An excerpt from Jeff Passan’s “The Arm”


Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has written a book about pitching. Specifically, about the awful, horrible things that happen to pitchers’ arms and the wonderful, amazing things surgeons have been able to do to fix them once they are destroyed. The book is called “The Arm,” and it’s mostly about Tommy John surgery, how it has changed baseball and all of the things the Baseball Industrial Complex has done to help pitchers avoid ligament replacement surgery, endure it, recover from it and everything in between.

I have an advance copy of it, I’m a few chapters into it and so far so good. Today, however, you have a chance to read a long excerpt from it. It’s about a guy most of you have never heard of throwing a 106 m.p.h. fastball. For real. It’s also about the mad genius in an out-0f-the-way warehouse who helped him do it and why they’re doing it in the first place. All of it has to do with how arms work and break and the work people are doing to keep that from happening.

My thoughts from the excerpt: I am usually skeptical of stories about mad genius outsiders changing established industries. I realize that’s how change happens a lot of the time, but as a literary thing that sort of thing has become something of a cliche in modern non-fiction (some entire books, though not this one, seem to have been sold entirely on the basis of interviews with these kinds of guys). This excerpt and its subject is an archetype of that and it’s hard to shake the notion that you’ve sort of read this whole thing before.

However, I am not as skeptical about it here as I might otherwise be. Mostly because Major League Baseball is about as crazy-conservative an institution as it comes and the level of buy-in you need in order to do something unconventional on a baseball team is so much higher than you may need in, say, technology, that it may very well be the case that all of the big innovation comes from outside rather than inside the mainstream. The form may be familiar, but the substance of it seems pretty legit.

Beyond that, there is a bit of this excerpt — the part where one of the mad geniuses is hired by a club — which makes me wonder about whether we’ll see some ethical issues arise in the near future with respect to Tommy John recovery.

If a club comes up with some new analytical approach — a super stat or a something — it’s obviously proprietary. They’re not gonna share that with another team. Heck, that whole Astros-Cardinals hacking scandal shows just how protected such data is supposed to be, at least in theory.

What happens, however, if a club comes with some technique which cuts recovery time from Tommy John surgery in half? Or, even better, some training technique which helps reduce or prevent ligament damage altogether? If a doctor does this, sure, it’ll be shared because of professional responsibility considerations. But what if a coach or an athletic trainer does? Is there a similar obligation then? Is there a tension between the clear competitive advantage which would come from ensuring pitcher health and the well-being of pitchers overall?

I figure people in the game have thought about this. I also hope — and lean toward expect — that something so important would not be kept in-house given how clearly it would benefit the sport overall. But I wonder sometimes. The problem with the mad genius types who come up with innovation is that they tend to be . . . mad. UPDATE: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about this exact topic earlier this month.

Anyway: go read the excerpt. And pre-order “The Arm.” It’ll be key to the conversation about pitching and pitcher health for a long, long time.

Tyler Glasnow scheduled to rejoin Rays’ rotation

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to rejoin the rotation at Cleveland after missing nearly 14 months because of Tommy John surgery.

The Rays’ Opening Day starter last year hasn’t pitched this season after undergoing the procedure on Aug. 4, 2021.

“I think we’re pretty confident he’ll be starting for us,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said before the game with Toronto. “This is the first time he’s thrown pain-free in quite some time, so he’s encouraged by it.”

The 6-foot-8 right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 14 starts last year and is a key addition as the Rays near a wild-card spot.

“Compared to the past, like, three years it feels way better as far as postday and the week leading into starts and stuff,” Glasnow said. “It’s good to have an UCL, you know.”

Cash said Glasnow will throw around 45 pitches in his initial outing, which should allow him to go two or three innings.

“Two innings of Glasnow is still a huge plus for our team,” Cash said. “Like to get three innings. If we do, great. If we don’t, that’s fine, too.”

Glasnow allowed one run, one hit, four walks and had 14 strikeouts over seven innings in four starts with Triple-A Durham.

“I’m really excited,” Glasnow said. “I’m approaching it like normal, staying on routine. Feels normal.”

Glasnow signed a two-year, $30.35 million contract that will delay the start of his free agency by one year last month. He’s making $5.1 million this year and will get $5.35 million next season and $25 million in 2024, which is the first year he would have been eligible for free agency.