Let Americans throw!

With the recent announcement that San Diego Padres right hander Josh Johnson is going to have Tommy John (elbow ligament replacement) surgery,  I couldn’t help but think that there has not only been a crazy influx of TJ surgeries the past few years but for the most part those surgeries always seems to involve an overwhelming large percentage American players.  I called upon MLB Network’s head researcher Elliot Kalb to confirm my beliefs and the results were even more staggering than I had originally thought…

Since 1977 there have been 372 documented TJ surgeries in MLB… 345 (93%) have been performed on American players while 27 (7%) have involved international players… Since 2010 there has been 124 TJ surgeries and an astonishing 83 in the last 2 years!

How do the numbers stack up proportion wise based on the MLB player constituency?  Not even close.  It fluctuates daily but over the past few years when the vast majority of TJ surgeries have occurred, MLB has been comprised of roughly 60% American players and 40% International…

So why are Americans at a much greater risk?  I can only speculate but in large part American players have followed structured throwing programs and strict pitch counts since little league.  This brings into question that maybe Americans are coddled way too much and throw way too little.  Through my experience playing parts of 11 seasons of major league baseball and 5 winters in the Dominican Republic,  it is my belief that International players just throw more.  Many always have and still do play year round in their country which allows them to strengthen their arm while building a much higher throwing endurance base.  In turn this typically results in a much greater propensity to stay healthy. Just ask the TJ numbers…

Let Americans throw! EB

PS… I am not a scientist or a doctor but I did sleep in my van rolling through Coachella last night

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2 Responses to Let Americans throw!

  1. bgoody says:

    I’ve never seen evidence that pitch counts are effective. Always seemed like a half-baked mandate from nervous owners.

  2. MIke says:

    Eric, a quick question on the stats you are using. Are the comparisons between TJ surgery on American and International players based on total players or pitchers only? As a coach I have used pitch limits in the past as a guide, but not a firm number for my staff (ages 12-16). I base the limits more on watching their mechanics and seeing the point that they start to change their mechanics vs. just using a set number. I also track what pitches they are throwing and the stress differences between throwing a fastball vs. curve, etc.

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