First Pitch: Pushing the Limits of Human Performance

There are over seven-point-six billion people in the world.

There are at least 4,300 different philosophies and religions to follow.

I’ll be damned if the one I choose is TINSTAAPP.

There is no such thing as a pitching prospect?

A belief based on fear of the inevitable: Injuries.

Post a photo or video of a pitcher online, and you’re destined to get predictions of a pending injury in some non-descript future date.

Most of the pitchers who receive injury predictions will end up getting injured.

You can see the appeal of the predictions.

In a world with over 7.6 billion individual versions of reality, and 4,300 attempts to get everyone on the same page, we’re all left swimming in a sea of uncertainty.

So, if you can predict something you’re almost sure is going to happen — like “Pitcher A will get injured” or “Tim Williams will be watching What If…? on Wednesday morning” — then there’s a little piece of us inside that comes alive at getting something right.

It doesn’t even matter if we’re right in the way that we’re right.

Most pitching prospects are going to get injured. That probably has nothing to do with their delivery.

For example, you can have an extremely involved delivery with free flowing limbs like a squid, such as Anthony Solometo:

I wrote about Solometo yesterday on Pirates Prospects, mostly sticking to tracking the movement of the ball through his delivery.

I’ve written about a lot of different mechanics over the years. They all come with the same injury predictions. Some of those players got hurt. Some haven’t gotten hurt yet. Injuries are just one of many mines in the minefield that separates a young professional player from reaching and succeeding in the majors long-term.

In Solometo’s case (using him as the latest example), we could spend all day talking about reasons why he won’t make the majors, and that list extends beyond potential injury.

A better use of time is focusing on what makes him different and special from other pitchers, and how that uniqueness could lead to him making it.


Way back in 776 BC, the first Olympic Games were held.

The first games were held as a religious ceremony honoring Zeus, while providing an entertaining way to discover the potential of man.

Today, the Olympic games celebrate individual countries, still providing an entertaining way to continue pushing the limits of the human body.

Ideally, you’ve got the best athletes representing the limits of human potential — limits that continue to be pushed further and further to the extreme with each new set of games.

Major League Baseball accomplishes the same purpose, just on a more regular schedule.

Through MLB, we know that a pitcher can throw a ball 100 miles-per-hour. Then 101. Then 102, 103, 104, and 105.1.

That top speed will eventually be broken, and the pitcher who sets the new speed will receive the same token injury concerns.

We know through MLB that pitchers can throw pitches that move the width of the plate horizontally, while concurrently moving from shoulders to knees vertically. The arm, wrist, and finger manipulation needed to throw such a pitch would bring on injury predictions.

We know through MLB that pitchers can throw X amount of innings per year, X amount of years in their career, before starting to see a decline from their best versions of fastballs and breaking balls.

Every single pitcher can reach all of those achivements.

Not every pitcher will.

In a game where pitchers are asked to continue pushing the limits of human capability, you’ll see some pitchers break where others merely bend.

And yet, others will neither bend nor break.


While it’s easy to say that any given pitcher is a risk to get injured during his career, the more challenging prediction is wondering who might avoid injury.

And, why?

Avoiding injury can be done, and I’ve yet to see a unified method to achieve this goal.

Right now, pitchers and teams across MLB are attempting a trendy approach of shortened arm paths, throwing the ball similar to how a quarterback throws a football. Perhaps that approach will reduce injuries while maintaining velocity and spin. Or, that method of throwing from your scapula instead of your shoulder could move the normal pitcher injury zones from “Shoulder and Elbow” to “Back and Shoulder”.

What if that’s not the answer for all? What if a cookie-cutter approach achieves the opposite with some players? What if pitchers have a natural movement, and forcing them into a “safer” delivery could actually put them into harm’s way?

Rather than pick on Solometo, let’s look at another funky delivery pitcher: Tim Lincecum.

There were injury predictions for Lincecum from the moment he arrived in the majors. Yet, he won two Cy Young awards and made four All-Star appearances before any of those concerns were realized.

In a way, the injury predictions for pitchers end up putting the cart in front of the horse.

They focus on how long an MLB pitcher can stick around, rather than focusing first on the question of whether an MLB pitcher can make it.

Anthony Solometo is currently a very young prospect, just drafted out of high school. As a prospect evaluator, I’m concerned with whether he’s going to reach the majors at all, and then how good he can become at that level.

There can be concern of an injury hitting between now and then, to prevent Solometo from reaching the majors. However, even if we could predict injury, we can’t predict the “when”.

How do we know that Solometo isn’t destined for some amazing years in his 20s, before injury kicks in? How do we know injury will ever kick in? And if it does, is a pitcher injury even a career ender anymore?

Jameson Taillon is a great example of how it is not.

Taillon covered all of those scenarios. He went down with Tommy John before his MLB career started. Then, he went down with Tommy John again, after a combined 3.67 ERA in 466 innings in the majors.

Taillon returned from that second surgery, and has put up a decent season, even winning AL Pitcher of the Month in July.

Granted, Taillon overhauled his mechanics after the second surgery, and spent his entire time with the Pirates working to reduce the movement in his delivery. However, that was extra movement that made his fastball flatten out, and made him easier to hit.

I don’t see that being an issue with Solometo. His fastball definitely doesn’t appear easy to hit, and it’s mostly due to all of the movement — starting with his body, and carrying over to his pitches.

Ultimately, every MLB pitcher is adding a new data point to the continued elevation of human performance.

Concurrently, as we push human performance further into the unknown, we increase and improve the ability to repair and rebuild humans. Just think of how many medical procedures were invented and perfected just to address a sports injury.

Solometo, and every other pitcher with their own unique deliveries, should quest to be their own data point in the capability of human performance.

Injuries are inevitable in a sport that pushes the limits of the human body.

There can be as many theories on how to avoid pitching injuries as there are world religions.

Rather than focus on the seemingly inevitable downside of injuries, we should celebrate the incomparable upside of individualism:

One day, all of us will have the ability to pop a few Dramamine in preparation of watching Anthony Solometo fooling hitters with his funky delivery.

Daily Links

**Pirates Make Room in Indianapolis for the Prospects

**Breaking Down Anthony Solometo’s Ridiculously Deceptive Delivery

**Prospect Watch: Both DSL Pirates Teams Win on Monday Morning

**Pirates Blow 5-Run Lead; Joey Votto Powers Reds to 9-5 Win

**Pirates Place Jacob Stallings on Concussion IL; Recall Taylor Davis

**Pittsburgh Pirates Three Stars of the Week Sep. 13-19

**Pirates Prospects: Patience, Power Is Coming Soon

**Game Recap: Bullpen Hammered as Pirates Blow 5-0 Lead

**This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History, September 20th, Two No-Hitters and Jason Bay

**Card of the Day: 1909 E95 Nick Maddox

PBN Updates

Pirates Prospects beer glasses and shirts are available in the PBN Shop, along with our remaining inventory of 10th Anniversary Prospect Guides.

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