End Of The Freak Show?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Timmy LincecumTim Lincecum was, at one point, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Between 2008-2010 he was damn near unhittable. Winning two Cy Young awards and leading the National League in strikeouts for three straight years and snatching a couple of World Series titles to boot. Now he is just another minor leaguer hoping for another chance in ‘The Show’. A man whose career may be done at the tender age of 32.

Nicknamed ‘The Freak’ he’s a power pitcher with a small frame (5’11” and 170 lbs soaking wet). His career started to go sideways somewhere around 2011-2012. The control began to wander and the dominance wasn’t there each and every start. In 2015 he was diagnosed with degenerative hips and had a forearm injury. It took him nearly a year before he pitched in another major league game.

As much as it hurt the San Francisco Giants, Lincecum wasn’t resigned after the 2015 season. He was the face of the franchise for five or six years. He refused to quit though. He rehabbed his way back and worked out a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. While he showed promise in his first start (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 SO). Since then it’s pretty much been downhill to the point that the Angels released Lincecum this past weekend. He is now heading to the minor leagues with the hope of finding his form and making it back to the majors.

This may sound a little like an obit for a former two time Cy Young Award winner but it’s not.

Can Lincecum find his old form? It’s doubtful but he’s not going to stop trying. All pitchers, in particularly power pitches, have to, at some point, transform from being a power pitcher to a control pitcher. Their control has to be flawless. Their off speed stuff needs to become strikeout material. They need to adapt. Lincecum is willing and trying to do that. The results are just not there as of yet.

It’s hard to say but it will be interesting to see if Linecum can become a major league pitcher again. He has to find the pitches and delivery that work for him. He might be able to do that in AAA baseball but then again the league where he will be going, the Pacific Coast League, is know to be a hitters league. Best of luck Freak.

Avoiding Surgery With Stem Cells

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

A headline a few days ago caught my eye. It was how Los Angeles Angels pitcher Garrett Richards was shut down for the year with tear in his UCL and was undergoing stem cell therapy as opposed to Tommy John surgery. What? Come again? Turns out that he isn’t the first pitcher to try this. Not even the first on his own team!

Garrett RichardsAfter a quick search I found an article by the Los Angeles Times Pedro Moura. He wrote about the stem cell treatment being undergone by Richards and his teammate Andrew Heaney. Essentially, the doctors are taking stem cells from the bone marrow and injecting it into the affected elbow. The idea is that the body will heal itself and you can avoid a surgery that could put a pitcher out for a year or more.

A lot of questions come up with this. The most important is ‘how do you know it worked?’ If it didn’t and the pitcher has to have surgery anyway and that delays their return even more.

That’s not even the crazy part.

According to the article, the stem cells can have human growth hormone (HGH) add to them to speed up the healing process. HGH of course is outlawed by every sports league and by the FDA. So it’s ok to remove a healthy tendon from another part of the body (opposite arm or leg) or even take one from a cadaver to replace the torn tendon, but it’s illegal to boost the cells taken from your own body to heal the torn tendon without surgery.

Something seems amiss here.

There is a growing concern that kids are pitching too much and are requiring Tommy John surgery earlier and earlier to the point that some are calling it an ‘epidemic‘. Non-surgical options are not just needed, they are to the point of being required.

I recommend reading Moura’s article and draw your own opinion. The fact that stem cell therapy is already taking place at this level and there is a chance that a pitcher can opt to not have surgery leaves one to believe that this topic isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If HGH can speed up the healing process and allow a pitcher to not have to have surgery than perhaps this should be looked at by the FDA and major league baseball a little bit more.