McNulty, Ryan, Development of the modern day pitcher: A risk vs. reward analysis of the era of flamethrowers, Arak Journal, University of Delaware, 23rd Edition.
The article titled, “Development of the Modern Day Pitcher: A Risk vs. Reward Analysis of the Era of Flamethrowers”, by Ryan McNulty aims to analyze the potential risks and rewards of the focus on the Tommy John surgery by modern day pitchers. The research problem being addressed is whether the increased emphasis on speed in baseball pitching and the subsequent increase in cases of ulnar collateral ligament construction surgery are as beneficial to the long-term sustainability of an athlete’s ability to compete at the highest level. In addition to this, another bone of contention is the ethicality of so much dependence on ulnar collateral surgery by baseball players who contend that by having the surgery done as early as possible in their careers, they stand a better chance of prolonging their playing careers while avoiding surgery.
The emphasis on speed in baseball is evident in the first paragraph as the article’s author vividly describes the events of a pitch as they unfold. The author focuses on the pitch and speed of the fast moving ball as it lands on the catcher’s mitt, traveling at over a hundred miles per hour. Ryan spells out some statistics, naming Aroldis Chapman as the probable pitcher of the over a hundred mile pitch by being the most consistent fastball thrower in major league baseball today. Furthermore, the author acknowledges Chapman’s 105.1 miles per hour pitch as the fastest ever recorded in a baseball game in history. The article also notes that there are even more modern day flamethrowers coming through in major league baseball. The statistics presented by the author serve to put into perspective the importance of speed in modern day baseball. More evidence pointing to the dawn of the “flamethrowers” is highlighted by the fact that there has been a marked increase in the number of starting pitchers consistently pitching triple digit speeds.
Other than the statistics, another indicator of the growing emphasis on speed in modern day baseball is also evident in the increased number of the primary league pitchers undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery at different points in a season. For example, the author notes that in the 2012 season there were a record thirty-six major league pitchers undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery. The author said that a majority of the pitchers confined to the treatment table are starters for their teams, established professionals, who were looked upon to provide inspiration to their respective teams. The pitchers were all out having to nurse elbow injuries suffered exerting themselves while making record breaking, fast pitches. Ryan mentions two minor-league professionals, Dylan Bundy and Jameson Taillon who despite their young age have already broken the one hundred miles an hour mark in their pitches. The catch here is that both athletes had already undergone the ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery. The author attributes the increased cases of elbow injuries to the dramatic rise of velocity in major league baseball, a trend which has been persistent over the past decade.
Ryan McNulty notes that this trend has been enabled by modern day improvements in the way pitchers approach the game. He highlights contemporary developments in the contemporary day baseball game which he identifies as being central to normalizing the increased instances of triple-digit fastballs in major league baseball. Some of the improvements noted include an extended youth baseball season, increased affinity for radar gun figures even at the lower levels and an amplified focus on pitch counts for professionals. The author, however, views the benefits of these developments with a pinch of salt, noting that the era of the flamethrower nowadays ironically coincides with the age of the obliterated elbow.
Another advancement which according to the author negatively impacts the arm of the modern day pitcher is the introduction of the radar gun. This is particularly true at the lower levels such as in the high school level. Since the advent of speed measurements in baseball, speed is now considered the ‘eye candy’ of baseball as noted by Verducci. The fascination with speed has gone to such expansive heights such that even scouts are required to make recordings about speed in their reports with record signing bonuses going to the hardest throwing college and high school pitchers. The author highlights the unhealthy obsession with velocity noting that professional baseball teams have the audacity to offer big money to unproven youngsters just because they can pitch hard. Ryan McNulty views the sport’s dependence on medicine and especially surgery as undesirable developments. The author laments that the sport’s obsession with speed is at the forefront in the destruction of athlete’s arms around which the game is primarily built.
Overall, after analyzing the article, it is relatively straightforward and the author conducts exhaustive research to put such a contentious issue into perspective. From the first paragraph, it is possible to get a clearer picture of where the article is headed. It is a well-written article with an exhaustive presentation of the main issues, as a whole, it is relevant and entirely convincing.