MLB's Top Pitchers' Elbows Are Exploding at an Alarming Rate

Atlanta Braves v Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

Another day, another potentially devastating arm injury to an important major league pitcher. On Tuesday, Boston Red Sox righty Nick Pivetta hit the injured list with a flexor strain in his right elbow. It's the latest in a string of elbow injuries to hit top MLB hurlers this season. While that has been an escalating trend over the past decade, things have gotten to an extreme level so far in 2024. And it shows no sign of stopping.

As ESPN's Jeff Passan pointed out, in a 48-hour period this weekend Eury Perez, Shane Bieber and Spencer Strider were all diagnosed with ulnar collateral ligament injuries. All three are likely headed for Tommy John surgery. They will add to a pile of aces currently recovering from Tommy John that includes Shohei Ohtani, Sandy Alcantara, Jacob deGrom, Robbie Ray, Walker Buehler, Lucas Giolito, Shane McClanahan and more. That list does not yet include reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole, who is out with an elbow injury as well.

So why do all these dominant pitchers keep dropping like flies? No one knows for sure. Though, from a non-medical perspective it seems fairly obvious that as pitchers have begun throwing harder and going max-effort on every pitch, injuries have increased. Yes, the MLB Players Association is blaming the shorter pitch clock, and some pitchers have claimed it's because they can't use sticky stuff. I'm sure both issues have contributed to the issue a bit, but as scouts and franchises have prized velocity and spin rates above all else, injuries have become far more common.

Sure, there may be other factors at play, yet players are pitching less than they ever have before but throwing harder. The problem can't be overuse as it was decades ago. Instead, it's fairly obvious the focus on the intensity of every pitch is the issue. Rather than change speeds and locate as pitchers did in the past, their entire quest now is to spin the ball past hitters at max effort every time it leaves their hands. It has become increasingly clear arm muscles and ligaments aren't meant to handle that.

Essentially, if you throw at max effort and are a high-velocity pitcher, it's not an "if" but "when" you'll wind up injured. Every MLB pitching elbow is now a ticking time bomb. That's a really bad sign for the future of the sport.

MLB and the players association need to get together and figure out solutions now. If stars keep dropping like this the product will undoubtedly suffer. In fact, it already has.