The effect of injury on elite players

The debate about Hall of Fame worthiness is as healthy now as it’s ever been. As fans are provided with more statistics that illuminate certain aspects of value (here’s looking at you, WAR) and fantastic sites like Baseball Reference have all the information available a click away, within 24 hours of a game finishing, the fire is fueled for some healthy discussion.

In that vein, earlier this month Joe discussed Hall of Fame credentials and standards. There are some basic guidelines that won’t change in the eyes of the electorate (namely, baseball writers), and Joe does a good job outlining them. There are, however, some great players who are on the bubble for the Hall of Fame because of the negative impact of injury on their careers. How much should that affect the voters? It might seem unfair to keep great players from the Hall because of injuries, but it’s one of many aspects that feed into the composition of a career. None of those should be taken lightly.

Pitchers with poor deliveries

Sandy Koufax was a legend, without a doubt. His career-ending injury, however, could have cost him a Hall of Fame spot. He pitched brilliantly in his final six seasons and earned three Cy Young awards before leaving the game at 30. With what Larry Schwartz calls an “arthritic arm,” Koufax pitched four no-hitters.

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Elbow issues: Entering the majors too early

Major League Baseball may have a serious problem on its hands.

Teams that sign young pitchers to big bonuses often accelerate the process to the major leagues so they get an earlier return on their investment. That may actually be hurting the players they’ve drafted and increasing risk for an already common injury.

But let’s start with the news on elbow injuries in general.

Scanning the stats

A recent study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit encompassed 168 major leaguers who had undergone UCL reconstructive surgery (more commonly known as Tommy John surgery). The lead-up to the injury was indicated by a “statistically significant decline” in performance in the season before the surgery.

We’ve heard very little of this, and it’s somewhat alarming, partially because it hasn’t been noticed before. But the good news is this means it may be possible for trainers to use statistics as a red flag. When a UCL is undergoing stress that may lead to a fracture, a corresponding drop in statistics could be a good warning that prompts proper rest.

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Pitching injury rates

I wrote these thoughts down a while back, and added to them this week.
Some linked articles are old, but the links are updated.

The injury issue

Pitching an extensive amount is not good for the human body.
In fact, it has become debilitating.

Starters are breaking down.
The way the closer role is set up is incredibly harmful to the players.

The words “elbow surgery” appear 37 times on the current USA Today injury report, only once in reference to a position player (catcher Matt Wieters). 102 pitchers are on the disabled list (n.b. one of those is for food poisoning).

So why is it nothing is being done about it?
It would seem that either the players or the owners would care enough about the problem to speak out and do something to fix it. Yet they stay silent.

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