Are Pitcher Injuries Linked to the Pitch Clock?

The head of the baseball players’ association, Tony Clark, has expressed serious concerns about the impact of a shorter pitch clock on pitcher injuries. Despite unanimous opposition from players, the commissioner’s office decided to reduce the length of the pitch clock in December. According to Clark, this decision has raised significant worries about the health and safety of the players. The concerns regarding the reduced recovery time have only intensified since the implementation of the shorter pitch clock. Clark has claimed that the league’s failure to acknowledge or study the effects of these changes poses a threat to the game and its most valuable asset – the players.

MLB has pushed back against the player association’s claims, citing a three-decade increase in pitcher injuries despite the pitch clock being a recent addition. The league highlighted a decline in UCL surgeries at the minor league level in 2022, the first year the pitch timer was used across the minors. MLB believes that the rise in injuries is more closely linked to the increase in max-effort pitching and the focus on pitch design rather than the pitch clock. The league is currently conducting a research study into the causes of increased injuries and has referenced an analysis by Johns Hopkins that found no evidence supporting the idea that the pitch clock has led to more injuries.

Several pitchers, including Shane Bieber, Spencer Strider, Jonathan Loáisiga, Eury Pérez, and Trevor Gott, have been diagnosed with elbow injuries. Bieber, the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner, will have season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery. Strider has a damaged UCL and will undergo further examination by a team physician. Loáisiga also requires season-ending elbow surgery after tearing his UCL during a game. Pérez and Gott have also undergone Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. These injuries have raised questions about the impact of the pitch clock on player health.

MLB introduced a pitch clock for the 2023 season, set at 15 seconds with nobody on base and 20 seconds with a baserunner. This change was intended to speed up the pace of the game and reduce overall game time. The average length of a nine-inning game dropped to 2 hours and 40 minutes, marking the shortest length since 1985. Despite the positive impact on game length, there are concerns about the potential link between the pitch clock and increased pitcher injuries.

The debate over the impact of the pitch clock on pitcher injuries continues to be a contentious issue in Major League Baseball. While the player association and MLB have conflicting views on the matter, the recent spate of pitcher injuries has raised legitimate concerns about player health and safety. Further research and analysis are necessary to determine the true effects of the pitch clock on the well-being of players.

MLB

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