I've been in professional baseball since 2006 and every year there seems to be a rash of injuries that plague pitchers. This inevitably leads to an eclectic mix of baseball people comprising a panel trying to explain the injury epidemic on local and national baseball television shows. Each time I catch one -- and there were several in 2014 due to a slew of spring training injuries -- I'm left shaking my head in frustration.
The entire segment is generally spent discussing quick fixes or "magic bullet" ideas. The panel runs through the usual rhetoric of limiting pitch counts, scaling back innings and fixing bad mechanics. It’s as if completely arbitrary pitch counts or simple mechanical fixes are going to save elbows everywhere. That's lunacy.
Understanding pitching injuries at the professional level and trying to limit them is an incredibly complex task. Small, simple fixes on the surface are not going to solve anything other than give plausible deniability to higher powers when they have to explain to the media why a pitching prospect got hurt. "We did what we could, we limited his innings and pitches,” they would say. “Sometimes these things just happen."
To better figure out this challenging situation, it would help to understand the baseball system as a whole in this country. Next, it would help to understand the systemic weaknesses of injury prevention at the professional level.
Baseball's pitcher development system
Let’s start with baseball’s developmental system in the United States.