Peter Gammons: Pitching injuries continue to hurt the industry

kris medlen braves

Braves’ Kris Medlen

It was days ago that Jayson Stark wrote a marvelous piece on Kris Medlen, and he soon was down, out for a year, year-and-a-half. Then Brandon Beachy. Seattle will open the season without Taijuan Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma on the DL and no one knowing if and when Danny Hultzen will ever pitch.

Then the Diamondbacks, with eveready Bronson Arroyo’s back cranky, lost their opening day starter Pat Corbin to Tommy John Surgery, Jonathon Niese walked off a mound…Where would the Orioles be with Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy?…Would the Mets be a wild card play-in contender with Matt Harvey?…

And the Oakland Athletics, everyone’s pick in the American League East, found out Jarrod Parker may need TJ Surgery and AJ Griffin is hurting. “It is,” Billy Beane said Sunday, “an epidemic, and a huge problem for the industry. We have to study where it traces to.”

Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig will immediately point to the use and abuse on the youth levels, from the maxed-out showcases to college coaches who care about their own resumes, not their student-athletes. Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig have astounding studies about the number of surgeries performed before young men reach professional baseball, and can address how Parker and Beachy and Medlen can all be looking at multiple Tommy John Surgeries before they turn 30.

So when agents and the media rant about the fairness of five and six year contracts for pitchers in their thirties, consider that roughly 30 to 33% of pitchers’ salaries are paid while on the Disabled List, and one estimate is that nearly 30% of all the total dollars paid to pitchers go to time on the DL.

At a recent SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix, it was stated that 40% of starting pitchers will spend time on the DL in any season, 20% of relievers.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin, defending the signing of Matt Garza despite reports that the Cubs and Rangers would no clear his medicals, said “67 percent of all free agent pitchers spend time on the DL.”

The SABR Analytics Conference spent time studying the wellness of young pitchers. In fact, wellness should be a significant focus for the industry, from free agency back to the Babe Ruth League.

Attached are excellent articles by Matt Eddy of Baseball America and Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs, which makes one ask: if the cost of starting pitching continue to rise, can and will any small or medium market be able to afford keeping their own pitchers past the age of 30?

If and when a third of all pitchers’ salaries finance the Disabled List, it is worth studying. Medlen, Beachy, Parker, Corbin…

  • sec12row11

    Peter-
    You’re way off base with the knock on college coaches (“… to college coaches who care about their own resumes, not their student-athletes).

    College coaches do care about their student-athletes but remember, they are not responsible for the development of pro talent, they are in it to develop college talent, develop their own programs and to win games. College staffs also understand and study baseball- as well as people- more than the baseball-lifers that run the minor league development and pro scouting departments. Sure they acknowledge the next level in recruiting and dealing with MLB scouts, yet they have more concern for the total health, physical and mental, of their student-athletes than MLB organizations by providing year-round academic and life-skills assistance. MLB organizations may provide scholarship money for some of their draft choices but provide no other actual help for their minor leaguers.

    Instead of ripping college baseball on how its run, why doesn’t MLB use the opinions of college coaches on how to run its game? Like the DH at every pro level or academic advisors on bus trips in the low minors, or education for every foreign minor leaguer, not just those from the Far East.

    Better yet, why don’t you blame the agents, and they are not ‘family advisers’? Unlike college coaches, agents in their business strictly for financial gain. They are the people that push the showcases and try to influence the prospect ratings. Don’t be afraid to lose your scoops to throw them under the bus.