Texas Rangers: Throwing a high volume of high velocity pitches hard on Jacob deGrom

May 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) looks on from
May 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Texas Rangers pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) looks on from / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In my previous article, I discussed the idea of Jacob deGrom transitioning to the closer role for the Texas Rangers as a means to mitigate injury risks and maximize the team's playoff potential. Since its publication, my take has received mixed reactions, with fans expressing both agreement and disagreement, while some even hurled insults.

The idea of Jacob deGrom taking on the closer's role for the Texas Rangers has caused quite the commotion

In this follow-up article, I aim to provide further context and address the concerns raised by readers, emphasizing the potential risks associated with high-velocity pitching and the importance of rest for injury recovery. Research studies in recent years (yes, google it) have highlighted the relationship between high-velocity pitching and increased injury risk for pitchers. The repetitive stress placed on the arm when throwing at such high intensity can lead to acute injuries, chronic overuse issues, and structural damage.

Based on a January (2023) study conducted and published in the Arthroscopy Journal by professionals from Weill Cornell Medicine, they concluded that pitchers in professional baseball who throw with higher pitch velocities are more susceptible to elbow injuries. They stated that particularly UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) tears, possibly due to the increased strain on the medial elbow complex, were most common.

The surgeons from Cornell explained that these results should serve as a reminder for pitchers to exercise caution when attempting to maximize pitch velocity. While Jacob deGrom's ability to consistently throw at a high velocity is undoubtedly impressive, it also raises concerns about his long-term durability and susceptibility to injury.

That is why medical experts recommend rest and recovery

Rest and recovery play crucial roles in a pitcher's ability to maintain optimal performance and reduce the risk of injury (Journal of Athletic Training, 2020). Researchers concluded that the primary objective in a clinical setting should be prioritizing, and maintaining optimal performance for ballplayers, which involves implementing injury prevention strategies, like workload monitoring. From a conceptual standpoint, the ultimate goal is to help ballplayers achieve baseball's most effective and efficient throwing.

By transitioning to the closer role, deGrom would benefit from the altered workload and shorter outings. In addition, this strategic shift would allow his body to recuperate and heal more effectively, potentially minimizing the impact of any existing or future injuries.

For example, on April 23, deGrom threw 35 4-seam fastballs at an average velocity of 98.4 mph. If you calculate the force that deGrom is using based on the mass of the baseball times the acceleration, you can see for each pitch the excessive force that the two-time Cy Young winner is putting through his arm every 15-20 seconds (pitch clock) is quite substantial.

On the other hand, a closer role involves a lower pitch count spread out over the week. While the pitches are still thrown at a high velocity, the overall workload is significantly lower than throwing 80-100 pitches in one game. However, it's worth noting that, the cumulative impact of throwing high-velocity pitches in multiple outings a week, can still contribute to the risk of chronic overuse injuries over time, such as tendonitis or other forms of wear and tear, as stated by the study mentioned earlier.

Many high-velocity pitches in a single game subjects the pitcher's arm to exceptionally high stress and fatigue. Intense exertion and repetitive motion increase the risk of acute injuries, such as muscle strains, ligament tears (including the UCL), and other structural damage. In addition, the arm may not have sufficient time to recover between pitches, let alone between games, which can further contribute to the risk of injury.

Texas Rangers and their ace, Jacob deGrom, would benefit from him throwing less pitches as a closer instead of a starter

In summary, throwing more high-velocity pitches in one game is generally considered worse for a pitcher's arm compared to throwing 30-50 pitches in a week as a closer. The excessive workload and lack of sufficient recovery time in the first scenario increase the likelihood of acute injuries, whereas the second scenario, with a lower pitch count and spaced-out outings, provides relatively more opportunities for recovery and reduces the risk of immediate harm.

Given deGrom's injury history and the significant investment made by the Texas Rangers, it is crucial to evaluate alternative roles that could prolong his career and maximize his impact. While the idea of a $37 million closer might raise eyebrows, the potential benefits of having a healthy and dominant deGrom in the bullpen cannot be ignored. The financial aspect can be balanced by exploring additional moves to fortify the starting rotation through trades or other acquisitions.

It is essential to approach the situation with caution and adaptability. While transitioning deGrom to the closer role might seem intriguing, it should not be handled lightly. The decision ultimately lies with the Texas Rangers' front office, with input from medical professionals, coaching staff, and deGrom himself. The primary goal should be to find the right balance that maximizes deGrom's effectiveness, safeguards his health, and aligns with the team's competitive aspirations.

Jacob deGrom's exceptional talent and injury concerns present a complex dilemma for the Texas Rangers. While transitioning him to a closer role may offer potential benefits, it is vital to consider the risks associated with high-velocity pitching and the importance of rest and recovery. Additionally, balancing innovation, protecting investments, and maximizing playoff potential requires carefully evaluating various factors. Ultimately, the decision should prioritize long-term player health and the team's pursuit of success in facing a challenging reality.