Remembering the late Dr. Frank Jobe's medical marvel.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
On September 22, 2004, Baseball Prospectus published the following feature on Tommy John surgery to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first time the procedure was performed. On June 15, 2009, Will Carroll reran that feature to accompany a new audio interview with Tommy John and Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the surgery. Jobe passed away on Thursday at the age of 88; in his honor, we republish both Thomas' feature and Will's interview today.
Numbers play a big part in determining who's a Hall of Famer, but timing, contemporaries, and other historical accidents also make their impact felt.
The circus inside the circus known as the 2012 Winter Meetings—both of which took place inside another circus, the Gaylord Opryland—was the Trade Show, where you can buy everything from umbrellas to stirrups, stadiums to soft pretzels, mascots to misters (as in, things that spray mist) to Musco lighting.
I’ll be back next week with a deeper rundown of the emporium, but it was two things not for sale at the Trade Show—well, not quite for sale, anyway—that distracted me from the Dippin’ Dots and Mini Melts while the panel formerly known as the Veterans Committee (now called the “Pre-Integration Era Committee”) announced its honorees in the same building.
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Do the post-surgical records of previous pitchers who underwent Tommy John surgery suggest that a restored Stephen Strasburg will be better or worse than he was before?
Two wonders of the baseball world were on display on Sunday afternoon in Hagerstown, Maryland, when the city—home to the Nationals’ Low-A affiliate, the Suns—received the honor of hosting Stephen Strasburg’s first rehab start. One of the wonders was Strasburg himself, what with his perfect pitching frame, lurid fastball, Bugs Bunny slider, and capable changeup. That combination formed the basis for his impressive 12 major-league starts last season, helping him meet the unreal expectations born from surreal hype and establish himself as the best young pitcher in baseball. One didn’t have to look away from Strasburg’s arm to spot the other wonder: a four-inch long scar on his right elbow, an artifact from his Tommy John surgery.
The comedian Louis C.K. has a bit where he highlights the relentless expectations of human beings. Everything is great, he says, but nobody is happy. C.K. is talking about technology and the absurdity of complaining about how long a cellular signal takes to reachspace, but he could have been talking about Strasburg or Tommy John surgery. In September of 2010, Strasburg’s ulnar collateral ligament had frayed or torn to the point that he could not throw a baseball without pain. Eleven months later, Strasburg returned to the mound and hit 98 miles per hour on the radar gun, but the wondrous nature of his return was lost on some observers who took the medical near-miracle for granted.
The Jays righty talks about his five-plus seasons as a pro.
Kyle Drabek was drafted in 2006, so this marks the sixth year of the 23-year-old right-hander’s professional career. It has already been a memorable journey, as he has gone from being a first-round draft pick to having Tommy John Surgery to being a centerpiece in the Roy Halladay deal. He has also thrown a minor-league no hitter and earned a spot in the Blue Jays starting rotation.
I have seen the future, and its name is FIELDf/x. OK, so we kind of knew that. But today, FIELDf/x started to seem a lot more real, and even more exciting than I’d imagined. You may have noticed that BP had a man on the scene at Sportvision’s PITCHf/x summit whose liveblog was actually live. So why am I doing this, when Colin already did? Well, for one thing, Colin arrived fashionably late, and I was all over those first 14 minutes that he missed. For another, his computer died before a lot of the fun started. And for still another (this is a third reason, now), I thought it might be fun to do a Simmons-style quasi-liveblog (written live, published later) that would free me from worries about frequent updates, and allow me to write at length. Most likely that length turned out to be a good deal longer than anyone has any interest in reading, but if you’re determined to catch up on the day’s intriguing events without sitting through eight hours of archived video, you’re welcome to peruse what lies below. If you’d like to follow along, here’s an agenda, and here’s where you should be able to find downloadable presentations in the near future.
Here we are in sunny California, home of the cutest girls in the world, if the Beach Boys are to be believed (I gather there’s also a more recent chart-topper that expresses a similar view). Okay, so by “we,” I mean the attendees at the 3rd (annual?) Sportvision PITCHf/x summit, held at the Westin San Francisco in—you guessed it—San Francisco. I, on the other hand, am watching from the other end of the continent, via a webcast that dubiously claims to be “hi-res,” despite being blurry enough to make deciphering text an adventure (I guess “hi-res” is relative, in the sense that there are even lower resolutions at which it could’ve been streamed). And sure, maybe the Beach Boys weren’t thinking of this particular gathering when they extolled the virtues of California’s beach bunnies. But never mind that—it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in New York, and how better to spend it than to watch a video of some fellow nerds talk about baseball in a dark room some 3,000 miles away? Well, to describe the experience at the same time, of course. Let’s get this quasi-liveblog started.
How quickly can Edinson Volquez come back, and what might the answer mean in Cincinnati?
When the rumors began trickling out that, of all teams, the Cincinnati Reds were the winners on the Aroldis Chapman Plinko board, three thoughts struck me in quick succession. First, I wondered how a team that was reportedly facing financial difficulty could afford to shell out $30 million to a player yet to throw a professional pitch in the United States. Second, I wondered whether the signing meant that revenue sharing was working and whether it meant the draft could be abolished. Finally, I thought about how nasty the Reds' 2012 rotation could be if it featured Chapman, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey. I wasn't the only one, as BP's Christina Kahrl and John Perrotto, plus Mark Sheldon and Phil Rogers out in the mainstream, all had similar thoughts.
The procedure that changed baseball was performed for the first time 30 years ago this week. Here's an explanation of just what it is.
Five years ago, Tom Gorman wrote the following piece on the wonder that is Tommy John surgery. Frank Jobe's fix is one of few things that truly changed the game of baseball, and should be remembered alongside the advent of night games, the live ball, and maybe even Jackie Robinson. For the anniversary, Baseball Prospectus was lucky enough to gain an historic interview-the first recorded interview with both Dr. Jobe and Tommy John. While Jobe and John have appeared together, there are no publicly available recordings.
Gorman's article from five years ago holds up remarkably well, largely because Jobe's work holds up just as well. The operation performed today is not significantly different than what Jobe did, hoping it would work. In the interview, you'll hear how the operation was inspired by a dreaded disease, what Tommy John thought when he woke up, how Bill Buhler's name should be remembered by many, and who the second pitcher to have Tommy John surgery is.
Wrapping up the JAWS rankings for this year's Hall of Fame eligibles.
Finally, we come to the pitchers on the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame, a mercifully short list this time around, featuring four holdovers and three newcomers. Among this group, Bert Blyleven is the standout, and while he's certainly no lock to gain election this time around, he jumped to nearly 62 percent in last year's vote, suggesting that the work done by statheads here and elsewhere to boost his candidacy is finally getting through to the voters.
Can he give the Braves what they need as the main man in their bullpen?
With the Atlanta Braves fighting for a playoff spot in the crowded National League East, any assistance they can get without having to trade away talent is a plus towards achieving that goal. They added just that kind of help back to their roster this month when Mike Gonzalez, who missed almost all of the 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery, made his season debut on June 18. Between the ongoing issues with keeping Rafael Soriano in action, the loss of Peter Moylan for the year, and the bouncing around where John Smoltz moved from the rotation to closing and finally to the Disabled List for the remainder of the season, having a pitcher of Gonzalez' ability fall in your lap should be considered a gift. Of course, this assumes that Gonzalez is capable of being the dominating force he was before his injury trouble. Today, we'll take a look and see if that's the case today.
Pitching in college may not make for 'safe' picks in the amateur draft.
In Sunday's draft notebook, I characterized Missouri State southpaw Ross Detwiler as a "safe and solid pick." For saying so, I got taken to task by a reader, who asked just how safe any pitcher can really be. The answer in the end is, not very safe at all. Right now, it's almost certain that a college pitcher, Vanderbilt's David Price, will be selected by the Devil Rays with the first overall pick in June. In addition, the first ten picks in the draft could feature as many as four college pitchers, with anywhere from six to eight more being selected in the 20 picks that comprise the rest of the first round. Taking a look at the first five college arms selected in each draft of the new millennium, one finds some disturbing patterns.