Get used to Bartolo Colon-style stem cell procedures, because they’re going to explode in popularity

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Dr. Damon Noto, who is one of five doctors in the United Statess who performs stem cell procedures like the one Bartolo Colon got before this season was on WFAN yesterday. When asked if we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of thing he said you can bet your bippy on it:

“Absolutely. You’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg here. This is really going to explode. In the next five years the field of regenerative medicine, using your own body cells to heal itself is going to explode. I mean athletes are really going to be demanding these types of things. Instead of major surgeries they’re going to want to use their own bodies ability to heal.”

He also noted — and please pay attention to this, PED hand-wringers — that it is not at all clear that HGH, testosterone or other added drugs provide any benefit to this surgery and that the procedure is very powerful on its own.

My instant reaction: all of this is going to take us to a place many who have followed the PED debates for years have expected to eventually be: where safe, mainstream medicine provides physical enhancements akin to or even greater than that provided by the use of illicit drugs.  Once the dirty film of the illegal drug trade is wiped off of this, it’s going to be a lot harder to decide what is and what isn’t fair in an athletic setting, mostly because the moralizing that stems from the fact that laws were broken will be irrelevant.

We have a choice: we can demonize this kind of thing now, when we outside of the medical world know very little about it yet, or we can actually try to figure it all out.  Those people jumping on Bartolo Colon — or even simply mocking him — have made a choice already.  But it’s not the only choice.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.