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2006 Predictions


Sidney Ponson (Cardinals) - 2/28/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
When I heard that the Cardinals had signed Sidney Ponson
(pdf), I was immediately concerned. I believe that proper conditioning is a key to staying healthy, and from what I have read Ponson doesn't always keep himself in the best of shape. What's more, he shows the ball to Center Field (which I believe increases the stress on the elbow) and brings his pitching-arm-side elbow both above and behind his shoulders (which I believe increases the stress on the shoulder).

Barry Zito (A's) - 2/28/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
I have heard good things about Barry Zito
(pdf), and know that he has been relatively injury-free, so I decided to take a look at his motion. While he is cleaner than most people, in some ways he reminds me of Sandy Koufax, which is a cause for concern. First, his performance has fallen off since 2002, which suggests there might be something going on in his body (especially in his elbow) that is causing him to wear down. Second, he doesn't appear to have any terribly obvious flaws, but he does do a few things (hooks his wrist and stiffens his glove-side knee) that may cause him problems. Third, his general mechanics are very Tom House (e.g. level upper arms with forearms hanging down), which I find to be problematic given the problems that Mark Prior (.pdf)  has experienced.

Felix Hernandez (Mariners) - 2/27/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
I was reading Dr. Mike Marshall's 2006 Q&A file and saw that he made some comments about Felix Hernandez. This led me to take my own look at the pitching mechanics and motion of Felix Hernandez
(pdf). While I do see some good things in Hernandez's motion, such as a relative lack of reverse-rotation of the shoulders and keeping his elbow below his shoulders (which should protect his rotator cuff), I also saw two things that lead me to give him a worse than average rating. First, I think he may start rotating his shoulders before his PAS forearm is vertical, which may lead to problems with his Labrum or his biceps muscle (ala Chris Carpenter). Second, while it seems that he does pronate on some of his pitches, he also seems to supinate. This will increase the likelihood that he will have problems with his UCL.

Billy Wagner (Mets) - 2/21/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
Many people have asked me to do an analysis of the motion and mechanics of Billy Wagner
(pdf). Well, I have just completed a first draft of an analysis of Wagner's motion and don't like what I see. He seems to use nearly every trick on the book to achieve his velocity, including extending his glove-side knee as he turns his shoulders. To tell the truth, I am surprised that his elbow has held up as long as it has. This is likely due to the fact that he is a reliever and may also be due to what I believe are some signs of Early Pronation.

Roy Oswalt (Astros) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Better Than Average
I saw Roy Oswalt
(.pdf) pitch in the 2005 World Series and was intrigued by his motion (despite the fact that, given that I am a Cardinals fan, I loathe the Astros). Among other things, he seemed to have great shoulder rotation. I just completed an analysis of his motion and mechanics and like what I see. First, he does scap(ular) load to a degree, but keeps his elbows below his shoulders which should protect his rotator cuff. Second, I see signs of Early Pronation, which should protect his elbow. Third, he doesn't seem to start turning his shoulders until his pitching forearm is vertical, which should protect his labrum.

Max Scherzer (Mizzou) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
Over the weekend I came across an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talking about Mizzou pitcher Max Scherzer. I managed to find a few pictures of him and feel that he resembles Mark Prior in the he makes what some call an Upside-Down W as he turns his pitching arm over. In doing this, he brings his elbows above the level of his shoulders. As a result, I expect that Max Scherzer will have serious elbow problems as well as shoulder (especially rotator cuff) problems.

  • Max Scherzer Update 5/2/2006: Over the course of the season shoulder tendonitis caused Scherzer to miss three starts. I believe that this is related to the fact that Scherzer takes his elbows both above and behind his shoulders.
  • Max Scherzer Update 5/18/2014: While he is an elbow lifter Scherzer obviously hasn't had the problems that I thought he would. His velocity is down, which isn't a good sign, but he's lasted longer than I thought he would. I think part of the explanation for this miss is that Scherzer employs a trick that helps him work around his elbow lift.

Ian Kennedy (USC) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
Ian Kennedy
(.pdf) is a USC pitcher that many people are very high on but whose motion and mechanics remind me of Mark Prior (.pdf), Anthony Reyes (.pdf), and Paul Byrd (.pdf). As a result, I expect that he will experience serious elbow problems.

Anthony Reyes (Cardinals) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
I had heard great things about Anthony Reyes
(.pdf) during the 2005 season. However, when I got the chance to see him I was very disturbed; his motion looks remarkably like that of Mark Prior (.pdf) and Paul Byrd (.pdf), both of whom have had continual injury problems. As a result, I believe that as soon as the Cardinals put a significant load on him, he will start to break down (probably starting with the elbow but I also see shoulder problems ahead as well).

Zach Duke (Pirates) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Better Than Average
A few weeks ago on the HSBaseballWeb discussion forum, I found out that one of the parents in the forum had a son in the majors named Zach Duke
(.pdf). I took a look at his motion and, aside from some concern about the fact that he stiffens his glove-side leg as he releases the ball, I believe he should be healthier than most other pitchers.

Freddy Garcia (White Sox) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Better Than Average
I also saw Freddy Garcia
(.pdf) pitch in the 2005 World Series and was struck by how early he got his pitching arm up. I believe that this reduces the strain on his pitching arm and should keep his pitching arm healthier than average over the next few years.

Mark Prior (Cubs) - 2/17/2006
Injury Risk Rating = Worse Than Average
One of the things that got me started on this whole project was a piece that I came across entitled "Dr. Marshall Is No Fan Of Mark Prior's Motion." In it Dr. Mike Marshall analyzed Mark Prior's motion and mechanics and predicted that Prior would experience a series of injuries. It turned out that Dr. Marshall was right. I have since done my own analysis of Mark Prior's motion and mechanics
(.pdf) and have come to the same conclusion; that Mark Prior's motion and mechanics, rather than being the "perfect" example that Tom House has labeled them, instead are quite problematic. As a result, I believe that Prior will continue to have a worse than average chance of experiencing elbow problems.

What's more, I believe I have detected a problem in Mark Prior's motion, in which he takes his elbows both above and behind his shoulders, that will leave him vulnerable to problems with his rotator cuff.

  • Mark Prior Update 2/27/2006: A report is circulating around the Internet that says that Mark Prior is having problems with shoulder tightness. This doesn't surprise me, given that it's something that I predicted back at the end of 2005. I believe the root cause of the problem is that he brings his elbows both behind and above his shoulders.


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