Brian Wilson

The Giants haven’t had many Tommy John cases. Why?

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Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti about the health of Giants pitchers. Specifically, why only one Giants pitcher in recent memory — Brian Wilson — has required Tommy John surgery while so many on other clubs have gone under the knife.

It’s an interesting question and both Jenkins and Righetti lead with luck as a good explanation. But Righetti speculates that the lack of many Giants pitchers who do serious weight training could be a factor, noting what weight training can do to guys whose arms have tendinitis or what have you. He also notes that the weight training may be a cultural thing:

“Back then, we didn’t have to worry about it. Walk into a team locker room, and there was no peer pressure about how you looked. You think guys like Luis Tiant, Rick Reuschel, Phil Niekro or Wilbur Wood cared about that? And they pitched forever. But guys would be all over ’em today, because there’s such a vanity element. They’ve gotta keep up with each other.

“It’s interesting, too: The Latin guys don’t come from a culture of weight training, and they don’t seem to get injured nearly as often. Not until they become more Americanized.”

Maybe there’s something there. Dr. James Andrews thinks it’s too many pitches when players are kids, but I’m sure, like with most things, there are multiple factors at play.

The only thing that bugs me a bit here is the citation back to guys who used to throw 300 innings all the time. You see it so often, but the hidden data problem is always ignored here. What is never mentioned are the tons of pitchers who flamed out in the minors or early in their careers because they simply couldn’t handle that kind of load and because Tommy John surgery was not available. Great, Luis Tiant and Mickey Lolich and some others pitched every four days for nine innings. But the guys who tried it and then couldn’t break 80 on the gun after their ligaments snapped are lost to history.

Still, a good article on a topic that is among the most critical in the game.