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Assessing Injury Risks with Pitchers


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#1 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:35 PM

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Over the past few years I've grown tired of all these fantasy "experts" talking about the Verducci effect, and predicting injuries simply by looking at numbers on a page of stats.  Let me preface this post by saying that this is my OPINION.  I am just trying to help other fantasy owners by teaching them what to actually look for when determining the injury risk associated with a particular pitcher.

My credibility: I am a 26 year old, former pre-season all-american pitcher, who never made it past the collegiate level due to a rash of arm injuries both to my ulner collateral ligiment and biceps tendon.  I know arm injuries first hand.  Also, throughout my life i've been taught by some of the finest baseball instructors around... guys who coach current major leaguers and used to play in the bigs themselves.

First things first, the Verducci effect, in my opinion, and that of many other highly regarded baseball people, is a farse.  Why?  It is simple.  For major leaguers, starting pitchers throw on a very structured schedule.  They pitch every 5th day and condition their bodies and arms to do so.  If a major leaguer trains their arm properly, and uses good mechanics, they should not experience any structural problems other than possible fatigue or "dead arm" which is very common. What I am trying to say is this: so long as you  train properly IT IS NOT HOW OFTEN YOU THROW, BUT HOW YOU THROW (Mechanically speaking) THAT CAUSES INJURY.

Now... That being said, what is the proper way to throw? Each person has their own unique mechanics, and there is not a "perfect cookie-cutter delivery" that every pitcher should follow.  However, there are a certain parts of a delivery that a pitcher must execute correctly in order to avoid injury.  Here are the 5 biggest things to watch out for:

1. Any pitcher that fails to get there arm ready (hand above elbow and preferably as high as the ear or top of the head) to drive forward either before or as soon as their glove foot lands is in jeopardy. The most gruesome injury here isn't TJ, but the spiral fracture of the Humerus (upper arm). Cole Hamels did this in high school btw. (MLB Examples: Jarrod Parker, Shelby Miller)

2. Any pitcher that swings their arm behind their shoulder line or (like Lincecum or Porcello) sticks their arms straight down (Jarrod Parker), is in jeopardy.

2a. Pitchers that have a combination of #1 or #2 often creates what is call an "Inverted W" in their delivery.  Their glove and throwing arms create what looks like an upside down W. Throwing hand below their elbow, shoulder blades clinched... Google image search inverted W throwing motion and you will see plenty of examples... You can pretty much take it to the bank that if a SP does this, they will wind up with some sort of elbow or shoulder injury... Need examples? Sure... Mark Prior, John Smoltz, Adam Wainwright, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Reyes, C.J. Wilson, A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum... I could go on and on.

3. Any pitcher that strides so far that they have to bend at the waist, is in jeopardy of blowing out their lower back, and stressing their glove knee. (Roy Oswalt)

4. Any pitcher that allows their pitching arm to be flung away from their body (on their pitching side) or allows their glove side to fly open will have shoulder problems. (Peavy, Samardzija)

5. Any pitcher that supinates any pitch will develop bone chips or bone spurs (Sabathia) OR break their elbow (Zumaya).


My advice would be to just look for video on whatever pitcher you wish to analyze, and simply try to pause the video at certain points in his delivery. Take a look at where his hand is in relation to his elbow... check out his stride, see how he follows through with both his glove and pitcher arm. That's what I do, and I have had great success over the years when it comes to the health of my fantasy rotation.

Many pitchers nowadays ignore problems with their arms because of the growing success rate of Tommy John... Rather than make adjustments at the risk of losing their effectiveness, they just let their tendons take them as far as possible until they rupture, and then call in the re-inforcements. Post Tommy John tendons have a 5-10 year shelf-life. Tendons are tougher than ligaments, however the original ligament had the benefit of a blood supply, meaning it could partially repair itself. The new "ligament," has no blood supply. So once it starts to go, it goes fast.

Fun fact: Strasburg didn't rupture his UCL. A partial tear was found, and the Nats convinced him to have the surgery rather than rehab it because they figured a full rupture was probably going to happen. Technically speaking, he has a tendon overlaying his original ligament... MLB teams are more worried about maximizing the return on their investment, and unfortunately, they have stayed from teaching pitchers the proper mechanics.  This is because they know that, rather than tinkering with their mechanics, a simple surgery with a high success rate can repair their pitchers with only a year of down time. If it doesn't work... well, they can always just draft the next "phenom".


P.S. - Have any of these geniuses who swear by the "Verducci Effect" ever actually sat down and watched video of how these pitchers actually throw? Have any of them every realized that the greater the number of innings a pitcher throws, the greater the probablity of injury? That is just pure math.  Obviously a pitcher who throws 20 innings has less risk than a pitcher who throws 200... Injury jumps increase the probability of an injury no matter how a person throws...not because of a structual problem. Food for thought!

Hope you guys are able to take this information and put it to good use.  I am here for anyone who has questions, whether it be on the technicality of the mechanics i just explained, or if they need help analyzing a certain pitchers mechanics.

Thanks!
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#2 sasnumberonefan

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:43 PM

What do you think about Kershaw and Bumgarner's deliveries? Assuming you have watched film on them, any injuries you see in the future based on your research? thanks!
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#3 jb_power

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:52 PM

Good post Bruz.  Do you have a short list (or long list) of current MLBers to avoid in 2013 due to poor mechanics?

#4 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:57 PM

View Postsasnumberonefan, on 08 March 2013 - 12:43 PM, said:

What do you think about Kershaw and Bumgarner's deliveries? Assuming you have watched film on them, any injuries you see in the future based on your research? thanks!

Kershaw does a nice job with his mecanics... He is able to get his hand above his elbow (although it could be a little higher), he does an EXCELLENT job in his follow-through.  Glove right infront of his body, arm properly following through without recoil. If there is one downside to his delivery it would be that he takes  HUGE stride.  Pitchers that over-stride find themselves more suceptible to lowe back or knee injuries.  However, that is just nit-picking.  I like his mechanics and do not feel he is at risk in the short-term so long as he continues to train properly and keeps his mechanics clean.

Bumgarner I have a bit of a problem with...

2. Any pitcher that swings their arm behind their shoulder line or (like Lincecum or Porcello) sticks their arms straight down (Jarrod Parker), is in jeopardy.

Bumgarner swings his arm so far back that he loses the integrity of his sholder line.  His shoulder line is actually closed off, (facing the left handed batters box), so there is added stress on his shoulder when delivering the ball... I could see him developing some shoulder issues down the line, but there are a few things he does well... He gets his hand above his elbow, and does a nice job following through.  Overall: I wouldnt run away from Bumgarner, but be aware that an issue could arise.  My advice: I would watch his velocity charts very closely and if you see a dip in MPH, try to trade him.  Usually you will see the velocity go as the shoulder soreness builds up in the shoulder.

Hope this helped. Thanks!
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#5 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:01 PM

View Postjb_power, on 08 March 2013 - 12:52 PM, said:

Good post Bruz.  Do you have a short list (or long list) of current MLBers to avoid in 2013 due to poor mechanics?

Currently at work right now, but i can work on putting together a short-list for you guys when i get some free time.  Maybe Sunday...

All the info is in my head so I will need to sit down and actually put the pen to paper on this. Off the top of my head, Jarrod Parker, Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzija are a few names that come to mind...  Look for more in the coming days. Thanks!
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C- Mesoraco, 1B-Adams, 2B-Kipnis, 3B-Longoria, SS-Baez
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SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
DL-Derek Holland, Cliff Lee

#6 jb_power

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:03 PM

View PostBruz, on 08 March 2013 - 01:01 PM, said:

View Postjb_power, on 08 March 2013 - 12:52 PM, said:

Good post Bruz.  Do you have a short list (or long list) of current MLBers to avoid in 2013 due to poor mechanics?

Currently at work right now, but i can work on putting together a short-list for you guys when i get some free time.  Maybe Sunday...

All the info is in my head so I will need to sit down and actually put the pen to paper on this. Off the top of my head, Jarrod Parker, Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzija are a few names that come to mind...  Look for more in the coming days. Thanks!

Dang!  I really like Samardzija and Parker for this year.

Looking forward to your list.

#7 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 01:10 PM

I wouldnt necessarily shy away from drafting Parker this year... His arm has taken extremely well to the surgery... and remember what i said... Post Tommy John tendons have a 5-10 year shelf life... I think he should be safe for at least 1-2 more seasons before these issues pop up again.  He is more someone to beware of in a dynasty league.
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CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
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#8 Dissection

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 06:09 PM

Great post man.What do you think about Hammels,Doc,Greinke,King Felix,Lee?I probably named too many of them but I'm interested in subject not just fantasy perspective.

#9 WahooManiac

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 06:39 PM

This is what brings me back to this site daily
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#10 biggedge

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 06:57 PM

Great post, man.  Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
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#11 bigge2win

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 07:46 PM

The common knock on Bumgarner is that he throws a significant amount of sliders, which many analysts say will be his demise. Liriano and others who throw a lot of sliders fell victim to major injuries, and experts/analysts again attribute it to the reliance on a slider. Most, and you, may agree that the slider puts a lot of wear and tear on an arm.

My question is do you think someone who relies on a slider can avoid major injury if they train properly and have good mechanics as you described? Or does throwing a slider require flawed mechanics? I'm not too knowledgeable about the whole science of pitching. Your insight from the original post was extremely informative.

#12 Cmilne23

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 07:48 PM

I have traded barbs with Bruz via PM dating back to last year.  This guy knows what he is talking about.  His post count may be low, but he is very informative.  Great post Bruz, looking forward to seeing your list and seeing how it goes this season.  Appreciate the time and effort you are putting into this for the rest of the board.
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#13 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 09:58 PM

View PostDissection, on 08 March 2013 - 06:09 PM, said:

Great post man.What do you think about Hammels,Doc,Greinke,King Felix,Lee?I probably named too many of them but I'm interested in subject not just fantasy perspective.

Hamels - I like Hamels delivery a lot. Gets his arm in proper throwing position, has a good follow through, and nice stride. I do have an issue with the way he over-supinates his hand when throwing his slider (which is why a lot of pitchers who overuse their slider have arm issues) Turns out I was right, because Hamels wound up needing bone chips removed over the offseason.

My hope is that the bone chips were a result of built-up wear and tear from improper supination on his slider. Luckily, there is a bright side here...The main thing that gives me a little relief with Hamels is the development of his cutter which he uses more now.  The cutter puts much less stress on his arm than his slider did, and it has been an effective pitch for him thus far.  If he continues to use the cutter, and becomes mainly a (fastball, cutter, change) guy, I think he will stay healthy and have a lot of success in coming years. His shoulder apparently acted up on him in the offseason, but I am willing to bet that is because he was babying his elbow coming off surgery and the comensation put extra stress on the shoulder.  Once he is into the flow of things, i think he will be okay.

Halladay -  Doc does a lot of things right in his delivery, and he has for MANY years... However, there was always one thing that i knew would eventually do him in... His arm angle.  The lower a pitchers arm angle, the greater the stress that is put on their shoulder.  Halladay's arm angle is simply too low for me to feel confident in his health this season... Thus I would definitely avoid him.

When your shoulder hurts a few things happen. 1.) you start losing velocity on your FB... just like Halladay last season.  2.) and this is the funny part... your arm tries to tell you "hey, don't lift me so high, that hurts!"... Thus, pitchers begin to lower their arm angles even FURTHER, which is obviously counter-productive.  Your shoulder is not meant to be in an upright throwing position.  It is not natural.  Thus, when the shoulder is damaged and in pain, it tries to stop you from bringing your arm back into that position... The result is that pitchers continue to lower their arm slot in an attempt to "protect" the shoulder, all the meanwhile doing more damage to it.

Greinke - Like his mechanics... quiet, great balance, good arm positioning when his stride foot lands... i don't think the recent "forearm tightness" is anything to worry about. Draft with confidence.

King Felix - Felix's mechanics look fine to me... the amount of torque he gets from his core is amazing. The decreasing velocity troubles me a bit, but he certainly was overthrowing early in his career... The jury is out as to whether or not the dip in velocity is part of his gameplan (he has greatly improved his bb rates year after year).  I think he will okay from what i've seen, but he is one to watch closely.

Cliff Lee - I love Cliff Lee's mechanics.  He

has such a nice repeatable delivery. He has a shorter arm circle so he is always in a nice position when his foot lands, and his arm angle is nice. Doesn't overstride... However, Cliff Lee does bend A LOT.  His

lower back will bark from time to time no matter how hard he works to strengthen it... As far as arm injuries go, I doubt you ever see Lee hurt his arm.  As far as lower back and oblique goes... it is very possible.


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SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
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#14 2ndCitySox

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:02 PM

Great post! But what does supinate mean?
Also, my father in law is a high school coach. He talked to a fellow coach about pitching mechanics . He said a lot of young kids come up these days not caring about good mechanics, but rather anything to gets the most speed and movement on the ball because that is what scout like to see. Most of them figure it's much better to make it, then get surgery after the fact, rather than practice solid mechanics that won't give you that "dazzle"

Have you heard or seen anything about that? It makes sense.
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#15 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:24 PM

View Postbigge2win, on 08 March 2013 - 07:46 PM, said:

The common knock on Bumgarner is that he throws a significant amount of sliders, which many analysts say will be his demise. Liriano and others who throw a lot of sliders fell victim to major injuries, and experts/analysts again attribute it to the reliance on a slider. Most, and you, may agree that the slider puts a lot of wear and tear on an arm.

My question is do you think someone who relies on a slider can avoid major injury if they train properly and have good mechanics as you described? Or does throwing a slider require flawed mechanics? I'm not too knowledgeable about the whole science of pitching. Your insight from the original post was extremely informative.

Can someone who relies on a slider avoid major injury? Absolutely, yes. Is it easy to do? No...

Pitchers with big sliders often do a few things "wrong" in order to make their pitches bite.  Good examples would be Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Sabathia, Bonderman, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir, Shaun Marcum...

As I touched on in the post above, a slider causes you to supinate your arm(rotate your wrist/forearm so that your palm is facing up).  Over-supination is often what causes injury.  All the pitchers I've named above are guilty of this transgression... and all have had arm issues (bone chips, or shoulder problems).  

Another reason the slider can cause injury is because many pitchers lower their arm angles in an attempt to "get around" the ball.  Think of it this way, if you throw with a directly over hand arm angle... how are you going to rotate the baseball sideways out of your hand?  It is nearly impossible.  Pitchers that throw overhand often use more of a 12-6 curveball that has more downward break.  To throw a slider, you need to get your index and middle fingers around the outside of the baseball, then cut your wrist, and in order to do that, you must throw with a 3/4 arm angle or lower.  The lower the arm angle, the more stress on the shoulder.

When I was in college, my catchers were convinced that I had one of the best sliders around... that it was a major league caliber offering... The reason it bit so hard is that I cut my wrist/arm so damn hard and threw at a slightly below 3/4 arm angle in order to get that ball to move.  The slider is probably a main reason why my arm never held up, but it is a double-edged sword because it was also responsible for much of my success.

Many pitchers are starting to use cutters nowadays and I think that is a great thing.  Why? Because cutters do not require supination.  Cole Hamels has begun using it much more lately... Zack Greinke as well. These pitches have similar effectiveness, and much less risk attached to them.  

So my answer is this, can a pitcher use a slider and stay healthy?  Yes.  Does a pitcher who throws over 30% sliders put himself at a much higher risk to be injured? Yes, absolutely.  However, if they do throw the pitch correctly, and not over-supinate, how often they use it may not ever wind up mattering.
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12 Team H2H Points League (5 Keeper, 15 start max per week)

C- Mesoraco, 1B-Adams, 2B-Kipnis, 3B-Longoria, SS-Baez
OF-Brantley, OF-Bruce, OF-Holliday, OF-Hamilton, UTIL-Carter
SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
DL-Derek Holland, Cliff Lee

#16 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:32 PM

View Post2ndCitySox, on 08 March 2013 - 10:02 PM, said:

Great post! But what does supinate mean?
Also, my father in law is a high school coach. He talked to a fellow coach about pitching mechanics . He said a lot of young kids come up these days not caring about good mechanics, but rather anything to gets the most speed and movement on the ball because that is what scout like to see. Most of them figure it's much better to make it, then get surgery after the fact, rather than practice solid mechanics that won't give you that "dazzle"

Have you heard or seen anything about that? It makes sense.

I touched on all these things in my above post... Your father is right, I too am guilty of going for the dazzle rather than the proper mechanics.  Pose any 17-21 year old with the option of either success, or totally re-working their delivery and learning proper mechanics at the expense of effectiveness and i guarantee they will choose success.  It is just human tendency...
12 Team H2H Points League (5 Keeper, 15 start max per week)

C- Mesoraco, 1B-Adams, 2B-Kipnis, 3B-Longoria, SS-Baez
OF-Brantley, OF-Bruce, OF-Holliday, OF-Hamilton, UTIL-Carter
SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
DL-Derek Holland, Cliff Lee

#17 jb_power

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:33 PM

Thanks for the "supinate" explanation Bruz.  Now I finally understand what that means.

I've heard MadBum throws a high % of sliders but I've also heard that they are actually cutters.  What's the true scoop?

#18 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:47 PM

View Postjb_power, on 08 March 2013 - 10:33 PM, said:

Thanks for the "supinate" explanation Bruz.  Now I finally understand what that means.

I've heard MadBum throws a high % of sliders but I've also heard that they are actually cutters.  What's the true scoop?

He actually throws both... Marcum used to throw strictly a slider... which is usually around 80 MPH and has a bit more movement from right to left.  The cutter is usually around 84 MPH or so...with a less drastic break. If you watch the video of him on MLB.com's fantasy preview you can see the difference between the two pitches.

He has seen his fastball decline 3 MPH from it's peak, probably due to the wear and tear he has put on his shoulder. I think that Marcum's usage of the cutter is probably his only chance of staying healthy. The slider however, is probably his only chance at staying successful.  Quite a conundrum...
12 Team H2H Points League (5 Keeper, 15 start max per week)

C- Mesoraco, 1B-Adams, 2B-Kipnis, 3B-Longoria, SS-Baez
OF-Brantley, OF-Bruce, OF-Holliday, OF-Hamilton, UTIL-Carter
SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
DL-Derek Holland, Cliff Lee

#19 jb_power

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:50 PM

View PostBruz, on 08 March 2013 - 10:47 PM, said:

View Postjb_power, on 08 March 2013 - 10:33 PM, said:

Thanks for the "supinate" explanation Bruz.  Now I finally understand what that means.

I've heard MadBum throws a high % of sliders but I've also heard that they are actually cutters.  What's the true scoop?

He actually throws both... Marcum used to throw strictly a slider... which is usually around 80 MPH and has a bit more movement from right to left.  The cutter is usually around 84 MPH or so...with a less drastic break. If you watch the video of him on MLB.com's fantasy preview you can see the difference between the two pitches.

He has seen his fastball decline 3 MPH from it's peak, probably due to the wear and tear he has put on his shoulder. I think that Marcum's usage of the cutter is probably his only chance of staying healthy. The slider however, is probably his only chance at staying successful.  Quite a conundrum...

Thanks for the analysis on Marcum ... but I was actually asking about Madison Bumgarner

#20 Bruz

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 10:52 PM

View PostBruz, on 08 March 2013 - 10:47 PM, said:

View Postjb_power, on 08 March 2013 - 10:33 PM, said:

Thanks for the "supinate" explanation Bruz.  Now I finally understand what that means.

I've heard MadBum throws a high % of sliders but I've also heard that they are actually cutters.  What's the true scoop?

He actually throws both... Marcum used to throw strictly a slider... which is usually around 80 MPH and has a bit more movement from right to left.  The cutter is usually around 84 MPH or so...with a less drastic break. If you watch the video of him on MLB.com's fantasy preview you can see the difference between the two pitches.

He has seen his fastball decline 3 MPH from it's peak, probably due to the wear and tear he has put on his shoulder. I think that Marcum's usage of the cutter is probably his only chance of staying healthy. The slider however, is probably his only chance at staying successful.  Quite a conundrum...

Wow I totally misread MadBum for Marcum... and I just realized that.  Haha, I apologize! Let me write something up for you on Bumgarner.
12 Team H2H Points League (5 Keeper, 15 start max per week)

C- Mesoraco, 1B-Adams, 2B-Kipnis, 3B-Longoria, SS-Baez
OF-Brantley, OF-Bruce, OF-Holliday, OF-Hamilton, UTIL-Carter
SP-Price, Ross, Shields, Lynn, Archer, Arrieta, Alvarez, Kennedy, Nelson, Eovaldi
CL-Holland, Robertson, Uehara, Soriano
DL-Derek Holland, Cliff Lee




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