Tommy John has a surgery named after him. He had the original ulnar collateral reconstruction procedure done after the 1974 season and missed all of 1975. In his first season back, he pitched 207 innings. He would go on to pitch at least 200 innings for 4 consecutive seasons after that. Tommy John was on The Herd (with Mark Schlereth) today, and had some thoughts on the Stephen Strasburg pitch limit.
“From the time I came back until I quit in 1989, I never missed a start in 13 years. Now, we were archaic back there, but here’s my take on the thing: There’s no guarantee [if] you shut him down. The Yankees screwed Joba Chamberlain over. I mean, this poor kid has had all kind of problems, and they had Joba Rules….It didn’t help him a bit. He still had to have Tommy John surgery.
So there’s no guarantee that you’re shutting Strasburg down, that he’s going to be healthy down the road. You want him healthy. I understand that. He’s the franchise. But you know what? The golden ring only comes around on the merry go round maybe one time. There’s no guarantee that if you keep Strasburg out this year and keep him healthy for next year next, year next, year, that you’re gonna win.
Now, to be fair, that’s just one case. Tommy John was 31. Generally, older players don’t recover from injuries as well, but on the other hand John had already pitched a fair amount of years where he threw full workloads.
I’ve seen people talk about doctors regarding this tact. Conservative return is fine, and I am all for not putting an excessive amount on Strasburg in a short time.
I haven’t seen any literature that supports the tact from the Nationals here, but if anyone has a link to a study on arm injuries and whether it is reasonable to work a player back by throwing 90-110 pitches in April and then just going cold turkey and starting up five months later, drop them in the comments. (Please don’t actually say the Verducci effect). I like to read studies. If I had time (which I don’t because of the NFL ramping up) I would dig in and find cases of Tommy John surgeries and innings pitched the following year versus career longevity.