Throwing a baseball is as violent and unnatural a motion as you'll find in sports.
The amount of stress, torque and wear-and-tear that pitchers put on their arms is unrivaled. Sooner or later, the constant changing of grips, arm angles and speeds takes it's toll on even the most decorated of veterans.
For the pitchers on this list, that wear-and-tear has not only forced them to abdicate the throne as the ace of their respective teams, but it has clouded their future in the game that they love, for they are shells of the players that they once were.
While each of them is capable of turning back the clock every once in awhile, the days of their dominance on the mound are long gone. Whether due to injury or simply due to that wear-and-tear, these players have nothing left in the tank to offer as starting pitchers.
Mark Buehrle, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
For more than a decade, Mark Buehrle was automatic. You knew what you were going to get from him: an ERA in the mid-threes, at least 200 innings and more quality starts than mediocre ones.
That's the pitcher that Toronto thought it was getting when the Blue Jays traded for Buehrle (and most of the quality major league talent that Miami had on its roster in 2012) this past offseason, a pitcher who was going to help solidify a terrible starting rotation.
Apparently that pitcher remained in South Florida, because the Buehrle that Toronto has seen has been awful:
There hasn't been as much as a whisper of injury surrounding Buehrle, and after spending the bulk of his career at the front of he rotation for the Chicago White Sox, the argument that he's not an American League pitcher goes out the window.
At this point, it's fair to say that 12 consecutive seasons of throwing at least 200 innings has caught up with the 34-year-old, leaving him a shell of his former self and Toronto in the same predicament that it found itself a year ago—a team that doesn't have enough quality starting pitching.
Chris Carpenter, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Carpenter knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
Carpenter has undergone significant surgery to his arm twice—shoulder surgery in September of 2002 that cost him the entire 2003 season, and Tommy John surgery in 2007 that limited him to 21.1 innings of work combined between 2007 and 2008.
Both times, Carpenter has come back with a vengeance, winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2005 and finishing in the top three of the voting on two other occasions.
Now, the 38-year-old is trying to come back from injury again, this time from a nerve problem that has limited him to only 17 innings of work since the start of the 2012 season.
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carpenter has begun throwing the ball again and is trying to reinvent himself as a reliever; someone who can help a beleaguered St. Louis bullpen in 2013.
Even if Carpenter is successful in his comeback attempt, it's clear that when it comes to being an effective starting pitcher, he's got nothing left to offer.
Roy Halladay, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
After suffering through an injury-plagued 2012 season, many expected Roy Halladay to bounce back with a strong 2013 campaign for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Instead, the two-time Cy Young Award winner has been worse than he was a year ago, something that both Halladay and Phillies fans hope can be explained by another injury. Via ESPN's Jayson Stark:
Words no team wants to hear: "Going to see Dr. Yocum." That's Roy Halladay's next destination. Said he's had shoulder soreness since 4/25
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 5, 2013
Since the start of the 2012 season, Halladay has looked nothing like the pitcher who dominated the opposition for the better part of the past decade, as evidenced by his numbers:
|Innings Per Start||ERA||WHIP|
His future, by his own admission, is murky at best, as Halladay told Stark and other reporters after the announcement of his injury:
As far as going forward, I really don't have much for you. We'll see how it plays out here in the next couple of days. As soon as I can get in to see [Yocum], we'll get that done and try and get you guys some information as soon as we can.
Should Dr. Yocum find significant damage in his right shoulder, it's possible that this latest injury could be the one that ends his career.
Even if the diagnosis isn't that of a severe injury, asking a 16-year veteran who celebrates his 36th birthday later this month to bounce back to his prior form is simply asking too much.
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Cleveland Indians
After going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.16 WHIP for the Colorado Rockies in 2010, people were quick to label Ubaldo Jimenez the ace of Colorado's pitching staff.
That was the first mistake. Baseball history is littered with ace-like seasons out of pitchers who simply weren't all that good.
The bigger mistake was made by Cleveland by trading away four prospects at the trade deadline in 2011 to acquire Jimenez, thinking that he'd bolster a mediocre starting rotation. Since his arrival, Jimenez has made things worse:
If there's been one saving grace for Jimenez during his stay in Cleveland, it'd be this, courtesy of Cleveland.com's Glenn Moore:
It's hard to believe Ubaldo Jimenez has a lower ERA than Roy Halladay since May 18 of last season.— Glenn Moore (@GlennMooreCLE) May 6, 2013
While Moore is right, the numbers aren't something that Jimenez can be proud of:
|Since May 18, 2012||IP||ER||ERA|
Perhaps a return to the National League will re-energize Jimenez, who is barely worthy of being called a major league pitcher at his point.
Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Like Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum's collapse was sudden and seemingly came out of nowhere.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has always had an unusual delivery, which many pundits believe has led to a decrease in his velocity, especially on his fastball:
|Year||Fastball Velocity (mph)||Change (mph)|
That's not a positive trend.
San Francisco used him primarily as a reliever during the team's remarkable run to another World Series championship in 2012, and ultimately, that may be the role that allows a 28-year-old Lincecum to extend his career by another decade.
His declining velocity and inconsistent performances all but assure that his days as a starting pitcher are numbered.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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