The Buzz: Stephen Strasburg And Tommy John Surgery


Rewind back to the early 2000’s when the Chicago Cubs had a pitcher by the name of Mark Prior in their organization. Scouts from all over were raving about the talents that Prior had when he was pitching. In 2003, Prior’s first full season he had went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts. That only intensified the belief that Prior was going to be the best pitcher in the Majors for the next decade or so. However, that would wind up to be Mark Prior’s last complete season that he has played in. As ever since 2004, Prior has battled with injury after injury and no longer has the powerful arm he once did. Prior signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers this week, signaling the first time he will throw in a major league organization since 2006. Now, Lets bring it to present day and talk about that similarities that Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg may have with Mark Prior.

I hope you all had the chance to see Stephen Strasburg pitch this year, because will not have the chance to see him pitch again until the 2012 season. As the rookie is going to have Tommy John Surgery and will be out for at least the 2011 season.

Here is a brief description of Tommy John Surgery, courtesy of Bone Break on WKRG.Com News…

I think the most common misconception about Tommy John Surgery among baseball fans is the myth that a pitcher would not be able to pitch again. However that is far from reality, as the video states, Tommy John went on to pitch another 12 seasons after he had the original surgery.Yahoo Sports takes a look at some All-Stars that have underwent Tommy John surgery and still had success after the surgery. Among those highlighted are Greg Maddux, Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, and Ryan Dempster.

Even though it is discouraging to see that Stephen Strasburg needed to have Tommy John Surgery it does not by any mean indicate that his baseball career is over. We all will still have the chance to see Strasburg in the 2012 season. However, one thing to note when we get to that point is that we may not see the same Stephen Strasburg.  Before the surgery, Strasburg was averaging 97.3 MPH on his fastball, 90 MPH on his changeup, and 82.4 MPH on his curveball. In all likelihood we will probably see his velocity drop after the surgery, because it could be reasonable to assume that his arm will never be 100% recovered. That will be the interesting part to watch, to see if Strasburg can still have success without throwing with the same velocity that he was before he had the surgery. For What it’s worth, Strasburg was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA while averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings before he got injured.

Even though it is hard to blame the Nationals, you have to wonder if they used Strasburg in the correct way. Maybe Strasburg should have started this year out as a reliever instead of a starting pitcher. That seems to be the way to handle young pitchers when they first come to the majors. The Cardinals did it with Adam Wainwright, the Yankees with Joba Chamberlain, the Rays with David Price, and the Reds could do it with Aroldis Chapman. Those were all young pitchers who started their career’s off as relievers and then moved into the starting rotation. You would have to argue that if the Nationals would have done the same with Strasburg, maybe just maybe we would not be talking about Stephen Strasburg and Tommy John surgery today.

*Stats were courtesy of FanGraphs