Breaking down Delhomme's bionic elbow

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
10:58
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
QB PITCH COUNT
Jake Delhomme's attempts (as Panther's starter) and the team's record
Attempts2003-072008
0-19 2-0
0-0
20-29 24-6
3-1
30+ 10-21
1-1

ESPN researcher Greg Dohmann has done some extensive and fascinating research on Jake Delhomme's return from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Previous quarterbacks who underwent the surgery -- otably Craig Erickson and Rob Johnson -- failed in comeback attempts, so there really isn't much precedent for evaluation. In general, Delhomme has always been most effective when the Panthers limit him to between 20-29 pass attempts. In fact, the Panthers have won 21 of the last 24 games when Delhomme stays in that range.

So what effect, if any, has the surgery had on Delhomme? Interestingly, he has displayed improved efficiency later in games -- when he crosses the 30-attempt threshold. Entering this season, he completed just 57 percent of those passes with an 86.0 passer rating as the Panthers' starter. This season, his best completion percentage (65.0) comes on attempts beyond 30, and he's sporting a 95.6 rating.

ROBO-JAKE: Production when throwing 31+ passes as starter

'03-'072008
Completion percentage57.0
65.0
Touchdowns-interceptions13-8
1-0
Passer rating86.0
95.6

Because of the lack of precedent for quarterbacks undergoing Tommy John surgery, the best comparison for Delhomme's performance are the athletes who most frequently require the procedure: starting pitchers. When looking at four notable pitchers who returned from Tommy John surgery this past season, we see that, like Delhomme, their biggest boost in performance (or where they regained previous form) came later in the game, while the most significant decline came early in an outing. Delhomme completed nearly 64 percent of his first 10 attempts in 2006 (his last full season); this year, he has completed less than 59 percent of those passes.

Notable pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery:
Opponent's BA in last full season vs. 2008, by no. of pitches
Pitcher1-2526-5051-7576-100
Francisco Liriano.208/.259
.198/.278.229/.265.183/.220
Carl Pavano.252/.368
.319/.220.345/.381.358/.154
Chris Carpenter.225/.296
.224/.300.258/.222.201/NA
Josh Johnson.267/.303
.274/.241.223/.264.204/.299
Jake Delhomme: comp. pct. 2006 vs. 2008 by no. of pass attempts
Player1-1011-2021-3031+
Jake Delhomme63.8/58.6
60.0/57.161.7/60.554.9/65.0

The Panthers also seem to be managing Delhomme's recovery by limiting his downfield attempts. Jake has attempted just 18 passes of 21 or more yards in seven games this season, just 15 percent of his pass attempts. That is easily the lowest percentage of his pass attempts as the Panthers' starter. Delhomme has completed just 6 of those 18 attempts.

DINK AND DELHOMME: Jake Delhomme, 21+ yard targets*
YearAttempts of
21+ yards
Total attemptsAttempts of 21+ as
a percentage of total
200818
12015%
200649
26319%
200562
26224%
200497
31031%
2003129
26648%
* Left in 3rd game in 2007

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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