This week brought interesting news about Matt Harvey being ahead of schedule, wanting to pitch this year, and Sandy Alderson having to answer questions about the story. Losing Harvey was devastating. Could it have been prevented? Good question, one with no answer. I have to add I was not happy the Mets and Harvey waited several weeks into October to do the surgery. Call me selfish, but August 2013 surgery could have meant a July 2014 return (and fans at Citi in August and September when he pitched).
Being a HS baseball coach I make it my job to look after the health / wear and tear of teen aged pitchers. I have attended clinics presented by Leo Mazzone of the Atlanta Braves fame, who preaches throw, throw, throw. How could you argue with a man whose staff led the league during the 90s in wins, ERA, 20 game winners, and Cy Young awards? Three of his best in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz are immortal. But poor Steve Avery was about done by the age of 30 with the enormous amount of innings he threw by age 27.
On the other side of the coin is Rick Peterson, formerly of the Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, and Milwaukee Brewers. When he speaks, you hear buzz words like: bio-mechanics, body make up, proper form, and pitch counts. He said Scott Kazmir would not amount to much because of the aforementioned concepts. He also said he could help develop Victor Zambrano and we all know how that turned out. But his methods had solid results in the A’s and Mets farm systems.
So who do you believe? All the technology in the world has not been able to pin point the cause of injury, especially the newest nemesis – a torn UCL elbow ligament suffered by Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey, two of the biggest names in young pitching in MLB. Strasburg has obvious delivery flaws yet Harvey is picture perfect in his motion. Amount of innings or pitch counts? Harvey threw over 120 pitches several times at North Carolina, a few games back to back within a 10-12 day period (once threw 157). Is this a reason for his troubles?
All in all, the highest paid sports medicine experts cannot put their finger on it. Peterson and Mazzone have both been proven right and proven wrong in their methods. It is curious and puzzling. The sting of the hearing the Harvey news has finally worn off for me, but ponder this: The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka signing should be closely monitored in that by age 24 he has thrown more innings than ANY ACTIVE major leaguer (over 1,400 innings). Next in line is Felix Hernandez with around 1,100 and CC Sabathia with 975+ in third. Plus there is a story that Tanaka last year threw 150+ pitches in a game 6 and came back to pitch a game 7. Oh what tangled webs we weave…