Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat some baseball.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:06 PM)
Sorry I'm a few minutes late. I was traveling home from Bristol today and ran into a bridge closing! But I'm ready to rock. So let's get started
John (T bay)
Isn't one of the differences that may be causing more injuries today the different mindset. When you had 4 man rotations and were expected to pitch complete games, you paced yourself more and weren't throwing all out of every pitch. With pitchers in 5 man rotations for 6 innings, maybe they are airing it out more, so maximum effort on every pitch will lead to more chance of injury.
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
Hi John. This is a point people make all the time, and a good one. It's one I never did get to in my Tommy John Surgery piece today. So I'm glad you brought it up. There are differences between that era and this era: 1) Velocity, 2) the variety of hard stuff in the repertoire (cutter, slider, some splits), 3) pitchers weren't throwing as hard as they can virtually every pitch, 4) the different approach of hitters (all these grinding ABs) and 5) the way all pitchers are trained now to throw a limited number of pitches every five days. There's no one explanation. But it's a fascinating topic.
I think the spike in arm injuries can be linked to kids playing baseball year round. When I was a kid, we all played one sport per season. And I would know, I play a doctor on internet chats
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
Totally agree. Dr. James Andrews has been really vocal speaking out about this of late. And other people in sports medicine agree. But what are professional teams supposed to do -- not draft or sign a kid with talent because he threw too much in Little League or Legion ball? It's an impossible situation unless it's addressed at that level.
Do you think Tommy John has any correlation to pitch counts? It seems like pitchers that used to throw more had stronger arms. Now that they throw less, their arms are weaker
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
Another great debate, RJ. We know pitch counts tell us something about use and overuse. We're still not sure exactly what. In my piece today, Stan Conte of the Dodgers says that while he's very conscious of pitch counts, he can't find any scientific study that links them to injuries in the big leagues. I recommend you read that whole discussion of pitch counts. I've been thinking about this in a whole new way since I worked on this.
John (Los Angeles)
How about combining storylines? 1) Substances like pine tar help for gripping the ball; 2) With better grip, pitchers can throw harder while maintaining command/control; 3) Throwing harder can increase risk for injuries such as UCL; 4) Therefore, as a hypothesis, the increase in pine tar/sunscreen/etc use (as it seems to be characterized in reporting) might correlate to the increase in TJ surgeries.
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
Wow. I love it when all the big story angles converge! Nice going, John. I think you're making a leap or two in dot-connecting science here that I wouldn't fully agree with. But who knows. Maybe you're onto something!
Is that pine tar on your keyboard? Come on, Jason - at least put it under your mouse!
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
I'm always discreet in the way I apply pine tar on my keyboard. You'd never even know I was using itttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
Do you think James Andrews will some day get voted into the baseball hall of fame?
Jayson Stark (1:15 PM)
I think he should. I think Dr. Jobe should. I think Dr. Yocum should. Right now, there's no sports-medicine wing of the Hall. So let's build on, Billy!
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
OK, let's switch topics. So much going on in the sport right now.
Ed (Queens Village)
Brewers for real or need to see more from them?
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
I absolutely think they're for real. My big worry is depth. If they're lucky on the health front, especially in their rotation, they should hang in there all year. If not, I'm not sure they have enough depth to plug a lot of holes or significant holes. But good lineup, good rotation, good bullpen, good approach as currently configured. So what's not for real?
Will Kimbrel have to start pitching with a "clean hat"? Goes to the tar on his hat after EVERY pitch
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
It's not just him, Tim. Next time you watch a game, start counting how often every pitcher goes to his cap. And in August, check out the sad, pine-tar-stained state of some of these caps, when pitchers wear the same one all year. And when was the last time you saw an umpire go to the mound to check even one of them? If pitchers stow their pine tar on their cap, their belt, their pant stripe, etc., nobody will ever say a word. So Kimbrel is safe. Unless MLB decides to muddle up this rule after totally ignoring it for years.
I didn't quite catch the reasoning behind the "drop and drive" explanation. People think that Seaver and Ryan wouldn't be successful today? More emphasis on the lower body sure would seem to take stress off the arm.
Jayson Stark (1:21 PM)
No one said that! Jeff Bittiger's point was that pitchers aren't taught to pitch that way anymore. The riding four-seam fastball is out of style. The more stressful, hard, two-seamer is seriously in style. And the drop and drive delivery isn't designed to throw that way.
Do the Phillies really let a bad bullpen destroy what is otherwise a pretty solid team? Is there any outside the box solution? For example, if Jesse Biddle keeps throwing well, bringing him up as a reliever like the Cardinals do with guys?
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
I don't see what the way out is, Brian. You can't make trades in April. For much of anything. The strength of their system, for three years, was supposed to be all their good young bullpen arms. And almost none of them have made an impact. Jesse Biddle has a long way to go before he can help in the big leagues in any role. Same with Ken Giles, the other name I hear all the time. They need to figure it out with the guys they have, and the guys they just sent down.
What do you think of the new 'interpretation' of the transfer rule? And what is the 'why' behind this change?
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
Pretty simple. The transfer rule wasn't broken. It was a mistake to try to fix it. I know they wanted to help "clarify" the language in advance of replay, but it wound up getting taken too literally. We all pretty much know an out when we see one. But not this month. I'm glad they stepped in and did this as quickly as they did.
Hearing anything about Kershaw's recovery? Saw he will pitch in Rancho Cucamonga today. Are Dodgers cautiously optimistic?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
That's a good way to describe it. I'm always wary when I hear anyone is "ahead of schedule." And it's a fact that most pitchers don't come back from this injury this quickly. But Clayton Kershaw is in such incredible physical condition, he'd be the perfect candidate to beat the traditional timetable. I'd just say to watch carefully, and believe he'll be back early when you see him back early.
Do you think teams are just more willing to DL guys these days, not just pitchers? I'd love to see the numbers on guys going on the DL these days vs. in the past. Seems like teams DL a guy with a hair trigger these days vs. the past where the DL wasn't so prevalent.
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
I've actually seen those numbers, Jeff. And they're not much different from recent years past, believe it or not. As I wrote in my piece today, though, the biggest change is that, while pitchers represent the same percentage of DL days, shoulders used to account for twice as many days per year as elbows. Now elbows have passed shoulders. I think that's a real indication that pitchers with elbow issues almost automatically go get surgery, and they're out for the year.
Jesse (Los Angeles, CA)
I think it's time for the Dodgers to stick to one permanent outfield, and it should be Andre, Kemp and Puig. Crawford is killing me with his noodle arm.
Jayson Stark (1:30 PM)
Have you seen his paycheck, Jesse? For now, they pretty much have no choice but to rotate the four of them and see how this shakes out. At some point, that may have to change. But it's too early, given how complicated this four-man outfield situation is.
Back to the TJ real quick ... can't we agree the human body wasn't designed to throw something overhead especially at 95+ mph. We (well, they) can do it. However, you can build a boat out of duct tape, but that's not the best way to build a boat. How many women's softball pitchers have to get TJ? Obviously not saying baseball should go to underhand pitching, but that's the way the human body was designed.
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
There's a great quote from Stan Conte in my story. He said it's his opinion that throwing IS a natural motion, and that shoulders WERE designed to throw. They just weren't designed to throw 100 pitches in two hours as hard as a guy can throw them. MLB is studying all of this right now. They've done biomechanical studies of every pitcher who has had Tommy John Surgery, for instance. We're learning on the fly as we speak. So get back to me in a year or two, and we all might think differently about this.
What's the Marlins plan for Giancarlo? They had a fire sale of everyone but him. No contract extension yet.
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
This offseason will be the big window, I think, for them to either sign him or trade him. I honestly believe they'll make a real offer to try to keep him as the centerpiece of their team for a long time. And if he isn't interested, that will be a sign that he doesn't want to stay there so they'll need to start shopping him.
Jayson, What was the stranger line from last nights Yankees Red Sox game, Brett Gardner going 0 for 3 with 4 runs scored or the Red Sox line score of 5 runs 4 hits 5 errors?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
Both classics. I'll vote 5-4-5, since that's an all-time first. Anybody disagree?
Hey Jayson, interesting question: Dr. Ciccoti is head of the elbow group, and the Phillies have been pretty good at minimizing elbow injuries, but their system must lead baseball in shoulder injuries (Martin, Morgan, Watson, etc). Are certain organization's guys more prone to elbow vs. shoulder injuries & vice-versa because of the techniques they teach?
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
I asked about this a lot -- not in relation to the Phillies, but because teams like the Braves and Diamondbacks have had so many of these. And I was told that, from what we know now, it's all a matter of bad luck. I know some teams (like the Rays, for instance) believe they have a program that works, and minimizes injuries. But Matt Moore proves that there's no foolproof, or injury-proof, program.
"...and that shoulders WERE designed to throw." Isn't TJ about elbows?
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Glad you brought this up. Dr. Ciccotti gave me an eloquent description of the miraculous balance of shoulder, elbow, legs, hips and core that's required for a human being to throw a baseball. I couldn't figure out where to get it in the piece. But it's relevant to answering this question. When that balance among all those elements gets out of whack, that's when pitchers get hurt. But if you think about the throwing motion, you realize that it's impossible just to throw with your elbow. It's the elbow and shoulder working together -- and not always in perfect symmetry.
The Mets haven't hit at all and are 12-10 against a rough opening schedule. Shocked?
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
The Mets are amazing. Their team average is under .220. They led the league in striking out. They've gone through three closers just this week. Their 12th in the league in ERA. And they're over .500. That seems impossible, doesn't it? But that's why they play!
Ben (West Va.)
Pirates struggling already and falling behind in NL Central! Think they'll consider a move on Polanco sooner rather than later?
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
If by "sooner," you mean the minute he's past the Super-2 date, absolutely. They can't wait for him to get there. That's the impression I get. But they're not going to call him up just days before a point that would save them millions.
Should have a whole chat about TJ theres literally so many variables to talk about/consider. I guess it ties in with the earlier comment about playing baseball in one season, but I would like to know the number of miles on arms back in the day compared to now when they first enter the league.
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
I've been trying to juggle all the awesome TJ questions with other baseball questions because I know people are interested in both. But as I said earlier, there's pretty much a universal belief now that kids pitch too much before they ever reach pro ball, and don't give their arms enough time to rest and recover. The tougher question is what big-league teams are supposed to do about it. That has to change long before they ever get drafted.
A.Heaney a marlin this season,Jayson?
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
Based on spring training and what we've seen so far, you'd sure think so. The date depends on a bunch of variables, but no sooner than early June, I'd guess.
So pitchers like using pine tar to grip the ball, and hitters say they like the pitchers using it so the ball won't slip and hit them in the head. Maybe it's time to just make the stuff legal?
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
Said on Baseball Tonight last night that this is the most ignored rule in baseball history. So what's the point of having a rule like that? Fix it. Tweak it. Repeal it. I don't care which. But it seems hypocritical to suspend a guy like poor Michael Pineda for what basically amounts to stupidity.
Based on what I first read from the Yankees/Red Sox fiasco, it seemed that the argument for discreet pine tar usage was that it helps grip the ball when it's cold. Now it seems from what i'm reading that pitchers use it all the time, year round, regardless of weather conditions. If that's the case, the pin tar is obviously helping the pitcher, so why should teams/players be ok with "discrete" usage?
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
This is simple, Pete. Why does Team X not do or say anything about a pitcher on Team Y stashing pine tar (or whatever) on his cap? Because all of Team X's pitchers are doing it, too. So MLB needs to decide: Is this cheating or not? If it's not, somebody needs to clarify this!
Derek (Mobile, Alabama)
If pitchers can use pine tar doesn't that allow hitters to use a George Brett amount of pine tar?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Hitters ARE using pine tar. You want them smearing it from the top of their bat to the handle? It would mar the artistic beauty of the game.
How good can Daisuke Matsuzaka be in the closer role for the Mets?
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
I hate to be skeptical, Del -- but I'm skeptical. Dice-K hasn't quite been what you'd call a strike-throwing machine. So I don't see him being built for this gig.
Thoughts on Tanaka so far?
Jayson Stark (1:52 PM)
He's must-see viewing. Who else in the big leagues is getting swings and misses with five different pitches? And he seems to have a competitive gear and innate feel for outthinking hitters that makes him almost impossible to figure out. I expected him to be good. I didn't expect him to be this good.
Considering the decline in offense, and that fans like offense, shouldn't MLB consider cracking down on this rule as a way to get BA and HR totals back up to reverse the effects of Ks and shifts?
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
You're talking about the pine-tar rule, AJ? I don't think it would accomplish what you're setting out to accomplish -- unless pine tar is a more flubber-like substance than it's been made out to be. All you'd accomplish, I'm guessing, is a lot more walks and HBPs.
Re: kids pitching too much, I can see where pitching year round might be a cause but I don't see where throwing too many pitches in one sitting could be a problem. I mean, haven't kids been doing that since baseball was invented?
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
Depends how you define "too many pitches." There are strict pitch counts in Little League now, specifically designed to prevent too many pitches in one "sitting." It's the accumulation of all those pitches, and not enough rest to allow the arm to heal and rejuvenate, that seems to be the big issue. At least that's what the research by Dr. Andrews and Glenn Fleisig seems to suggest.
Would you predict that Pittsburgh has the best OF, both offensively and defensively, in MLB next year?
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
I'm in. I spent a morning in spring training pretty much just watching Polanco. And if there's a team that has three better young all-around talents in its outfield than him, McCutchen and Marte, I haven't seen it.
Considering the decline in offense, let's get the DH in the NL, no?
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
What's your take on Cole vs. Gomez? Who's more at fault?
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
I think the culture of the sport is at fault. I'm not denying that Carlos Gomez can take it over the top at times. But I like watching him, personally. He plays with personality. I'm in favor of that. I'm not in favor of watching fly balls. But I think Cole overreacted because he's a product of a culture that tells him that's what he's supposed to do. After that, everybody was wrong. But it's time for a long, hard look at that culture.
How many pitchers would have had TJ in the 60's? Koufax? How many pitchers lost their career to elbow injuries that could have been treated today?
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
No way to know, but I'm guessing a lot. This myth that nobody ever got hurt back then is laughable. Isn't it?
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Wow. Not sure where the time went, but I only have time for one more.
Whats your take on the Aaron Harang resurgence?
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Talked about this on TV last night, too. Great story here. If you really look closely, you'll see a guy who has lost almost no fastball velocity over the course of his career, who has learned to mix two-seam and four-seam fastballs, who has his put-away breaking ball back and whose ugly year last season wasn't as ugly in some ways as it looked. Bet you didn't know the guy who led the Mariners in shutouts wasn't Felix or Iwakuma. It was Aaron Harang. Of course!
Jayson Stark (2:02 PM)
Thanks to everyone who checked in. Awesome, thoughtful questions on Tommy John Surgery and all sorts of stuff. Thanks for playing! See you down the road in Chat Land.