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  1. Cutting down on excess sliders can only be beneficial to your health. Who do you thin Pablo Sandoval got into such great shape this offseason ?

    Comment by prankmunky — April 28, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  2. Rerun with SPs, please?

    Comment by Mario Mendoza — April 28, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  3. I didn’t actually run this for relievers! What I could do is try it again with 30+% slider usage…

    Comment by Eno Sarris — April 28, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  4. This begs the question of what the incidence of DL trips is for the reliever population at large.

    Also, it might be useful to normalize in terms of IP. A guy who pitches 70+ innings a year would be more at risk than a guy who throws 40 innings, of course.

    Comment by Mark — April 28, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  5. I doubt there are many/any SPs throwing the slider at 30%. I’d go with 20% as that is a good number of sliders to be throwing (good=a lot).

    Sliders have the general reputation as being the high risk, high reward pitch. If you are a high slider thrower, you know, at some point, you’re going to miss a season. But, the slider is such an effective pitch given its combination of movement and velocity, that’s it literally worth the injury risk.

    Curveballs are not as risky as once thought, but they also are not nearly as effective as higher velocity breaking pitches. The “Big Bender” ala Bert Blyleven is extinct. The last one is believed to be killed by Rob Deer. If you don’t throw a hard breaking curve (i.e., highish velocity), you’re better off not throwing one, or throwing it sparingly.

    Or … you could look at the number of “sliders thrown” and have the “% slider” be irrelevant.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 28, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  6. I would take a look at the number of actual sliders thrown per pitcher, not a percentage basis. The supposition is that sliders place undue stress on the ligaments and muscles every single time it is thrown. Not sure there is a big enough sample, but I would also break it down by when the slider or hard breaking pitch is thrown.

    There is a belief among pitching coaches that as the mechanics break down as a pitcher tires, much more damage can be done by a slider. So a slider thrown in the first inning may not impart the same amount of micro-damage or stress that a slider in the 5th inning creates.

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — April 28, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  7. Liriano does… so we already know the answer.

    Comment by Barkey Walker — April 28, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  8. Looking at just 2009 to 2010.

    All is for 60 innings 39.5% chance of DL the next year.
    RP > 70 innings 35% chance of the DL the next year.

    Comment by Jeff Zimmerman — April 28, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

  9. You and are thinking alike.

    Total number of sliders is more important.

    By natural events, pitchers that throw more innings are going to often throwmore sliders, which will kind of address the second issue you brought up.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 28, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  10. I just published an article mentioning a similar issue, pertaining to Josh Johnson. Works I read cited that throwing curveballs actually was less harmful to one’s elbow than throwing fastballs or sliders because the elbow can withstand more stress when it is in a supinated position (palm facing up) than in a pronated position. You can read my full article at cracketstats.com for a little more detail.

    Comment by Michael — April 28, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

  11. Wainright has one of the best CBs in MLB and its a “big bender” ala Blyleven

    Comment by yungmuneyholla wat it dew — April 28, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  12. Also part of the reason little leaguers aren’t supposed to throw curves is because they can strike out little kids easily with it. This makes them dependent on the curve and will never learn how to throw a good fastball or changeup

    Comment by Kyle — April 28, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  13. crackerstats.com **

    Comment by Michael — April 28, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  14. Cheeseburger Brett Anderson’s always been at 30% slide pieces.

    Comment by lenny.huxley — April 28, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  15. Um…I think that’s an extremely tertiary reason.

    One reason you don’t teach little kids any breaking ball or any kind, not even a cutter, is because they have a habit of getting overzealous trying to snap pitches off. If you want a kid to pitch AND stay relatively healthy, it’s imperative that they maximize repeatability. If they’re trying to make balls bend and crackle they’ll probably just succeed in bending and crackling themselves.

    Getting back to the topic, slider’s are a more violent pitch to throw and require much more body and arm control/strength than a youth has. A basic curveball can be thrown almost the same way as a fastball. No need to snap off anything. For a slider to move, a quick snapping action is necessary.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — April 28, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

  16. Sliders killed me. Never had a problem (20+ years of pitching) with the curveball. I threw it right.

    Nowadays they are teaching the slider different, more like a cutter. Much less stress on the elbow. Wish I learned that back when!

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  17. He also has/had TRAINWRECK mechanics. Horrible Inverted-W guy.

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  18. I agree. The curveball was always less stressful, to me, than the fastball.

    Though I had nearly -20 mph seperation between speeds. So I wasn’t throwing it very hard

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  19. On a related note, why is Mike Marshall seemingly blacklisted from baseball? I realize his views are somewhat unconventional, but they are based on scientific (kinesiology) research.

    Comment by bluejaysstatsgeek — April 28, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  20. I actually am surprised by the velocity findings. When I think of prototypical slider pitchers, I think of Jeff Nelson, Gagne, and Randy Johnson. Johnson is a generational talent who should probably be treated as an outlier, but Gagne and Nelson could really ratch it up with the fastball. (Or at least I remember Nelson as throwing hard–he might have been in the low 90′s as the graphic suggests)

    Comment by Sean — April 28, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  21. The belief that sliders are bad for the arm has been around forever. Someone said many years ago “whenever I throw the slider it feels like an alligator is biting my elbow.” Anybody remember who it was?

    Comment by John — April 28, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

  22. Inverted W = snake oil.

    Comment by Lewis — April 28, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  23. Would have been so much better without the blatant spelling error! Who do you thin = How do you think …

    Comment by tdotsports1 — April 28, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  24. Inverted W is like the triangle offense in basketball, at one point or another all teams appear to be running it, ditto pitchers and the inverted W.

    Comment by tdotsports1 — April 28, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  25. He was just too excited to finally use that line.

    Comment by uhhhjboy — April 28, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  26. Marshall is extemely quacky.

    Last I watched of him, the fundamentals he was teaching were supposedly completey safe on the arm, but could barely produce a velocity of 80-mph.

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  27. Nelson was low 90s. Crossfire side-armer, sinker/slider.

    I don’t recall Gagne throwing a slider. Fastball, change-up, and lollipop curveball mixed in sporadically. At least as a closer.

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

  28. Very true, Kyle.

    Comment by Bill — April 28, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

  29. Thanks for the research. It would be nice to see a study on just SP, because it seems that total number of sliders thrown is more significant thatn percentage.

    Also, maybe sort the injuries by time spent on the DL instead of number of trips. And maybe it should only include arm injuries (not sure if you specified that or not).

    Comment by Dan — April 28, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  30. He’s 68 years old!

    Comment by bluejaysstatsgeek — April 28, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  31. Sorry I ruined your day with my typos.

    Comment by prankmunky — April 28, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

  32. I’ve been wondering about the stress of sliders. Thought I read somewhere that the Rays are discouraging pitchers from using the slider (not in every individual case, but as an organization). Garza decreased his slider usage when joining the Rays and has substantially increased it since joining the Cubs. Among their current rotation, Shields has never thrown one. Hellickson does not throw one. Price has dramatically reduced his slider usage since when he first came up. Davis and Niemann both throw the slider around 15% of the time. Any one read anything about this?

    Comment by JB — April 28, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

  33. This is really good analysis. I dont have anything to add, just wanted to say thanks for the good work.

    Comment by Dandy Salderson — April 28, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

  34. Wainwright’s curve is a serious 12-to-6′er, one of the best in the game.

    Blyleven’s was like someone threw a damn frisbee. *grin*

    Wainwright’s increased use of the slider might be very relevant to this thread.

    He’s also not an inverted-W guy. Any concern with AW50′s mechanics has to do with the height of his PAS elbow at release point. It’s elevated.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 28, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  35. The inverted-W is when, during the stride and hand seperation, both elbow travel higher than the shoulders.

    Peavy and Stasburg are erroneosly assigned the inv-W. The issue with those guys is that their PAS elbow travels toward 1B, behind their body.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — April 28, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

  36. More likely a quadrary reason, but I wouldn’t argue with quentary. Its a quandary.

    Comment by Steve Balboni — April 28, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  37. And here I thought he was being intentionally punny

    Comment by Ez — April 28, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  38. Nice article. Quick correction though, in paragraph two, you say “Only 590 of them failed to use the pitch at least 1% of the time.” I’m pretty sure you meant 590 of them did use the pitch at least 1%, or 90 of them failed to.

    Comment by skippyballer486 — April 28, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

  39. thanks! and fixed!

    Comment by Eno Sarris — April 28, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  40. A little off topic but to some of the commenters – it’s my understanding that you certainly never ‘snap’ or twist your wrist or arm when you’re releasing a breaking pitch. I threw a great curve in HS and I was always taught to let your grip do the work.

    A slider and curve are both varying degrees of a ‘breaking ball.’ The ball simply spins forward instead of backward. If your fingers come straight down over the front of the ball, it’s a curve. If they’re a little more tilted, it’s a slider.

    Arm problems can result, because when you naturally throw anything your palm faces forward/down at release and then pronates (palm turns to face out, thumb points down). When you release a breaking pitch your hand is facing IN (thumb points up) and thus you do not get the ‘natural’ pronation of the arm. I had elbow problems specifically because of this, and it makes sense that the slider would be worse on the arm because you’re throwing it harder than the curve.

    Sorry for the slightly off-topic, long post. I’ve always been interested in pitching mechanics and despite coming off like a know-it-all, I am curious to see if others have been taught a different way or if there is any literature on the subject.

    Comment by Spacelord — April 29, 2011 @ 12:36 am

  41. To be able to draw any conclusions from this study, you need to have a control group. It would NOT surprise me at ALL to hear that the average number of DL trips for pitchers in general since 2008 in 1.24! These 25 pitchers had 31 DL trips, but almost 1/6 of those are due to a single pitcher.

    Actually, a better study would be to do this analysis for ALL pitchers who have pitched since 2008, then check pitch tendencies, pitch counts, age, appearances, etc. to get a more global idea of what leads to injuries…

    Comment by Brandon — April 29, 2011 @ 5:39 am

  42. The Sampling error in that one is that if you are healthy enough to throw 70+ innings you are a little more likely to avoid the DL than the general population. It seems like the biggest predictor of future injury is previous injury

    Comment by Mr wOBAto — April 29, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  43. I guess it’s more of a “slurve.” Point taken–my memory is off.

    Comment by Sean — April 29, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  44. I coach in a pretty successful travel program and this is our secondary reason for not allowing curves for our pre-pubescent pitchers. First is the injury angle. (We’ve actually seen kids as young as 11 need TJ surgery in rival programs.) The crutch/weapon angle is a strong second, however. We are attempting to build great high school players, and we feel that if a young kid learns to pitch using just the FB and CU, the curve, when added, is a weapon. For a kid who uses it young, it tends to be a crutch. He never learns to hit spots or the value of changing speeds and using location to set hitters up, and he usually costs himself velocity – even without a catastrophic injury. If your goal is simply to win 11U trophies, this is less important, and everyone has their own motives.

    Comment by Vince — April 29, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  45. A curveball is probably less stressful on a fully grown, major league pitcher’s elbow than a poorly thrown fastball or slider, but it is awful for a still growing child’s elbow. Even Bert Blyleven didn’t throw curves until high school.

    Comment by AA — April 29, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  46. Take a look at Steve Carlton’s website. He shows his grip and release – its all in the hand and fingers with no change in elbow movement. Incredibly healthy pitcher and the arguably the best slider ever. Food for thought.

    Comment by AA — April 29, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

  47. Bill is right about Gagne. Fastball and Vulcan Change.

    Comment by AA — April 29, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  48. I gave up baseball at the start of high school to focus on basketball, but when I was pitching I learned a curveball (from a former minor league pitcher) that involved “rolling” my arm down around the ball. Basically, the movement of my arm was the same as my fastball, but my palm faced me, and my hand went on top of, and then in front of, the ball as I released it. I could see another pitcher using the same motion, and, in trying to throw the pitch with more break, snapping their arm around the ball. I have no idea how common that sort of curveball is, as I hadn’t been using it for very long before quitting, but take that for what you will.

    Comment by skippyballer486 — April 29, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  49. Yeah, that sounds pretty similar to the way I was taught. Like you said, it can be tempting to try to snap your wrist when throwing it which I’m sure is pretty rough on the elbow.

    Comment by Spacelord — April 29, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  50. An inverted W is an M.

    Comment by AJS — April 29, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  51. I ran a large regression on a dataset mined from my injury DB including PITCHf/x data. I wrote about this on THT a few weeks ago. You can find the article here:

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/pitching-injuries-a-pitchf-x-look/

    Comment by Kyle Boddy — April 30, 2011 @ 1:37 am

  52. Jim Bouton said it in Ball Four when referencing Larry Dierker’s slider.

    Comment by Kyle Boddy — April 30, 2011 @ 4:40 am

  53. Can we do a t-test or ANOVA with groups of pitchers who use other pitches 40% of time (i.e., fastballs, curveballs, knuckles, etc)

    Comment by mattr84 — April 30, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  54. Blyleven threw 2 curves. Frisbee and 12-6. That’s how nasty the guy was. And he thinks his best pitch was his fastball.

    As for Wainwright, the lack of an inverted W combined with the high PAS elbow is likely why his shoulder is fine and his elbow went bad.

    Comment by AA — May 1, 2011 @ 2:00 am

  55. Agreed …

    In the mid 80′s, the joke went …
    Q: Who has the best curveball in baseball?
    A: The same guy that leads the league in home runs allowed.

    Blyleven.

    About this time, Roger Craig, and the Slider Revolution were taking over. Slider is harder to read/react to than a curveball, higher velocity, easier to control. Lots of risk though.

    There is also an aspect that the slider is “more macho” … don’t underestimate how much that plays into the mindset of a pitcher ages 15-23.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — May 2, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  56. I realize that it falls outside the timeframe of this brief study, but Justin Speier went on a DL stint in 2007 that effectively ended his career.

    Comment by ineedanap — May 2, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  57. I’m sorry if this was already pointed out but I couldn’t read through the thousand comments. I was kind of confused by the set up of this article which implied that curve balls are implicated in the most stress on the arm while sliders are this unknown silent killer. Anyone who has grown up playing baseball in the past 20 years or so has surely heard that the slider is unparalleled in it’s strain on the elbow because it exposes the UCL to the most stress. Curveballs gain so much attention in little league because it is the first breaking pitch most of the unqualified coaches teach incorrectly to young pitchers. When thrown properly a 12-6 curve ball should put very little stress on the elbow.

    On a separate note, I really liked that you looked at the kinds of injuries more closely which is what I was looking for when I opened the article. Obviously 25 oblique injuries (just first thing that came to mind because pretty much the entire MLB seems to have had one in the past couple of years) can’t necessarily be linked to pitch selection.

    Comment by G — August 31, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

  58. with all of the new video technology coming out I would love to see more biomechanics filter into the analysis analyzing arm slot, hip and shoulder separation etc.

    Comment by G — August 31, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

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