that he hit something or hit it in just the wrong way, pushing into his heel. It's a simple bruise, but because of the location and nature of it, there's not much besides rest than can cure it. At first, it appeared to be one of those annoying things that a player can play through, missing a couple days, but by Sunday, it was clear that this was not only more serious, but seems to be headed toward a more extended absence. Ron Gardenhire's "week to week" comment brought out the worst-case scenario, but quotes from Mauer don't seem nearly as dire. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if the Twins decided to DL Mauer as a precaution, keeping him out the minimum to make sure that the situation is rectified. There's no reports that Mauer isn't weight-bearing, so the idea that this would extend beyond a week is a bit surprising. We'll have to keep a close eye on this, but there's no sign that this is going to be anything more than a short-term issue.
The Rays may have to bargain with the devil, the Snakes lose Orlando Hudson (again), and some major players are down and out.
Carl Crawford (50 DXL) Evan Longoria (5 DXL)
The Rays have played some games at Disney World this year, and they've just hit a bump in the road on the way towards their Disney ending. The Rays have always held something of an advantage in health management over other teams, but traumatic injuries can creep up on anyone, and in a tight race, they can be the difference between winning and losing, and between making the playoffs or merely watching them. Crawford has a subluxating extensor tendon in his middle finger, which may not sound like much, but it can make it very difficult to grip a bat, and could cost him the rest of the season. A doctor I spoke with said that it's equivalent to "the worst fracture, in effect." Crawford is waiting to see how the finger responds before deciding on surgery. The team was also without Longoria this weekend after he took a J.J. Putz pitch off of his hand. It's nothing more than a severe bruise, but it is painful. The team is going to be conservative with him, but he's expected back early this week with little or no lingering problem. Between losing Crawford and adding the oft-injured Rocco Baldelli to the roster, how the Rays rise to the challenge of managing and overcoming injuries will have a major impact on their ability to stay in the AL East race.
Injuries are mounting, but are we just more concerned about the who than the how many?
Even if it wasn't Friday the 13th right now, some teams would be feeling like it is. It's been a horror show of injuries this year, with the DL packed with more than 150 players. Some are the injuries we count but that really don't matter in the normal scheme. For example, Thomas Diamond is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but the Rangers weren't expecting him to be a big part of their '08 plans in the way that they were counting on Jason Jennings or Brandon McCarthy, but a day is a day. Even dollars can be a bit skewed; Philip Hughes makes the minimum, but his value to the Yankees is far higher than that. So as we watch player after player and star after star headed to the DL, we have to ask ourselves two questions: Are things actually worse? And why can't we prevent this or at the very least reduce their number and impact?
An in-depth discussion about mechanics with the motion analysis coordinator and coach of the National Pitching Association.
Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA's motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.
Will highlights some players to watch this season who are at opposite ends of the risk profile.
Pitchers and catchers have started to report; by next week, we'll have some real injuries. Until then, I'll continue to not learn the lesson that every young sportswriter should learn--never make predictions.
Honoring the men who help make the game better, and sifting through the latest mayhem on contenders and spoilers alike.
Thanks for all the feedback on my ESPN article about Dr. James Andrews, which was actually written about six months ago. Writing alongside John Helyar is a big thrill, since Lords of the Realm is a favorite of mine, and yes, we'll have John on BPR for a new edition of BP Conversations very soon. A lot of you had your own opinions of whether or not someone like Dr. Andrews should be in baseball's Hall of Fame. In the article, I mentioned Marvin Miller as another candidate, and several of you wrote in about Dr. Frank Jobe. I concur on Jobe completely, but the debate brings up the fact that there are lots of people outside the normal categories contributing to baseball and that some of these-the very best of the best-deserve the honor of ultimate recognition. I still believe we need a "Buck O'Neill Baseball Ambassador Award," much as we have the Spink Award for writers. It would be for a lifetime spent helping the game of baseball, whether as a coach, scout, and true ambassador like O'Neill himself, or as a player, broadcaster, and fundraiser like Ron Santo, or through his surgical prowess and research, like Jobe and Andrews. I can only hope that the current Lords of the Realm consider it.