March 20, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) in the dugout after he pitched the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Not All Shoulder Injuries Created Equal

 

By now, Yankee fans are all aware that we won’t be seeing Michael Pineda on the mound until next season at the earliest. There have been a lot of fans and writers weighing in on the nature of his injury, offering their opinions on how long his rehab will take, if he’ll be as successful as he was with Seattle when (and if) he returns, whether or not Brian Cashman made the right move shipping Jesus Montero to the Mariners for the right-hander, and so on and so forth. Didn’t you know everyone becomes an expert when this kind of stuff happens?

It’s too soon to decide definitively if the Yankees were the losers in this trade. Most everyone prognosticating on this particular topic has no way of predicting for certain how Pineda’s shoulder will rebound. But on Friday, Jay Jaffe wrote an excellent, in-depth piece for Baseball Prospectus investigating pitchers who suffered labrum injuries in their careers and how they bounced back (or didn’t, as the case may be) post-surgery and rehabilitation. It’s a great read, and offers some insight into what Yankee fans can expect from Pineda going forward.

In total, Jaffe found 67 pitchers who went under the knife to repair their injured labrums —  some injuries more severe and others less so. Of those 67 pitchers, Jaffe identified three whose shoulder injuries were most comparable to Pineda’s: Anibal Sanchez, Jose Valverde, and Wade Miller.

The good news: Two of the three have had success in the major leagues since undergoing surgery. Valverde is racking up saves in Detroit, and Sanchez is off to a good start in Miami after two good seasons in a row. In four starts so far this season, he has posted a 2.73 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 33/8 K/BB ratio in 26.1 innings. It’s worth noting, as Jaffe does, that Sanchez was the same age as Pineda (23) when he had the surgery.

The bad news: It took Sanchez 13 months to return to the majors following surgery, and his first season back – 2008 – wasn’t great. He also dealt with shoulder soreness in 2009, and only started 16 games that season. As for Miller, a solid starter for the Houston Astros in the early part of the decade? He wasn’t so lucky:

“As late as 2009, he was still on the comeback trail with the Blue Jays. He’s a grim comp, but due to the mileage that was already on his shoulder, perhaps he’s a less fitting one than the other two pitchers.”

 

The article isn’t what I would describe as encouraging, but it’s an interesting read, and highlights how this could go several different ways for Pineda and the Yankees.

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