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Pitching Pandemic Strikes Major League Baseball

Braves ace Spencer Strider, one of several pitchers around MLB, to get struck by the pitching pandemic - Image Credit: Simon Lindenblatt/Latino Sports

NEW YORK — What do all of the following MLB pitchers have in common — Astros LHP Framber Valdez, Braves RHP Spencer Strider, Mets RHP Kodai Senga, Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole, and Nationals RHP Josiah Gray? 

Each given name from the list above is an All-Star caliber arm, who is currently on the injured list, recovering and attempting to return from a variety of elbow injuries that all relate to one another, occurring in their respective ramp up period of Spring Training, or throughout the opening weeks of their regular season campaign. 

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, reigning AL Cy Young award winner, reportedly started throwing and having a catch this week to begin his injury rehab program – Image Credit: Emma Sharon/Latino Sports

On top of that, what do all of these MLB pitchers have in common — Guardians RHP Shane Bieber, Orioles RHP Félix Bautista, Pirates RHP Johan Oviedo, Marlins RHP Eury Pérez + RHP Sandy Alcántara? 

All five have already been announced to be sidelined and miss the full course of the 2024 MLB season, or are unlikely to return in 2024 as of now, due to severe elbow injuries that forced upon the three words that every baseball enthusiast hates to read — Tommy John Surgery. And as of recently, it seems as if we see those three dreaded words pop up nearly every week, sometimes on multiple occasions. 

It’s an unfortunate time in our game, one that will be remembered as a pitching pandemic.

Pitching injuries have increased across the game, will it continue throughout the 2024 MLB season? – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Just take a look around the American and National League, what team is not suffering from the pitching pandemic? Some franchises are missing not just their top ace, but also their next best option, along with several relievers, all in result to those three words — Tommy John Surgery. 

Throughout the course of this week, I reached out to a longtime baseball scout, to learn more about the issue, and also hear his raw thoughts on the pitching pandemic. 

“Number one is ‘the need for speed!’ — it starts in youth baseball everywhere, max velocity and max spin is the killer,” he said over the phone. “The good, very good and great pitchers from the past could always throw 96-99 but they didn’t. They learned to ‘pitch.’ This is a cancer that has now metastasized. And now player development in professional baseball is all about throwing as hard as you can for as long as you can.” 

You may be wondering, what are those in charge doing about this universal issue? This past weekend, on Saturday, April 6th, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Major League Baseball, each released public statements, regarding the problem. The MLBPA’s reasoning focused on the pitch clock, which was implemented at the start of the 2023 MLB calendar year, while MLB’s statement revolved around pitchers’ high velocity and spin rate. 

Instead of cooperating and working together on the universal issue, one that only damages the image of our game because the majority of the best pitchers in the sport are currently sidelined, we have both parties disagreeing on the matter publicly. Not a good look for anybody involved, which is a consistent and underlying denominator with the MLBPA and MLB — as we saw Major League Baseball officially ‘lock out’ the players less than three years ago until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was struck. 

The MLBPA’s main reasoning for the increase of pitching injuries was focused on the pitch clock, according to their most recent public statement on the matter. The pitch clock was implemented at the start of the 2023 MLB calendar year – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

“The baseball ‘lifers,’ who have been churning out great pitchers who could complete games with 120-140 pitches over nine innings and not have career ending injuries at a young age, have mostly been let go and replaced with Brilliant nerds who never pitched at a high level,” the longtime baseball scout added. “They are making the decisions about developing Big League pitchers.”

“Honestly, I don’t think they know the difference between a baseball & a watermelon! The clock? It has just dumped gasoline on the fire and made it worse.” 

Can the pitching pandemic get much worse than what we are currently experiencing?

Robert Rizzo is a journalist and editor of Latino Sports – Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

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