February 26, 2003 12:00 am
Pitching is an unnatural act that invites injury. The stress it places on the
bones of the shoulder, arm, and back is immense. The strain it places on the 36
muscles that attach to the humerus, clavicle, and scapula is remarkable. It is
widely accepted by sports medicine practitioners that every pitch causes at
least some amount of damage to the system.
It seems fair to say that the study of pitcher injuries is an important part of
sabermetric analysis. The statistical evidence available to test theories about
pitcher injuries, however, is often missing. While there are databases that
contain every recorded statistic from the days of Al
Spalding and beyond, and others that document every play of every game
in the past 30 years, a comprehensive database of player injury history simply
However, between a careful analysis of what data is available, the creative use
of proxy variables in estimating injuries throughout time, and the application
of some principles of sports medicine, we are at least in a position to make
some educated guesses about the nature of pitcher injuries. Our particular
focus in this article will be the progression of pitcher injury rates by age.
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