Stephen Strasburg: 6 Signs MLB Innings Limits, Rules Simply Don't Work
Stephen Strasburg was shut down over the weekend despite only throwing 159.1 innings this season. The rumored 180 limit was never reached (via Yahoo! Sports); in fact, the original 160 limit was not even reached.
All of the ballclubs' rules and myths of arm damage and pitcher protection are being stretched more than ever. Arms are worth more money now and agents are making sure that their clients are not put in any situations that could risk further damage to the body that is responsible for making millions.
There are statistics and reason for both sides, but for the most part, these injuries are going to happen one way or another. It comes down to common sense: The arm is not meant to throw the way a pitcher pitches; the natural throwing movement would be underhand, so anything that varies is, in essence, damaging the arm.
There are signs that innings limits are not the practical thing to do for the game of baseball and the examples are apparent all around the league.
There Is Not Enough Evidence to Support That It Works
Like it or not, there have been no scientific studies on pitchers who have undergone the surgery and recovered and those who have had a setback from throwing too many innings. The only way to effectively and accurately formulate a concrete answer to the innings debate would be to have a group of pitchers who abandon the innings limit and a group that doesn't, and then study them over time.
This would never happen in the majors because there is too much money placed on these arms. Therefore, there is not enough proof to argue that these innings limit are actually beneficial.
It Keeps Happening
The problem with pitchers and their ruptured UCLs is partly due to the fact that the repetition of this unnatural motion is damaging to the arm. The fact is, an innings limit at the major league level is not going to help if these pitchers have not been limited throughout their entire lives.
According to ESPN.com, one in seven active pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery. It is almost inevitable that a pitcher is going to have to face the surgery at one point or another throughout their career. Innings limits are just prolonging the wait.
The Nationals Won't Win the World Series
The biggest example of the innings-limit scenarios being a bust is being portrayed this season with the Nationals and Strasburg. This year, the Nats would have been favorites to make the World Series if they had Strasburg.
Keeping Strasburg on the limit greatly reduces these chances.
Texas Rangers Have Won Back to Back AL Pennants
Since Nolan Ryan has become the president of the Texas Rangers, they have won the AL pennant twice, in 2010 and 2011, and currently have the best record in the AL. When Ryan took over, he openly made it a mission to unshackle the pitchers and allow them to throw without restrictions.
Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux told Sports Illustrated, "This generation of players has become a creature of the pitch count. Their ceiling has been lowered. It's up to us to jack it back up."
Ryan also spoke to Sports Illustrated on the subject:
Pitchers have been pampered. I'd go to spring training, and all they'd do was throw on the side. Now how in the world do you learn how a hitter's going to react to your pitches without a hitter in there? I always thought that was crazy. Our expectations of them have been lowered. There's no reason why kids today can't pitch as many innings as people did in my era. Today a quality start is six innings. What's quality about that?
The success of the Rangers under Ryan prove that the innings limit does not work, and a team that is usually seen as a model of how to restrict pitchers shows the opposite trend.
The Model Has Not Won a Title
The question then becomes, if the Rays have been so successful, then what do they have to show for it?
They have had winning seasons and even made it to the World Series back in 2008, but they lost in the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. To whom?
The limitless Rangers.
Teams are forfeiting a title for the simple joy of a season with a winning record, and that cannot be accepted in the MLB.
Pitchers Are Not Changing Their Deliveries
The problem lies in the delivery that these pitchers have. The pitchers that do not pitch with the infamous "inverted W" delivery have a less likely chance to damage their UCL. Why impose an innings limit on these pitchers if they have a lesser chance of injury?
In addition, why do pitchers who have that delivery still use it when it increases their risk of injury?