Thursday, March 10, 2011

Strasburg's Mechanics: Is There Risk for More Injuries?

In his article from March 8 entitled Mechanical Flaw Will be Red Flag for Strasburg Even After Return, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci examines whether or not the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg is at risk for more injuries after he comes back from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals have decided not to change Strasburg's mechanics, which Verducci and the doctors he talked to believe could be an issue.  In the words of Verducci...

"When Strasburg gets his elbows above his shoulders and the baseball is below or about even with his right shoulder, his stride foot is hitting the ground. The ball should be in the loaded position at that point, but because Strasburg uses the funky "high elbow" raise, he still has to rotate his arm above his shoulder to get it there. The energy from landing on his stride foot has passed too early to the shoulder and elbow -- before the joints are ready to use it." (

Hopefully, Strasburg can come back and be close to as good as was last season.  However, his career could go downhill.  Being a Cubs fan, I can't help but think of another phenom who was spectacular very early on and had injuries derail his career: Mark Prior.  While Prior never had to undergo Tommy John surgery, he went from a bona fide ace to out of Major League Baseball in only three years.  Both Prior and Strasburg were supposed to have great mechanics, but both suffered injuries while utilizing the "high elbow raise" that Verducci references.  As a Cubs fan, watching Prior sustain injury after injury and go from one of the best pitchers in the National League to an afterthought was painful.

Prior went 18-6 in 2003, his first full big league season, when he was only 22.  He finished with a 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 211.1 innings.  Last season as a rookie at age 21, Strasburg went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 68 innings.  Prior was out of the big leagues by 2006, having suffered a string of injuries.  Hopefully, Strasburg is not destined for the same fate.  If he comes back healthy, he could help make baseball in Washington relevant.

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