A Pitcher’s Plight

I’m sure New York Mets fans are angry right now. Angry, confused, frustrated, disappointed and generally irritated about what happened to their young phenom, ace, future, Matt Harvey. Criticisms have been hurled accusing the Mets of wasting his arm in a lost season, pushing him too hard and causing his likely Tommy John surgery and potential year-long disabled list stay.

It’s easy to blame the Mets, but when it comes to young pitchers and their arms, there literally seems to be no consensus on how to handle them on their development arc. You have some pitchers like the young White Sox stud, Chris Sale, who has an awkward form that seems to indicate a Tommy John future, but turn out to have little durability problems, at least so far in their careers. Chris Sale looks like a reliever in his delivery, but he had no problem pitching 192 innings last year, and 195.2 so far this year. If two months ago you had to take bets on who would have the catastrophic injury first, Sale would probably be the pick nine times out of 10.

And yet, here we are with Harvey down for the count and Sale cruising along at Cy Young pace. What does it mean? Frankly I don’t know if it means anything. I’m not a scout and I’m certainly not a doctor, but it looks to me like there is just some level of randomness and unpredictability to these injuries. Setting reasonable pitch counts, giving longer rest and being more cautious about little injuries probably help, but it seems to me that Matt Harvey could just as easily blow out his arm on April 29 15 pitches into the game as he could August 24. In short, you really can’t blame the Mets for letting Harvey play. At some point you have to let the pitchers pitch, and deal with the injuries as they come.

I mean, look at the Orioles’ stud prospect and former top pitching prospect in baseball, Dylan Bundy. Bundy worked last season on a strict innings cap, and was actually not allowed to throw arguably his best pitch, the cutter, in fear that it would increase the strain on his arm. Bundy pitched a few innings well in relief last season for the Orioles, and finished a coddled season with great numbers. He pitched exactly zero innings this season, and eventually received Tommy John surgery. Bundy was a model of physical fitness, often called a “gym-rat,” and frankly seemed to be a pitcher that had a great chance to avoid the Tommy John bug. Here you have the bubble-wrapped Dylan Bundy receiving the same season death sentence as the more heavily worked Matt Harvey. With pitchers so injury-prone these days, teams just need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Contact Zander Frost [email protected]