Stephen Strasburg: Power Ranking the Five Strongest Tommy John Recoveries

Andy VanfossanContributor IAugust 26, 2011

Stephen Strasburg: Power Ranking the Five Strongest Tommy John Recoveries

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    In 1974, Tommy John had a ligament taken from his leg and put into his elbow. Dr. Frank Jobe stated that it would be a 1 in 100 chance that he would pitch again. John returned in 1976 and pitched until 1989.

    The prognosis after Tommy John surgery is over 90 percent that the pitcher or player will return to a high level of baseball. Over the past decade, some big time players have had this procedure done with varying successes.

    Today, we are going to look at the biggest successes. I will also have a couple of pages where the verdict is still out. Enjoy!

John Smoltz

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    The former Braves pitcher had his Tommy John surgery after the 1999 season, and it cost him his entire 2000 season. As with most procedures likes this, he struggled to regain his form in the first year after the surgery.

    However, in 2002 the Braves moved him into the closer’s role, and he added a new chapter to his greatness saving 55, 45 and 44 in consecutive seasons then went back to the starting rotation to win 14, 16 and 14 games respectively.

    He may be the best pitcher ever to have the surgery and almost pick up where he left off prior to the surgery.

Josh Johnson

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    Johnson had his surgery in 2007 but has come back like gang busters since then. The ace of the Marlins staff, his win total has improved each year since 2008 (7, 15 and 11 wins respectively), and his ERA has dropped considerably each year as well.

    This year started out well for Johnson, but a shoulder injury has put him on the shelf much of the 2011 season. The Marlins are hoping it’s not another major injury, but if anybody can bounce back, it’s Johnson.

Chris Carpenter

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    Carpenter missed all of 2007 and part of 2008 with his Tommy John surgery. Since that time, he has compiled a record of 41-21 (counting this year) and an ERA around 3.00 for the Cardinals.

    Seen as a dual ace of the Cardinals staff, he has been asked to pick up the slack for another Tommy John surgery recipient in teammate Adam Wainwright.

Billy Wagner

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    Prior to 2008, Wagner was an elite closer with the Astros, Phillies and the Mets. 2008 saw Wagner undergo Tommy John surgery, and he was supposed to retire because of the nature of the rehab and his age.

    He spent one year in Boston then was shipped to Atlanta. In his last year of baseball (2010), Wagner came back and saved 37 games for the Braves.

Tim Hudson

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    Hudson is another Braves pitcher who had Tommy John surgery in 2008. He had been struggling in 2007 and 2008 posting a 16-10 and a 11-7 record respectively. He came back full force in 2009 with a 2-1 record then in 2010 went 17-9 with a near career low ERA of 2.83.

    He is currently 13-7 this year sporting a 3.01 ERA.

Wait-and-See No. 1: Joe Nathan

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    The verdict is still out on Nathan after his surgery last spring. Early in the season, he didn’t have near the pop on his fastball nor did he have the sharp break that we were accustomed to seeing with his slider. He was put on the DL and did some time in the minors to get his “stuff” back, and that he did.

    He came back in July and took over his closer role from the struggling Matt Capps. His fastball is back in the low to mid '90s, and his breaking pitches are starting to have a little more bite. I think we will know more next year after an offseason and a full spring training again going full bore.

Wait-and-See Nos. 2 and 3: Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg

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    Two of the most dominant pitchers in 2010 both had Tommy John surgery this year. Wainwright had won 19 and 20 games respectively the past two seasons and was the ace of the Cardinals staff that featured another Tommy John surgery recipient in Chris Carpenter.

    Undoubtedly, one of them will not be in the rotation next year either because of not being re-signed or the fact one isn’t fully ready to roll.

    Strasburg is starting to make minor league starts and has had varying success in each of those starts. The Nationals are taking a cautious approach with their franchise pitcher, and rightfully so, so hopefully he can make a full recovery and put the Nationals in a playoff chase.

Wait-and-See No. 4: Francisco Liriano

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    After Liriano’s best year in 2006, he has flashes of when he looked like he did as a rookie and times when you wonder why he’s in the majors. He went 12-3 as a rookie and was tabbed as the next best thing and was part of a rotation that featured Cy Young award winner Johan Santana.

    After his surgery in 2007, Liriano has struggled to regain his form from that magical year. He went 14-10 last year and had 201 strikeouts but hasn’t neared that performance any other year including this one.