Three Pitchers Whose Deliveries Put Them At Risk For Serious Injury

1. Alex Wood, SP, Atlanta Braves

The hitch

The hitch

Wood’s delivery has concerned me for a while, and it’s a shame because it’s so effective for him. Braves’ area scout Brian Bridges campaigned for the Braves to take Wood in the 2012 draft, and they were able to get him in the 2nd round simply because other scouts shied away from Wood because they believed his funky delivery would lead to injury and stretches of inconsistency due to how difficult it is to repeat.

Wood has what’s called a hitch in his motion right before he releases the ball–and while that is tough for hitters because they don’t pick the ball up until late and it disrupts their timing, it also puts Wood’s arm in danger. The movement of putting the ball back behind your left knee and towards the third base dugout and then launching the ball out front screams injury.

The left-hander doesn’t have your traditional knee over the chest finish either, standing straight up and almost backing up towards second base once he releases the ball, which put an uncanny amount of stress on your elbow.

The Upright Finish

The Upright Finish

At 23-years-old, it’s possible Wood’s arm is still fresh enough to pitch a couple more seasons without a problem, but with the amount of impact he puts on his elbow and forearm area every five days, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll have to go under the knife.

2. Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco Giants

Romo's Slider gets some unbelievably bad swings. Courtesy of Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus

Romo’s Slider gets some unbelievably bad swings. Courtesy of Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus

The second-year closer for the Giants saved 38 games last season and has one of the game’s most impressive right-to-left moving sliders, a devastating pitch against hitters from both sides of the plate.

Problem is, Romo throws his slider too much. In fact, Romo has thrown 85% sliders in two-strike counts since 2012, and because of his low-three quarter delivery, has put even more stress on his elbow and forearm.

Low-three quarter delivery. You can almost see the stress on the ulnar collateral ligament.

Low-three quarter delivery. You can almost see the stress on the ulnar collateral ligament.

The lower a pitcher drops his arm angle, the more stress he puts his elbow when throwing his breaking ball. Instead of the traditional ear to opposite knee finish a pitcher with an over the top breaking ball produces, pitchers with lower arm angles have to go ear to opposite front pocket, which in most cases hinders your ability to finish the pitch.

Romo finishing almost straight up on a slider.

Romo finishing almost straight up on a slider.

It speaks volumes that Romo has been so durable in his career, but every pitcher’s arm/body is different. That being said, Atlanta Braves reliever Cory Gearrin has a very similar arm angle and motion, has a lot less wear and tear on his arm than Romo, and he’ll be undergoing elbow surgery shortly. It’s only a matter of time before Romo does the same.

3. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Baltimore Orioles

A mechanical nightmare, it’s amazing Jimenez’s arm has held up for this long. Jimenez starts his motion by breaking his hands and whipping his arm towards the ground, and then–with his front shoulder pointing towards the sky–has to use a variety of different muscles just to get the ball out front again–which is one of the reasons he’s been so inconsistent with his command throughout his career.

Jimenez shoots the ball down towards his back foot when he breaks his hands.

Jimenez shoots the ball down towards his back foot when he breaks his hands, pushing his front shoulder towards the sky.

Jimenez also curves his wrist at the back end of his motion instead of keeping it on an even plane, putting an unhealthy amount of stress on the tendons and ligaments in his forearm and elbow. The image below is pretty self-explanatory.

Ubaldo Jimenez

In addition, Jimenez does all this while throwing a power splitter, a detrimental pitch to the forearm and elbow if thrown with a wide grip. When the thumb moves up the side of the ball towards the index finger, there is more of a tendency to supinate (or twist). Sooner rather than later, that motion is going to get you hurt. There’s just too many moving parts.

Others at risk:

Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox

Zach Wheeler, SP, New York Mets

mlb_e_wheeler11_576

Carlos Marmol, RP, Miami Marlins

CarlosMarmol

Follow OPSN Lead Writer Shawn Ferris on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news, updates, and analysis.

3 Comments

That Romo picture of him throwing to Miggy was a fastball. Also, windups don’t matter…throwing sliders, change-ups matter for arm trouble. If you use your body to throw and not your arm, then you will probably not have any arm issues unless you use a slider or change-up consistently.

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