THE PITCHING PUZZLE

by Holly Horning

Quite a few readers lately have been voicing their concerns over the mounting injuries to Tiger pitchers.  Some even pointing fingers at Chris Fetter.

So should we be concerned?

Yes, but maybe not in the way you think.

Let’s take a big picture view.  And in order to do that, we can’t look solely at the Tigers.  We have to look at all of MLB.

This way, we can see if there really is a problem within the Tigers’ organization should they deviate from the other 29 teams.

First, we need to acknowledge that MLB knew there would be issues, especially with pitchers, this season.  All due to the shortened spring training and quick ramp up to the season.  This is why they expanded rosters to allow for 28, not 26 players.

On May 1st, rosters were pared down again.  However, MLB allowed teams to increase their total number of pitchers to 14.  In a normal season, teams may have a maximum of 13 hurlers.

Detroit has 8 players on the IL.  But 2 of those are holdovers from last year:  Spencer Turnbull and Jake Rogers.

This year, the current members are Tyler Alexander, Jose Cisnero, Kyle Funkhouser, Matt Manning, Casey Mize and Victor Reyes.  Five of the 6 are pitchers.

Ranked, the Tigers sit at #21 (on a scale from fewest to most) in MLB if you include Rogers and Turnbull.  If we only count this year’s injuries, the team would rank much higher – somewhere around #14.

They appear, for the most part, to sit squarely in the middle.

The interesting common denominator between all 30 teams is that every single organization has pitchers comprising half or more of their total IL.  Five teams have an IL solely comprised of pitchers.

There are 10 teams who have more injured pitchers than the Tigers.  One team even has 12.

Here is the breakdown of how many pitchers are on the IL:

2 (5 teams)

3 (6 teams)

4 (7 teams)

5 (5 teams, incl. Detroit)

6 (2 teams)

7 (2 teams)

8 (0 teams)

9 (2 teams)

12 (1 team)

There is also another factor to consider that is contributing to pitchers’ injuries.

Baseballs.

As you may know, several years ago, MLB bought Rawlings, which produces baseballs.  Ever since then, they have been tinkering with the composition and design which also changed the way baseballs move.  A recent report even exposed MLB’s dirty little secret that they used 2 different baseballs during the 2021 season – but didn’t tell the players.

Next came the Spider Tack scandal and crack down on sticky substances that pitchers use to finesse their grip.  Eliminating all of these products threw every pitcher’s form into disarray.  As a result, delivery on the mound had to be re-adjusted which can account for some injuries.

This year, another change was made.  Baseballs are now stored in humidors in an attempt to control how they behave in specific environments.  But it’s not really working.  And MLB isn’t listening to the significant feedback they are receiving from teams.

Scores of pitchers are sounding off about how bad and inconsistent the balls are.  And when they don’t know how a ball is going to feel until they are on the mound, adjustments have to be made.  Adjustments that can lead to injuries.

Some have said that they can barely feel the seams and, as a result, they have to change their grip.  The overall complaint is about how slick the baseballs are and how they can’t be held firmly.

More than a few pitchers have said that trying to grip a baseball on a cold night is impossible.  One reason why so many batters are getting hit.  Pitchers are losing control because they are losing their grip.

There is a growing chorus of unhappy hurlers who complain about slick baseballs, smooth seams and the feeling of trying to grip an ice cube.

Experts are saying that MLB has changed the ball once again in order to make it more aerodynamic.

Why?

So the ball flies further.

You know what that means. It’s MLB’s answer to making the game more exciting – and bringing in more fans.

But just try to pry that information out of MLB.

How many more pitchers need to get injured before changes are made?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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19 thoughts on “THE PITCHING PUZZLE

  1. If the plan was for the MLB’s aerodynamic baseball to fly farther, it appears to have come up short as homers are down league wide. The MLBPA should have input as to regulations in the manufacture of balls. This is their livelihood and the MLB should not be allowed to make changes unchecked.

    Liked by 11 people

    • A major news outlet reports that MLB hitting is now at .233, its lowest level on record. Runs scored — 4.08 per team per game — are 2nd lowest in 41 years at this point in the season. MLB pitching, including Tigers’ pitchers, must be doing a great job to accomplish this.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wish that aerodynamic baseball would fly further for the Tigers’ hitters. Seriously, a lack of consistency with baseballs and umpires’ strike zones are already standing out a ridiculous issues that could be resolved easily. Even if the former did not cause injuries, it is an unnecessary side show for a sport that needs positive improvements on enlivening bang-bang plays and shortening contests.

    Liked by 11 people

  3. Another example of Holly teaching us things about major league baseball that most of us would never know…As for these changes to the baseball itself, the people responsible should be held responsible for unintended injured arms resulting in surgery and lengthy recoveries. I wonder how much affect this has on infielders’ and outfielders arms too. The whole situation is a travesty. Thanks Holly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was thinking the same thing, Tommy. And not just injuries. Maybe the ball is the reason for some throwing errors by fielders.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Seeing all the infield throwing errors, I was wondering if the shift was to blame somehow. I’m now thinking yours is a better, likelier reason.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Something that does get much attention is cold weather. This has been a very cold spring and we all should be aware of it’s affect on muscle injuries, especially on pitchers. How many of the high injury teams are in cooler climates with open air stadiums? Another factor not listed is over use of some pitchers from the previous year. How has that been factored in.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. My theory is that the emphasis on pitch shaping and the technology available to focus on it leads to more injury. Pitch shaping depends on spin rate and higher spin rates equals higher stress on arms and shoulders. Some people’s bodies can withstand it and some can’t.

    Liked by 9 people

    • That is an interesting thought. Perhaps an increased focus on pitching analytics, particularly spin rate, could be part of the problem as pitchers put more pressure on grip, wrist, elbow, and arm during their delivery to provide added movement to the balls.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Exactly, and then they imbed the threads making guys who throw stress pitches more likely for injuries. This is another example of MLB using the heart (ball) of our game as a testing ground for their own ends.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I think that is an interesting point. I’m also wondering about pitchers worrying about maximum velocity on every pitch, the amount of stress added to the shoulder and arm has to be tremendous.

      Liked by 5 people

      • You hit the mark on velocity, kids having TJ in high-school. I remember when Troy Percival became one of then very few relievers who broke 90 consistently. Now bullpens average in the mid 90’s.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. People misunderstand when talking about higher spin rates, etc. Higher spin rates for Pitchers does not necessarily mean that you are throwing the ball harder, thus you have more injuries. One can attain higher spin rates in some cases merely by changing one’s grip on the baseball. Changing or lowering the seams on baseballs would have a major affect on spin rates, control, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll bet Fetter has a word or two to say about the seams. It’s like a quarterback trying to grip a football with no exposed laces.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. All this talk about how the baseballs have been altered by Rawlings in cahoots with MLB rings of a vast conspiracy theory to undermine this great game…but to what end? Since I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories in general I am more inclined to believe what I actually see. What I see as the problem is the mindset that pitchers feel like in order to be successful in this game today they have to strike out as many hitters as possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Someone has probably compared recent pitching injuries to those of what I consider the golden age of baseball when starters were expected to complete games. There has to be some difference in mindset/ performance when a pitcher knows he will be pulled after two trips through the batting order compared to three or four trips.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. I just cannot agree with any excuses for these injuries. They are professional pitchers and things like slippery balls, cold balls….are just excuses. I cannot see how someone could get hurt “adjusting” to these conditions. QBs deal with hot and freezing weather and don’t claim injuries for those conditions.

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