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Freeland on the IL But Not Why You Think

On Friday the Colorado Rockies placed Kyle Freeland on the IL-15 retroactive to April 14th, which was the last game Freeland started in against the Toronto Blue Jays. However, many assumed that Freeland was placed on the injured list due to a collision at home plate when he was a pinch-runner in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies. Freeland expressed his frustration to reporters on Friday when he stated that postings online were rushing to conclusions that were not factually true.

Another statement that Freeland made on Friday, after it was announced that he would be added to the injured list, was that he believes it is the pitch timer that is causing so many pitchers to join the injured list. In his comments, Freeland specifically named Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves and Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians as examples of other starting pitchers that are already on the injured list as the regular season approaches the start of its fourth week. Strider is on the IL-15 after only pitching in two games this season for a total of nine innings. Freeland went on to blame the dramatic rise in elbow related injuries among pitchers on the introduction of the pitch timer last year and its shortened time this year. Pitchers are getting injured because they are expected to exert themselves at 100% every 15 to 18 seconds, Freeland said.

There are currently 87 starting pitchers on the injured list according to Covers.com. From 1995 to 1999 pitchers in Major League Baseball occupied the injured list for a total of 11,668 cumulative days according to Brodie Brazil from NBC Sports California. However, in 2023 the total number of cumulative days pitchers in the MLB spent on the injured list came to 31,558, Brazil goes on to point out. The spike in injuries to pitchers might be coincidental to the fact that 2023 was the first year the pitch timer was instituted in the majors’ regular season, but Freeland is asserting that it is causal.

The Major League Baseball Players’ Association seems to agree with Freeland as evidenced in a statement released by its director Tony Clark that opens its criticism of the Commissioner’s Office with, “Despite unanimous player opposition and significant concerns regarding health and safety…” The health issues that Clark’s statement referenced are believed to be flexistrains, UCL strains, and the increased need for Tommy Johns surgeries. The pitch timer was instituted to streamline pitching times in order to reduce games’ overall length, so how can this be resulting in increased injuries?

The general consensus is that pitching injuries began to rise in 2010 with the change in trends on how pitchers were utilized and expected to perform. The MLB records show that 241 pitchers spent time on the injured list in 2010 for various types of injuries. By 2021, the number of pitchers spending time on the injured list was 552. The incorporation of more rotation-based pitches to the repertoire of major leaguers, like Freeland who developed a new changeup this past off-season, is suspected to be the cause of the increased number of injuries.

When a pitcher wants to put more rotation on a ball, he must squeeze the ball hard. The increased amount of squeeze tension a pitcher uses puts increased strain on a pitchers UCL during their pitching motion. That strain may be minimized by varying lengths of recovery after particular pitches, but the pitch timer does not allow for pitcher tendon recovery beyond a few seconds before the same tendon is expected to fire at 100% again. This seems to be the crux of Freeland’s argument against the pitch timer, and the dramatic increase in frequency of starting pitcher elbow-related injuries seems to support his claim.


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