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Thread: "Modern pitching mechanics" and the epidemic of arm injuries in American baseball

  1. #1
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    "Modern pitching mechanics" and the epidemic of arm injuries in American baseball

    I have been doing some more digging into the epidemic of arm injuries among American baseball pitchers and Tom House's role in it. The dots aren't hard to connect. This is an interesting article that discusses the "birth" of "modern pitching mechanics", and the role's played by House and Nolan Ryan.

    http://baseballrebellion.com/jorendu...nd-nolan-ryan/

    Interestingly enough, Ryan was one of House's first guinea pigs, and the beginning and end of his career reflect, respectively, "old school" mechanics and House's "modern pitching mechanics".



    The author of the linked article produced this useful comparison of the 1969 version of Ryan's delivery with his 1993 delivery. Most notable to me is how much more the torso bends laterally to the left in 1969 compared to 1993, which causes the head to finish well left of the planted leg.



    In his book "The Spinal Engine", Dr. Serge Gracovetsky included an analysis of the baseball pitching motion as an illustration of the role of the spine engine in sports. The model pitcher Gracovetsky used more closely resembled Ryan's 1969 mechanics than his 1993 mechanics, as you would expect since the book was originally published in 1988.

    Gracovetsky observed that the pitcher used the weight of his upper body landing on the front foot to induce maximum left side lateral bend. This bend, combined with lumbar lordosis and a blocked pelvis, would induce counter-clockwise rotation of the shoulders, assisting the arm with the throw. "Modern pitching mechanics" eliminates this source of axial torque to power the shoulders, leaving more work to be done by the arm if pitching velocities are to be maintained. Since pitchers aren't pitching any slower, should we be surprised that pitching arms are succumbing to increased stress?




    Jeff

  2. #2
    You may want to also look at Bob Feller's pitching motion. IIRC, he was the one pitcher that many considered faster than Ryan. They just didn't have radar guns at that point.

    I remember watching an experiment they had with Feller to see how fast he could throw. They had a him throw a ball into a long sheet of paper. They had a motorcyclist start up the motorcycle well behind him and then get the motorcycle to be in sync with Feller throwing the pitch. I can't remember the rate of speed of the motorcyclist. But they wanted to see who could hit the paper first...the motorcyclist or the baseball that Feller thru.

    They attempted to do some calculations and the scientists estimated that Feller threw the pitch at...

    107 mph.

    I think it's realistic to believe that the calculations were off. But, I also think Feller probably threw 100+ mph.

    He made his major league debut at the age of 17, striking out 8 players in 3 innings. The next game he struck out 15 players. And he threw 3 career no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. This with serving in WW II while in the prime of his career.

    It would be interesting to see the similarities in Feller's and Ryan's throwing mechanics.



    3JACK

  3. #3
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    This afternoon I sent the video comparing the 1969 and 1993 delivery of Nolan Ryan to Dr. Gracovetsky. Here is his response:

    "I found the pitcher movie interesting. Obviously, the coach did not understand what the spine was doing and thought the motion was essentially due to the arm. Hence the emphasis on arm motion and the corresponding injuries."

    No mystery to him.



    Jeff

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    Richie-

    Here is a nice video of Feller. Definitely "old school": head finishes well left of the planted foot. Very similar to the 1969 Ryan.




    Sandy Koufax's lateral bend is very obvious:





    Jeff

  5. #5
    Here's the video with the motorcycle



    This was taken with some army ordinance equipment that measured the velocity of arm shells.



    The scientists had him calculated at 107.6 mph.

    The army ordinance equipment had him clock at 99 mph, but that was when he was around 30 years old, IIRC.

    Bob Feller is the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw in my career. - Ted Williams





    3JACK

  6. #6
    Another note on pitching and arm injuries...

    From a statistical standpoint, the pitchers that record high amounts of strikeouts usually have the least injuries.

    As Bill James once said 'noticing that high strikeout pitchers have less arm injuries is like noticing that NBA basketball players tend to be tall.'

    Yet, the strikeouts in the league are at their peak. Ironically this is due to the 'moneyball' approach of trying to gain slugging percentage points. Yet, MLB pitchers are suffering more arm injuries than ever when the batting philosophy is more akin to make pitchers healthier.

    Hmmmm.....






    3JACK

  7. #7
    One more thing...

    I'm not sure what we can tell from softball great Eddie Feigner. But, he was the most remarkable showman and considered, by far, the greatest fast pitch softball player that ever existed.



    Anybody that ever watched the King and His Court will tell you how incredible they were.

    I saw him once on an old ESPN show. He could throw the ball between his legs...FROM 2ND BASE...with a perfect strike and good velocity.

    The King and His Court would be a 4-man softball team and they would play against championship 9-man softball teams and beat them like a drum. Simply because nobody could hit off Feigner.



    From Wikipedia: The King and His Court touring team played over ten thousand softball games in a hundred countries since the late 1940s and achieved widespread fame similar to that of the Harlem Globetrotters. Feigner's meticulous records claim 9,743 victories, 141,517 strikeouts, 930 no-hitters and 238 perfect games.



    3JACK

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richie3Jack View Post
    Another note on pitching and arm injuries...

    From a statistical standpoint, the pitchers that record high amounts of strikeouts usually have the least injuries.

    As Bill James once said 'noticing that high strikeout pitchers have less arm injuries is like noticing that NBA basketball players tend to be tall.'

    Yet, the strikeouts in the league are at their peak. Ironically this is due to the 'moneyball' approach of trying to gain slugging percentage points. Yet, MLB pitchers are suffering more arm injuries than ever when the batting philosophy is more akin to make pitchers healthier.

    Hmmmm.....

    3JACK

    That's surprising. I thought high strikeout pitchers would have higher pitch counts and be more prone to overuse. I heard that was the reason behind Mariano going to the cutter, to induce groundouts. As a set-up man for John Wetland in 1996, Rivera threw exclusively four-seamers and was a strikeout pitcher. Watching him get six strikeouts in the 7th and 8th inning was fairly common that year, and he'd often strike them out with just three pitches, each one successively higher, "working up the ladder". I guess it is different for closers, who pitch very frequently, than for starters.




    Jeff

  9. #9
    High strikeouts means you have to get hitters to whiff more often. Typically it is done by higher velocity pitchers that can just blow it right by the hitter. Theoretically, you could have a high strikeout pitcher that relies on more breaking stuff like Steve Carlton (who still had a good fastball) and that can put more torque on the arm.

    If you're a pitcher that doesn't record many strikeouts, then you're going to get a lot of foul balls which really extend the count more than anything.





    3JACK

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    Thanks, Richie.

    Some of you are no doubt aware that Koufax suffered from a very painful pitching arm. I decided to learn a bit more about it and discovered that the injury wasn't caused by pitching, although pitching clearly aggravated it. From Wikipedia:

    Name:  Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 3.12.27 PM.png
Views: 1008
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    I wonder if his injury had anything to do with the American League adopting the designated hitter rule? Or did they just want more offense and more "excitement"?



    Jeff

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Martin View Post
    Thanks, Richie.

    Some of you are no doubt aware that Koufax suffered from a very painful pitching arm. I decided to learn a bit more about it and discovered that the injury wasn't caused by pitching, although pitching clearly aggravated it. No doubt the injury ended his career prematurely. From Wikipedia:

    Name:  Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 3.12.27 PM.png
Views: 1008
Size:  105.6 KB


    I wonder if his injury had anything to do with the American League adopting the designated hitter rule? Or did they just want more offense and more "excitement"?



    Jeff
    I don't think the DH rule had much of an effect. Mainly because we see the same amount of injuries in the National League. Mark Prior couldn't last a season without his arm being shot and IIRC, he was another guy that went to Tom House.

    The big thing here is look at the pitch counts and the complete games pitched today. Furthermore, teams of yesteryear had only a 4-man starting rotation...now they have 5-man rotations. So they were throwing more pitches back then on less rest and getting less injured.

    IIRC, the DH rule was instituted in 1972. Here's a look at the number of Complete Games pitched in the 70's

    1979: 913
    1978: 1034
    1977: 907
    1976: 1039
    1975: 1052
    1974: 1089
    1973: 1061
    1972: 1009
    1971: 1082
    1970: 852

    Now, let's look at the last 10 seasons:

    2013: 124
    2012: 128
    2011: 173
    2010: 165
    2009: 152
    2008: 136
    2007: 112
    2006: 144
    2005: 189
    2004: 150


    I will say that usually the pitchers of yesteryear were almost always fairly decent sized guys. These days we are more likely to see to a Tim Lincecum type that is very small, but can throw it with incredible velocity for a guy his size. But, in general, the pitchers today are much bigger than they were in the days of Koufax, Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson.






    3JACK

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    Richie-

    i think you may have misunderstood my question. I was wondering if a motivation for the DH rule was to keep pitchers off the bases to avoid injuries like Koufax's, getting plunked or the foot injury some AL pitcher suffered in an inter-league game not long ago, not any impact on pitching related injuries. Isn't that the case in college? Pitchers don't bat, right?


    Jeff

  13. #13
    I don't watch the college game, but I thought the pitchers did hit. I remember Bobby Thigpen (later a star closer for the White Sox) was a big-time hitter in college. Not sure if he was a hitter or not.

    Anyway...my knowledge was the DH was to add more offense because who wants to see a pitcher hit?

    That's a big reason why I was never interested in the National League.






    3JACK

  14. #14
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    Some more interesting stats in this article:

    http://baseballnews.com/are-pitchers...oo-much-today/




    Jeff

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    Richie-

    Spoke to my son and did a Google search. in college and high school, teams can use a DH at their option. So a pitcher who is a good hitter can bat. That's what my son did his senior year in high school.

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/i...3125831AA4UPOl

    Of course, in games they aren't pitching, college and high school pitchers often play other positions. Then they have to bat.



    Jeff

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