Before 1974 when a pitcher had a UCL tear his career was effectively over. When Tommy John had surgery in 1974 to repair his UCL tear he was give a 1 in 100 chance of returning to the MLB and pitching effectively. Tommy John returned from the surgery better than he was before. Now, in 2013, the chances of a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery are 85-92 percent. That recovery rate and return to form percentage is great, but what is alarming is the number of current pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery. On MLB opening day 2013 there were about 360 pitchers on opening rosters. Of those 360 pitchers, 124 of them, nearly one third, all had Tommy John surgery done at some point during their career. That brings us to the question of, does a pitcher need to have Tommy John surgery at some point during their career to be successful or if they have surgery will it end their career?
Tommy John was just the first of a long line of pitchers to have UCL surgery and make a full recovery. In 2007 Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins underwent Tommy John surgery and returned in 2008 and pitched a phenomenal season earning 15 wins and 191 strikeouts. Four years later, 22-year-old Washington Nationals, pitching prodigy Stephen Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery. Strasburg returned in 2012 with similar dominant numbers compared to Johnson, earing 15 wins and striking out 197 batters.
For every Stephen Strasburg type success story, there is another story where one does not return to form. A name that comes to mind for all Toronto Blue Jays fan’s is B.J. Ryan. Ryan underwent surgery in 2007 and came back to baseball in 2008. He had a good 2008 season, but after that it all went down hill. Ryan pitched in 2009, but his command was all over the place and was being hit on by anyone who stepped into the batters box. Ryan never pitched in another MLB game after 2009.
What is interesting about the list of MLB pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery is that there are two distinct groups of players that have had it. There is Tim Hudson, Billy Wagner and John Smoltz who were at the end of their prime and careers when they had it and then there is Stephen Strasburg and Josh Johnson who had it at the beginning of their young careers.
In the end Tommy John surgery is just re-adding life to a pitchers arm. The surgery is strengthening and re-doing what had been worn down over all of those years of pitching and almost essentially giving a pitchers arm a reboot for the remainder of their pitching career.
The NL Cy Young has come down to a two-man race between LA Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. This is the second part of a two part series that breaks down each player and their respective season.
Clayton Kershaw’s Case
Clayton Kershaw might just be the best southpaw pitcher in baseball today. Kershaw has spearheaded the second half surge by the LA Dodgers to put them in playoffs and has led them to the third best record in the NL. Since the All-Star break the Dodgers have gone 43 and 19, which at one point, winning 36 of 44 games. A big part of that is because of Kershaw taking the hill every five days and being that guy who can get a win every time he goes out.
As you can see he is either first, second or third in each major pitching category, with the most mind boggling and amazing stat being his ERA of 1.88. No other starting pitcher in the entire MLB has an ERA below two. This number is so amazing because every time he goes out on the hill, he his shutting down almost every offensive weapon a team has to offer. The Dodger’s offensive players know that if they get just 2-3 runs every time he is out there, they will win because he sits batters down left and right.
Comparing a closer to a starting pitcher can be like comparing apples to oranges because they impact their team differently, but one could not do their job without the other. However, when looking at the numbers they both put up this year, I have to give it to Clayton Kershaw as the 2013 NL Cy Young winner. Kershaw is having a bigger impact on his team this year and it has shown throughout the second half of the baseball season. Kershaw’s impact has even put him in contention to win the NL MVP award, which is very hard for a pitcher to win. Kershaw is a game changing pitcher every time he steps on the hill. He is a true ace and will be for many years to come.
The NL Cy Young has come down to a two-man race between LA Dodgers Starting Pitcher Clayton Kershaw and Atlanta Braves Closer Craig Kimbrel. This is a two-part series that breaks down each player and his respective season. This is part one.
(Note: Stats for Kimbrel and Kershaw are not final. 2013 Regular season not over yet.)
Craig Kimbrel Case
Having a closer with a really good chance of winning the NL Cy Young is a big deal because in the 45 years of the NL Cy Young Award a closer has only won the award 5 times. The last closer to win the Cy Young was Eric Gagne of the LA Dodgers; with 55 saves he converted in a row.
Let’s compare the major stats of Gagne’s 2003 season v.s. Kimbrel’s 2013 season.
When looking at the stats Eric Gagne does have an edge in every major category. A big part of the Cy Young that has to be considered though is the success of the player’s team. Kimbrel has team success going for him, where as Gagne did not. Kimbrel’s Atlanta Braves have the best record in the NL and are going to be the top seed in the 2013 Postseason. In 2003 Gagne’s Dodgers didn’t make the playoffs and finished 15.5 games out of first in the NL West.
Stay tuned for the next post which will break down Kershaw and say who wins the 2013 NL Cy Young.