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The Eh Game

Blue Jays will look to science to explain injury woes

Ben Kashin
Eh Game

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Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek with assistant trainer Hap Hudson (Getty)

GM Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays announced on Monday that the team will investigate the rash of injuries suffered by their pitching staff this year. It's unlikely that they'll find a singular reason for all the arm-aches, but it's a good sign that they're at least looking into it and making sure it's not something that can be avoided (via Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com):

"We're certainly examining it," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said recently. "We're examining maybe workloads in the Minor Leagues -- are we doing enough, are we over protecting guys in the Minor Leagues? We're looking at re-evaluating arm actions, things like that.

"We're going to examine it, no doubt about it, but I know there definitely seems to be more injuries across the game, more Tommy Johns, seems like everybody is going through it. Almost everybody seems to have had one, one way or the other. So it's just for us, it all snowballed at once."

While the Jays aren't the only ones who've had multiple pitchers go down this season, they've definitely been hit the hardest. Throughout the course of the pre- and regular season Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Brandon Morrow, Luis Perez, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch, Sergio Santos and Robert Coello have all spent time on the DL with various pitching related injuries. Drabek and Hutchison were hit the hardest, both needing Tommy John surgery. All in all, the Jays arms are getting injured at a staggering rate.

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One way the Jays plan to investigate the injuries is in the form of biomechanics, something manager John Farrell is familiar with from his time with the Indians (again, via MLB.com):

"When in Cleveland, I did it for four straight years," Farrell said. "So, yeah, it's another tool for evaluation. It's not a cure-all, and we've had discussions recently internally here about looking to incorporate that more than it's been.

"I can't say that previous years there's been any usage of that tool, but there's an education process that people [who] are interpreting the reports that come back that have to go through, understanding what it describes, but what are the normal ranges of different testing areas? Ultimately, the bottom line is, when you get the information, how do you use it? That's the biggest key, because in and of itself, it can be useless if it's not interpreted correctly and ultimately applied at the field level."

What is biomechanics you ask? Well, it's "the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms." Basically, some pitchers have a very smooth and efficient delivery while others put unnecessary strain on their arms with extra movement. For a better explanation, ESPN The Magazine broke down the deliveries of both Greg Maddux and Stephen Strasburg back in April. It's easy to see why Maddux averaged 33 starts per season for 21 years while Strasburg has already had Tommy John once and was on a strict innings limit in 2012. For a more in-depth look at biomechanics and how it can be applied to pitching, check out this report by Glenn Fleisig at the American Sports Medicine Institute.

[Video: Nationals shutdown Stephen Strasburg]

Whether or not the Blue Jays are able to connect the dots and pinpoint the source of their injury woes, it's good to see that they're not just chalking it up to bad luck. Maybe biomechanics won't provide an answer this season, but going forward it can be used as a preventative measure for some of their young high-end pitching prospects in order to avoid a repeat of 2012 in the future.

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