Interesting Data On Tommy John Surgery; What it Means for Nationals Stephen Strasburg

When Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg took the mound against the Chicago Cubs yesterday, he officially restarted his journey to become the best pitcher in baseball.

Strasburg’s journey of course was temporarily derailed after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010. The surgery limited him to only 12 starts in 2010 and 5 in 2011.

Now the all important question is, can Strasburg regain his form and actually become better than before? The kid is clearly the real deal, with electric stuff that gets into the upper 90′s. He lived up to the hype before his debut in 2010, but what should fans expect now?

Here’s a little data I found from a study on pitcher statistics, after Tommy John surgery:

  • The study analyzed 33 MLB pitchers who had Tommy John surgery from 1987 to 2004. They compared the stats to a control group, looking at ERA, WHIP, and K/9.
  • Prior to Tommy John surgery, the mean ERA was 3.88, while after having the operation the mean ERA increased to 4.49. The control group mean ERA was 4.29.
  • WHIP increased from 1.32 to 1.41, with the control at 1.39.
  • K/9 prior to the operation were at 8.19, and after, they dropped to 6.50. Control was 6.29.

The data clearly shows the pitchers were not statistically as good after the surgery.

Now as with any study, you have to take it with a grain of salt. This study does not say what pitchers were included in the results, and the it only goes up to 2004. I’m going to bet there have been improvements to the procedure since then.

Furthermore, we’re talking about Stephen Strasburg. He is anything but a normal pitcher, and I think you have to throw out the norms when it comes to a guy like this. From the looks of his six starts since the surgery, he seems to have his stuff back. His velocity is there, as he routinely hit 97 mph against the Cubs in the opener yesterday, as was his control, walking only 1 in 7 innings of work.

My only concern, is how Strasburg will hold up over an entire season. He figures to be on a pitch count for most of the year, but how will his arm react to the workload of a full MLB schedule? The reality is that Strasburg has yet to complete a full season, but as a baseball fan, I’m rooting for 2012 to be his first.

Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter @the_realfish




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