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Strasburg's Injury Risk

Q.  Maybe it's true that we should have preferred Ackley to Strasburg.  Strasburg's motion looks like Prior's to me.

A.  Ackley's a hitter and Strasburg a pitcher.  No doubts there.

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Remember that, our amateur-attempts to understand pitching motions aside ... the harder a guy throws a ball and the more people he strikes out, the better his chances are. 

Take 100 rookies in baseball history who had huge K rates, and another 100 rookies with tiny K rates, and I'll guarantee you that the high-K group suffered many, many fewer injuries.  Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens being the pictures worth 1,000 words.

And that's got to be even MORE true when the high-K guys had low walks.  A great CTL speaks to better mechanics.

But we're talking tendencies, of course.  Some high-K pitchers get hurt, of course.

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Q.  Does Strasburg's motion look risky to you?

A.  Well, it does indeed have a bit of elbow-above-the-shoulder to it.  Here's a discussion

But we are all, every one of us, shooting in the dark about that. We know very little about mechanics and their effects on injuries.

Personally, *I* take it as self-evident that the lower your elbow, the less stress on the shoulder; I mean, girls' fastpitch stars never hurt their shoulders.  How much do you weight this single factor of elbow angle?  Who knows.  I don't.

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Q.  What are the risk factors?

A.  As I see it, the top seven are:

1) Velocity (higher velo = less health risk)

2) Workload (more pitches under strain = more health risk) 

3) History (proven ability to handle workload without DL time = less health risk)

4) Pitching mechanics

5) Shape of pitches (sideways-breaking pitches torque elbow ligaments; vertical pitches are easy on elbow)

6)  Body shape (longer, whippier, more centrifugal motions = less health risk)

7)  Pitcher age and handedness (older = less health risk; LH = less health risk)

Half the world guaranteed that Tim Lincecum was a huuuuuge risk because they laser-focused on two factors:  he's short, and he ran real high pitch counts in college.  They waved off the other five factors, and they paid the price.

There was a tiebreaker with Lincecum:  the way he felt after 140 pitches.

For me, the tiebreaker with Strasburg is that, like Nolan Ryan, he was born to throw a baseball.  Other guys can't throw 101 in the 7th.  Strasburg is a different species.

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Could be wrong.  All pitchers are health risks.  The Mariners dumped Randy Johnson because of that.

The basic question is reasonable - that with Strasburg you're still sweating the crash-and-burn.  Would you guys decline a Strasburg-for-Ackley offer today?  :- ) 

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Cheers,

Dr D