Baseball has evolved into a sport relying heavily on conditioning practices. When trainers first saw the benefit of added muscle and flexibility it became part of the off-the-field training for many players, especially pitchers. Although, with the added training came weary coaches and managers keeping an extra eye on their pitchers as not to let their arms blowout. Pitch counts and innings limits were created and thus the beginning of babying professional pitchers began.
It would be safe to assume that with added training there would be fewer injuries; not true. A look at the 2014 season and the pitchers who will miss the entire season or enter opening day on the disabled list is staggering.
The list of notable injured pitchers on opening day includes: Clayton Kershaw, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Patrick Corbin, Josh Beckett, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Matt Harvey, Doug Fister, Josh Johnson, Cole Hamels, Jeff Locke, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Jeremy Hellickson, Mat Latos, and Jhoulys Chacin.
Many other lesser-known pitchers and position players are starting the season on the disabled list, but the real problem here are how many star pitchers and team aces are hurt.
Some of the injuries, such as those requiring surgery, fall into one category whereas others like stiff necks fall into another. How is it that pitchers who spent so much time training seem to get injured at a far greater rate? Are they just no longer able to play through the pain?
Many of these injuries and disabled list stints are more precautionary. The Los Angeles Dodgers do not want Clayton Kershaw rushing back at the risk of doing any serious permanent damage. The thinking in baseball now seems to be in the long-term rather than winning in the present A lot of this could have to do with money as paying an injured player his full salary for one year while he sits out is a lot less hurtful to the owner’s wallet than paying him for four seasons where he is consistently sidelined.
Over the last several years the innings pitched totals have diminished. Not since 1980 has anyone reached the 300 innings pitched plateau. For a long time this was not an unusual accomplishment. Now with the state of baseball it appears impossible. Star pitchers are treated like they are made of glass and eased into becoming the next workhorse. There is simply no trust in their natural ability.
Complete games have also gone to the wayside as teams instead implement strategic roles for each pitcher in the bullpen. Since the turn of the century only James Shields in 2011 has reached double digits in complete games when he finished the season with 11 of them. In the most recent 2013 season, four players all had 4 complete games which ended up as the league high. Asking a pitcher to finish the game they started is no longer an obligation. The baseball pitcher has turned into a wimp.