I like to watch a lot of baseball whether it is a game, ESPN Baseball Tonight, or The MLB Network. I watch it all the time(unless the Olympics or college football is on). There has been a lot of talk lately of Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals’ plan of shutting him down after 160-180 innings. Strasburg had Tommy John Surgery two years ago. He spent almost a whole year in baseball training and made a handful of starts at the end of last season. The thinking in baseball is that a pitcher should not throw a full season’s worth of innings the first season back after the procedure. The Nationals also are in 1st place in the NL East. They have a very good ball club this year and could be a favorite to win the World Series. So the debate is to let Strasburg keep pitching since he has been lights out all season and go for it all or to shut him down and take their chances. I’m glad I’m not the one having to make that decision.
When I was coaching my son’s Little League team 4 years ago, Little League came out with a plan to monitor the workload of young pitchers. Instead of innings they put a limit on the number of pitches a player could throw. The number varied with age and there was a required number of days rest depending on that pitch count. It made things a little more confusing to keep track of as a coach, but I understood the reasoning. Why do Major Leaguers worry about innings while Little Leaguers worry about pitches. It seems to me that pitches would be more important. Does a 95 pitch complete game put more stress on the arm than a 125 pitch 7 inning performance. What about all of the pitches in the bullpen between starts and before innings. Years ago, pitchers routinely pitched over 300 innings in a season. Now no one does. I don’t know who is right. I don’t know if anyone knows.
Baseball training for the pitcher includes many different things. They run a lot to build up their endurance. They do a lot of stretching. They work on their mechanics. They do fielding drills like covering 1st and fielding bunts. Pitchers usually will do a lot of lower body workouts and core work. A lot of times they tend to shy away from too much upper body work due to fear of becoming too tight in the shoulders. The one thing that I think gets overlooked a lot, especially by young pitchers, is Rotator Cuff strengthening exercises. I go watch my son’s practices and games and maybe 1 or 2 players use their bands before they throw(he is one because I threaten him).
I really don’t know what the proper way to care for a pitchers arm is. In my 36 years of baseball I have heard many theories. The one thing that has remained constant is the number of arm injuries. Advancements in medicine and technology has increased the numbers of pitchers that do make it back after an injury. Regardless of what is right or wrong I do believe that a lack of proper baseball training for the pitcher’s arm is a huge contributor. For a great guide to how to strengthen your rotator cuff and try to avoid injury check out The Ultimate Rotator Cuff Training Guide