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An expert on biomechanics and a team source talk about their approaches to evaluating and managing pitcher workloads.

For today's article on impervious and not-so-impervious pitchers, I got my David Laurila on, speaking to Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute—whose name is almost always followed by the phrase, "the world's foremost authority on biomechanics"—and to a scouting executive from a major-league club (affectionately and frequently referred to in the article as "the executive"). Both had a lot to say, and not everything they said fit into the article. One of the things I failed to fit in was their extended perspectives on pitcher workloads and the efficacy of innings limits, so I'm rectifying that by posting both takes here. Dr. Fleisig comes first, followed by the team official.

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May 24, 2010 8:54 am

Under The Knife: Monday Update


Will Carroll

Brandon Webb takes advantage of an advanced pitching program to change his mechanics and other medical news from around baseball.

Brandon Webb (labrum surgery, ERD 7/10)
We've long known that the labs at the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) were one of the great secrets in baseball. While we've had journalists, including myself, that have toured their facilities and seen their capabilities, few teams have made use of them. Even then, we don't know much about it. Since Moneyball, where Dr. Glenn Fleisig and his facilities were referenced in their advanced pitching program, we've never really gotten to see the results. Fleisig and the teams that use the facility are bound by privilege in most cases, but when Webb spoke up about his results at a recent session, the door cracked open a bit. The Diamondbacks' pitcher was quoted as saying that he was able to determine from his testing at ASMI that his arm angle was too high. He said that all the work he's done may have been a waste given that he was doing it wrong. I spoke with Dr. Fleisig, though he couldn't speak about Webb specifically. He seemed a bit surprised that Webb had gone on-record, but pleasantly so. "He got it right," Fleisig said in reference to the ideal arm angle. The abduction angle is created by the arm in relation to the body—in this photo, Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt's arm is at or near 90 degrees, which is within the 86-102 degree range found by ASMI's studies. One of the tougher things to understand is that the tilt of the shoulders doesn't affect the abduction angle. Again in a photo, we see Oswalt demonstrating a hard shoulder tilt. Oswalt's abduction angle in this picture looks slightly below 90 degrees, but I asked Fleisig if someone could see that angle. His answer? A very quick "No, it's impossible." 

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March 30, 2010 4:14 am

Long Tossing


Gary Armida

Proponents saying throwing at long distances builds pitchers' arm strength and increases velocity.

Major League Baseball is more or less a standardized industry. Everything a player does can be quantified in some manner. Since the dawning of the information age, teams have trended toward statistical analysis as it gives more definite, calculated answers rather than general feelings that can often lead to overvaluing a player. Unfortunately, that precision hasn’t translated to on-field performance, as gut instincts still rule when it comes to pitcher conditioning. For pitchers, those gut instincts have led to an epidemic of pitching-related injuries. According to statistics compiled and confirmed by Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll, Major League Baseball has spent more than $500 million in salary on injured pitchers the last two seasons. It is apparent that the majority of teams are just following the herd rather than researching methods to keep pitchers healthy. The result of this lack of exploration has led to the epidemic that Carroll describes.

Allan Jaeger, of Jaeger Sports, believes he has the program that can save pitchers from injury while increasing their velocity. Jaeger’s program is rooted in a traditional baseball exercise, long tossing. Since the early days of baseball, players have been long tossing. Most performed long tossing because they believed it strengthened their arm. Jaeger agrees. "If muscles are inactive for a long enough period of time, or aren't used close to their desired capacities, the life is taken out of them. When muscles are given proper blood flow, oxygen, and range of motion, they are free to work at their optimum capacity. A good long-toss program is the key to giving life to a pitcher’s arm."

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January 26, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: Dr. Glenn Fleisig, Part II


Jonah Keri

The American Sports Medicine Institute kicks off its 22nd annual "Injuries in Baseball" course Jan. 29 in Orlando. Today we continue from Part I of our discussion with ASMI's Smith and Nephew Chair of Research, Dr. Glenn Fleisig.

Baseball Prospectus: Do teams tend to send more major league pitchers or minor leaguers? What are some of the differences between the two groups?

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January 23, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Q&A: Dr. Glenn Fleisig, Part I


Jonah Keri

Dr. Glenn Fleisig is the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, an organization founded by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews dedicated to improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education. Fleisig has worked closely with players and coaches at all levels, from youth leagues to the big leagues, teaching performance optimization and injury prevention methods. With the 22nd annual "Injuries in Baseball" course starting Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fleisig chatted with BP about the growth of ASMI, warning signs for pitching injuries, and the challenge of generating awareness among major league teams.

Baseball Prospectus: What first attracted you to working at ASMI and studying biomechanics in general?

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