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Mark Prior says "you certainly can't blame the Nationals" for Stephen Strasburg's injury

Aug 30, 2010, 4:21 PM EDT

We ran a poll last week asking whether or not the Nationals are to blame for Stephen Strasburg’s elbow injury and I’m happy to say that 82.5 percent of respondents agreed with me that the answer is “no.”

I’m not sure if Mark Prior cast a vote–obviously he’s a huge fan of Hardball Talk, but it’s possible he doesn’t particularly enjoy polls–but he’s clearly in the “don’t blame the Nationals” camp, saying the following during a radio interview:

You certainly can’t put blame on the Washington Nationals. … I don’t think anyone needs to or should question what they did. Everybody is coming back to second guess everything and every little detail and how it was handled. I don’t think it was handled wrongly. I don’t think there’s a right way. I don’t think there is a wrong way. Everybody is individual in terms of how they get through their careers. There is no right way or wrong way for anybody, whether it is a pitcher, whether it is a position player.

As a fan, I loved watching him. I think he has a lot of God-given talent and I want to watch him out there. From the standpoint of what happened this year, who knows? Nobody knows. It just because it was his time? What was going to happen was going to happen whether he was in the minor leagues or the major leagues or if he was back in his senior year of college. Nobody knows what the outcome of anything is. It’s just a game where you are relying on your body to do a lot of things in a grinding sport and things happen.

I disagree with Prior in that I think there are plenty of cases where teams are at least somewhat to blame for a pitcher getting hurt and in fact Prior may be one of those cases given the pitch counts Dusty Baker allowed him to rack up. However, in Strasburg’s case the Nationals limited him to such modest workloads that they couldn’t possibly have been responsible.

Strasburg blew out his elbow without ever throwing even 100 pitches for the Nationals, in the minors or majors, and his college workload at San Diego State was significantly bigger. Compare that to Prior, who at the same age as Strasburg was allowed to top 100 pitches in 14 of 19 starts for the Cubs, including outings of 135 and 124 pitches. Prior had a huge workload for a 21-year-old pitcher and got hurt. Strasburg is just a 21-year-old pitcher who got hurt.

  1. okobojicat - Aug 30, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    So, if Prior and Strasburg both got hurt, can we start to argue that perhaps the pitch counts didn’t hurt Prior? That perhaps his mechanics or bad luck or whatever caused him to get hurt?

  2. Trevor B - Aug 30, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Does anybody have a comment or sound bit of Prior blaming the Cubs for his injuries? I guess I’ve never really thought about or looked into if Prior blames Baker or anybody in the Cubs organization. If so please comment!

  3. Trevor B - Aug 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    I’m sure mechanics and bad luck had a part to do with it… but the pitch counts accounted for mechanics to wear more on him and more opportunity of bad luck. Come on, you play roulette long enough and it’s bound to land on those green zeros. So essentially people who say what you just said still provide a good case for high pitch counts causing injury.

  4. El Bravo - Aug 30, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Not to mention…the other 2 top pitchers on the ’03 cubs named Zambrano and Wood. Play a little “where are they now?” game and high pitch counts at a young age definitely fits as the top contributing factor for all 3.

  5. Trevor B - Aug 30, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    dont you mean wood and clement?

  6. El Bravo - Aug 30, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    No I meant big Z…Clement didn’t rack up the pitches the other guys did in 03, if I recall correctly, but I’m not looking at numbers right now so I could be wrong. Big Z had some bright years afterward which I believe is more a result of his strength and body-type. In the last 2-3 seasons his fastball has diminished (making his other pitches less effective) and that is due to age but I think the repeated high pitch totals lend to that as well. He’s not a great example, compared to Wood and Prior, even or Clement to some capacity, but I bet the Z would be more dominant now if not for those pitch counts back then. Who the hell knows?

  7. bigtrav425 - Aug 30, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    In 99.9 percent of cases you cannot blame a team.It happens when it happens.You cant control when or if your arm blows out.Mine has personally blown out 3 times first time at 17.Do you think i or my coach wanted that?…it is what it is

  8. dmartin - Aug 30, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    There is a big difference between throwing 120+ pitches in a game and throwing pitches to strengthen the arm. Pitchers today don’t throw nearly enough to strengthen their arms. Throwing in live game situations is much more stressful on an arm because of adrenaline and other factors.

  9. ChuckerD - Aug 30, 2010 at 11:40 PM

    Anybody familiar with guys named Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, Jack Morris, Roger Clemens? Check out the innings these guys threw not only when they were young, but for over a decade straight! Wouldn’t most of you say that you hear about a higher quantity of major arm injuries since they started all this pitch count nonsense?
    I would hypothesize that these guys are more prone to injury due to too little throwing and too much weight lifting. I would liken it to the kid who grows up in a sterile environment…never gets exposed to anything so he gets sick all the time once he leaves his bubble. Didn’t help anything by “protecting” him, just like they aren’t helping by “protecting” these arms.

  10. Kevin S. - Aug 31, 2010 at 4:12 AM

    Survivor bias. For every old-time great you can spit out, there were likely many more we don’t remember who did burn out.

  11. Snookiman - Aug 31, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    Google “Mark Prior Greg Maddux Pitching Video”. You’ll see side by side comparisons of Prior and a young Greg Maddux. One has pristine mechanics, pitched 20 years, never had an arm injury and is bound for the HOF. The other had bad mechanics (elbow above the shoulder during the windup) and is pitching for $100/game now.
    Point: I don’t know about Strasburg, but for Prior it was all about mechanics.

  12. Trevor B - Aug 31, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    THANK YOU! For every Clemens and Nolan Ryan there is a Joe Blow and a Bob Smith who DID NOT MAKE IT because of those same factors… We just don’t remember them…

  13. Steve M - Aug 31, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    First of all..Palmer did hurt his arm, he was lucky and made it back. But Sonny Siebert, Steve Barber, Jim Bouton, Don Gullet, Wayne Simpson, Steve Hargan, Jim Lonborg, Sam McDowell, Denny McLain, Gary Gentry and about a hundred other guys from the early 60’s didn’t, or had very short careers. Koufax, done at 30, Drysdale about the same. Bunning, Marichal, Don Wilson hung around, but for the most part their last ‘good’ years were 30 or younger.
    PS, Palmer did get hurt, Ryan started out in the pen and was protected, Walter Johnson was from another era and threw sidearm, which is significantly less stressful.
    Feller had 4 years off for WWII, and had 1 good year in 1950 or 51 I think after he was 28-29. Even with 4 years off he burnt out young. Jack Morris WAS protected, he was already 25 before he had a high workload. Now you wanna pull 2 freaks of nature like Seaver and Clemens as the standard…fine. But there is a heap a mile high of dead arms and careers because fools like you think everyone should be like Seaver and Clemens. Youg overworked arms get hurt, almost always. And if they don’t, they may have 4-5 good to great years..but by the time they should be hitting their prime, their selling suits at JCPenney.

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