It is the beginning of June and within the last year there have been over 35 elbow surgeries at the MLB level with pitchers accounting for 28 of those and position players making up the remaining (Editor note: You can be assured, sadly, that there will be at least 2 more before posting of this article). Just today there is 1-MLB pitcher with the Kansas City Royals and 1-Minor league pitcher with the New York Mets (who is their #1 prospect) who have come down with elbow problems. Two potential 1st round draft picks from D1 colleges have had Tommy John surgery and one 1st rounder with shoulder issues……and all 3 of these players will have their name called in the 1st round on June 6 at the MLB draft.
What in the world of Nolan Ryan’s fastball is going on here? Is it an epidemic? Is it dumb luck? Many people are looking for answers to why this season there are so many throwing injuries. Major league baseball ‘people’ say that their pitchers are damaged goods by the time they get drafted by their clubs. The so-called experts claim that the radar gun is to blame for the high velocities that young pitchers are throwing these days. The medical field says that there is no rest for youth pitchers and playing 12 months a year is to blame. But is there only 1 answer? In my opinion, a perfect storm has gotten us to the point. And this becomes a chicken or the egg hypothesis. But at the rate we are heading, I truly believe we are going to be hearing about these injuries more and more for seasons to come.
Without going back and forth too much about who is right, wrong or indifferent, I am going to attempt to give the viewpoints of each side of injury forum and what their opinions are and then what I perceive to be either a valid or invalid view. However, here are a few facts:
*Injuries are at an all time high for pitchers – elbow/forearm, shoulder and lats.
*Highest growing population for these injuries is ages 18-26…though more younger players are falling into this age range.
*Tommy John surgery (Ulna Collateral Replacement) takes anywhere from 12-18 months to recover with an 85% chance of a return to the mound in the professional world.
Here are possible reasons for injuries…..as stated from the baseball and medical communities:
*Higher velocities than what the body can ‘accept’, especially in younger age groups.
*Body not prepared for rigors of game time performance.
*Lack of proper arm care program.
*Minimal recovery time between outings.
*Asymmetries in the shoulder, scapulae and corresponding body parts.
And now, some of the viewpoints:
Professional baseball: Damaged goods when they draft pitchers. Too many innings in HS and or College. Not enough rest ….too many pitches. It is NOT their fault for all the injuries. They did everything they were supposed to do.
Medical community: Too much emphasis on playing games and no rest. We will have more injuries occurring at that rate we are heading to now.
Experts, News media: Showcases and travel ball. Radar gun.
So Who Is Right and Who is Wrong……Well, Let’s Take A Look At The Film Bob!
Professional baseball claims that players who get hurt under their watch are damaged goods when they get to pro ball. They pitch in too many games and they throw too many innings as amateurs. Plus they are focusing too much on the radar gun and putting emphasis on their velocity without regard for being able to learn to pitch. Oh REALLY……
Have you ever gone to a showcase or scout ball game. There are at times literally hundreds of PRO scouts there with radar guns in hand ready to write a check for a million dollars to anyone who can throw the ball north of 95 mph. It used to be if you threw 90+ you could start counting your money. But today, professional baseball has put a premium on high velocity….the very thing that they say players shouldn’t be focusing on. It is so hypocritical that I instantly tune out whoever states this case on MLB Rundown show or ESPN Baseball Tonight. Give me a break. Try a little experiment……if you ever go to a showcase watch and have a good laugh…..watch what the scouts do when Johnny Pitcher starts throwing the ball 85-86 mph. They instantly put their radar guns down and wait for the next prospect. Every single time. So to say that pitchers are focusing on velocity is an excuse. It is the very thing the scouts are looking for. If a college coach goes to a HS baseball game or showcase and sees a pitcher throw 80-82, they put their gun down too. Every single time.
And who shows up for every Perfect Game event and every other baseball showcase in the country. The professional community. Showcases are big time money making operations. They need the professional community to show up so that they can fund their events. Don’t let MLB people fool you that they are not to blame. They are the gasoline that fuels the engine. Now are they totally to blame? Absolutely not but they need to take a good look at how they operate and not pass the buck onto the college, HS and travel ball coaches as the reason for their ‘damaged goods’!!
The medical community says that there are too many games being played and not enough rest between outings. But for families that are looking for their child to secure a college scholarship or even play at their local high school, they figure that they can take a calculated risk that an injury will not happen and let the chips fall where they may. For them, the reward greatly outweighs the risk. Medical professionals are trying to give the baseball community their best information on why injuries happen. But far too many times those families figure that nothing will go wrong with their child……until something goes wrong with their child.
If ball players play too many games then they risk getting hurt….
If ball player play to few games then they risk not getting pro/college scouts to see them….
If ball players pitch too much then they risk getting hurt….
If ball players don’t pitch enough then no one knows who you are….
There are many shades of gray that potentially everyone in these communities could be right and everyone could be wrong.
So what is the best thing to do?
In my humble opinion, more throwing but less games. More development needs to be emphasized and less on emphasis on games. Become a well-rounded athlete by playing multiple sports during childhood and less becoming just a baseball player only. Taking time off means playing less games and working on your overall health, training and strength. If you absolutely have to go to a showcase or a major out of the area tournament then so be it. It is better to take a hundred groundballs a day for 3 days then to get 10 groundballs hit to you over the course of a weekend tournament. You will be much better off spending 3 days of conditioning, throwing, working on a bullpen and developing your mechanics then it would be to pitch 10 innings over a weekend where the possibility of coming up either sore or hurt is a very likely scenario.
On another front and from my experience and the experience of many other students I have worked with over the years, showcases are a waste of time and resources UNLESS you are actively being pursued by pro and/or college scouts. If you are getting a form letter in the mail inviting you to an organizations tryout/showcase then you are part of a thousand form letters going out to anyone who has ever played the game. These organizations are nothing more than an attempt to fatten their pockets. You will sit around for more than half the day waiting to pitch or hit and at the end of the day that is it……period. As close to a sham if there ever was one. Development is king…..don’t let showcases dictate your future.
It would be far more important for you to work on your throwing development with ThrowZone as we are a leader in what we do in throwing development. We have a very specific plan for you development that includes a dynamic warm up, arm care, deceleration and throwing strength drill protocols, video analysis and post arm care finish routine. If your instructor is sitting on a bucket and telling you what to do in getting your knee up and your arm back then you can be assured that they are NOT helping your child in any way.
It is my opinion and that of the other academies and affiliate programs that we corroborate with that injuries are going to continue to get more media attention as more of these injuries occur. And it will get worse at the youth and HS level if we don’t all try to learn to sift through the information that is out there. That is our job as your leader in throwing development. We will always get the best information and training modalities to better safeguard your child.
And as we wrap up this newsletter, let us remind you of several activities that are going on with us in June and the following months:
1. Help support us and the Ronald Reagan Library with: Baseball! Celebrating Our Great American Pastime exhibit. Check out the link at the top right of our website at www.Throwzone.com/Reagan for information.
2. Also, check out The Amory Pitching webinar that I am excited to be a panelist for. This will be broadcast nationally regarding arm health and the injury prevention with pitching. Check out this link for more information: https://armorypitching.com/arm-care-summit
3. We have been having a lot of fun putting together 1 minute Introduction to Arm Care videos and velocity throws from our ThrowZone facility with our students over the past few weeks. Check us out on YouTube and search Jim Wagner’s ThrowZone. You’ll get to see some of the students and drills being utilized to hit new velocity records…..and weird bird noises!
4. Also, if you like what we are doing please feel free to go to Yelp.com and write a great review on what we are doing. Search Jim Wagner’s ThrowZone Academy. We have 2 FREE Reagan Library tickets per review, if you do write nice things about us 🙂
5. And lastly, we are going to be hosting out of town guests over the next several months. In October, Coach Ron Wolforth and the Texas Baseball Ranch will coming to Santa Clarita for their Elite Pitchers Boot Camp. Go to our website for more information at bottom of front page. In August, we will be hosting Coach Randy Sullivan of the Armory Power Pitching Academy out of the Tampa, FL area for a 2 day clinic that will focus on training the body, physical assessments and workouts for the youth, HS and college pitcher. It will be limited to no more than 20 pitchers and will be sold out within a week of our official announcement around the middle of June.
It is a very exciting time at ThrowZone. We hope that you will be a part of it!
Until next time,
#ThrowZone #inthezone #collegiatepitcher