The frequency at which pitchers need Tommy John surgery has reached ‘epidemic’ status in MLB With an alarming number of hurlers going under the knife, including many top arms, people are wondering what’s at the root of it all?
The easy answer is poor mechanics and over-throwing. But given that so many pitchers have UCL troubles, it could be a lot more complex than that. No one has the exact answer right now, but you can bet that will change as more and more research is surely going to be done on the topic.
Zack Greinke is one former Cy Young winner who’s avoided elbow problems thus far in his 11-year career. So how does he do it? The answer is pretty simple — not relying on his slider anymore.
Here’s a quote from a story Yahoo did on the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher where he talks about the thought process behind throwing his slider:
“In what I would deem a very important at-bat or a very important pitch, yes, I would throw the slider. But with the pitcher up and no one on, you might be able to strike him out on three pitches. Do you really want to throw three sliders to a pitcher? Is it really smart of me to expend full energy on a slider in that situation? … If it takes eight sliders to get that guy out. I’m going to throw eight sliders.”
In addition, Grienke says he doesn’t go 100 percent all the time:
“It’s tough to describe. Some pitchers say they throw 100 percent every pitch every game their whole career. I don’t do that. I don’t think I physically could. I pick my times.”
So that’s one man’s approach to saving an arm. It’s definitely a strategy that’s paid off for Grienke thus far. Sure, he doesn’t post numbers anywhere close to his Cy Young season of 2009 (when he was constantly throwing his slider) anymore, but he’s clearly looking at the big picture. Dodgers fans will take it.