No-hitter Fallout

Hate to rain on the parade, but Johan Santana‘s no-hitter came at a cost.

First, there is the issue of the 134 pitches thrown by Santana’s surgically repaired shoulder, using damaging mechanics. Will he be able to bounce back? Did pitching far beyond fatigue cause any lasting damage to his arm? We’ll find out soon enough.

Second, there is Mike Baxter, who literally ran through a wall to preserve the no-no. In the process, he injured his ribs and collarbone, and will be out six weeks.

Finally, there is Ramon Ramirez, whose enthusiasm during the postgame celebration caused him to strain his hamstring; he’s also on his way to the DL.

Ten years from now, no one will remember nor care about the fallout from this historical event. In fact, it’s likely that a year from now, no one will remember nor care — unless, of course, it leads to another severe injury to Santana.

You can’t fault Terry Collins for leaving Santana in the game that long — Mets fans would have hung Collins and/or publicly stoned him had he taken out Johan in, say, the 7th inning. Similarly, you can’t fault Santana for “going for the gold” and finishing out the first no-no in Mets history. Certainly, you can’t fault Baxter for his all-out effort without regard to his physical safety — it’s exactly what many of us fans value over all else. As for Ramirez, well, that’s up to you — it was a random, unlucky occurrence.

But in the end, the first no-hitter in Mets history came with an immediate price — and we’ll see what happens with Johan’s arm (hopefully nothing). That said, was the price worth the product? What if Johan never pitches effectively again? Would it still be worth it? I’m not so sure; if the price resulted in a pennant or a World Championship, I’d say “of course” but for a milestone event — well, I’d have preferred there not to be such a steep price. But that’s me — what about you? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Tommy2cat June 3, 2012 at 8:11 am
    Hi Joe –

    Totally unconcerned about Johan’s excessive pitch count for one game. Might be an issue if he was a true junk-baller, with a nasty curve, screwball and split-finger. Johan uses three pitches – the fastball, the change up, and a slider that he uses sparingly. Knowing Johan, he has built up the arm strength and supporting muscle structure, to decelerate without risk.

    The wall at Shea was much more forgiving. I recall watching Dewey Evans run into it during the 1986 WS – had my beverages on the auxiliary scoreboard – and observed the wall “give”. Dewey got up and walked away unscathed. Baxter, by contrast, ran into a concrete wall covered with padding. No “give”. He hit is so hard with his left side that he busted up his right side! Mets need to get their union engineers to insert some sort of buffer between the padding and wall capable of absorbing a body slam.

    The timing for Ramirez to be injured is fortuitous, in my book. He needs time off to re calibrate his wind-up. It appeared to me that during their deliveries both he and Acosta were stepping out toward first-base with their plant foot. It appeared to be by design, and not that they were opening up too soon. The net result was the same, though – spotty control, getting behind in the count and resorting to “get-me-over” stuff that, well, you know the rest. Both pitchers need to correct their footwork and develop a more linear track toward home plate.

    Fred Lewis is a good choice to replace Baxter’s spot on the roster.

    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm
      Excellent point on the outfield wall padding. It’s strange that a brand-new park wouldn’t have better technology to protect the players. There are similarly dangerous spots along the foul lines and behind the plate, where there is a brick wall(!).

      I haven’t taken a close look at Ramon Ramirez’s motion, but now that you’ve pointed out the front foot I’ll see if I can look at some of his previous appearances.

      As for Johan, I’m happy you aren’t concerned, but I am. FYI, science has proven that the fastball and slider are the two most dangerous pitches. Also, I find it highly unlikely that Santana has conditioned his arm to throw over 130 pitches every 5 days, especially since Terry Collins has been very strict about his pitch count in games. Now, if Santana is doing what Tom Seaver used to do — go into the bullpen or under the stands and finish out his 145 pitches — then I’ll agree with you. But I think we would’ve heard about that (not to mention, we usually see Santana sitting in the dugout after he’s removed).

  2. Joe June 3, 2012 at 8:19 am
    Don’t think 20 more pitches in one game should hurt Santana. Heck, you think his long toss regime put strain on his arm. 20 more pitches in a single game shouldn’t do it.

    Baxter being hurt is upsetting, great guy and player, but heck, seriously, who would be surprised if he joined the injury parade anyway? It opens up a spot for Bay.

    Ramirez getting hurt also is not really overly upsetting. Butthead. Hasn’t been pitching that well and Beato (someone noted) is filling his spot. Seems a fair trade.

    Who expects ANYTHING to come easily for the Mets?

    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:05 pm
      I continue to believe that the long toss Santana did/does was/is dangerous to his arm. It certainly does nothing to help him on the mound.

      If you don’t think an extra 20 pitches (actually, it’s more like an extra 30) can damage an arm then I’m going to assume you don’t know much about athletic injuries in general. 99 percent of non-accidental sports injuries occur due to actions performed beyond the point of fatigue.

  3. Dan June 3, 2012 at 8:32 am
    I think losing Baxter for 6 weeks is too high a price, and it would be tragic if it compromises Santana’s recovery.

    The foul call kept Beltran from becoming the most hated former Met by breaking up the no hitter, as it stands it will probably be looked at as justice for looking at the infamous strike 3. If only Heilman could do something to atone for a pitch he should never have had to throw to Molina.

  4. Crozier June 3, 2012 at 8:54 am
    Loved the result, hated the risk. There will be hand-wringing if Santana’s season or career is impacted negatively; in fact, Collins is doing that already. But personal achievement, more so than in other team sports, is baseball’s primary focus — the media, agents, and statisticians will continue to reinforce this. And baseball is by far the most sentimental sport. Emotional greed takes over, and everyone wants to experience the moment. So it was near-consensus that Collins “couldn’t” take Santana out, despite enormous risk to the player, the season, the payroll, etc.

    Completely nuts when you think about it; more irrational, even, than an intentional walk that puts the tying or winning run on base.

    Baxter, on the other hand, didn’t irrationally put himself in harm’s way, and if he hadn’t stumbled at the warning track, he would’ve hit the wall clean. An unfortunate casualty, he no more sacrificed himself for Santana than Jason Bay did for…uh, Dillon Gee in a 7-2 loss in April.

    Anyway, a great night, but I wouldn’t have cared if the Mets never pitched a no hitter, so long as they continued to win the occasional division title, and perhaps a World Series here or there.

    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm
      Crozier, I’m with you 100 percent on all counts. I like the way you stated the issue – i.e., baseball being a sentimental sport and “emotional greed.” And you’re right, it’s irrational.

      And I also agree with you on the Mets no-hitter vs. championship — this is why I wasn’t overly excited about Johan’s no-no: because I knew everyone was going to celebrate like it was as big as a World Series. And it’s not, it’s a flukey thing that happens a few times a year to a few pitchers who have a dominant night combined with a little luck.

      • DaveSchneck June 4, 2012 at 8:44 am
        Crozier is right on, yes, but Izzy has a good point as well. Somehow I see that they are both right. There are countless risk vs. reward situations in life that make no sense. Yes, this was a great event, given the anamoly of no no-nos in 50 years, no despite fan reation it is nowhere near as big a deal as a championship, and yes it was additional risk and unnecessary given the score. Time will tell, but my analogy is that it is driving for a period without a seatbelt. It is better to have the seatbelt, but much more likely that a bad event does not occur. I hope Baxter finds a spot back on the team after he heals, as it would be a shame that the injury could actually threaten his career given the crowded OF. I do agree with Izzy in that therre is a good possibility he would have hit the wall even if there wasn’t a no-no on the line, as he plays the game hard.
  5. Izzy June 3, 2012 at 9:24 am
    If 20 pitches ruins him then it would have happened anyway. The second guessing is becoming absolutely asinine. Baxter plays hard all the time as most 4A guys do. He would have crashed into the wall under any circumstances. to tie it to a no hit bid is again asinine. And Ramirez gets hurt celebrating. He sucked all year anyway. Where’s the loss?
    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm
      Izzy, it’s not like every pitcher has a predetermined # of pitches and the injury happens when they hit that number. Nearly all athletic injuries — including pitching injuries, but also weightlifting injuries, running injuries, etc. — occur after an athlete pushes himself beyond the point of fatigue. There’s a point where muscles get tired and stop working, and as a result the athlete changes mechanics and/or the ligaments and joints take on the brunt of force. If Santana was conditioned to throw 130-140 pitches every five days the way pitchers from back in the day were, it wouldn’t be an issue. But he’s conditioned to throw about 100, so when he goes 30% beyond that there is significant risk involved.
      • Joe June 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm
        You said “100” but the pitch count put out there was 110-115. And, when you say that, there is probably a 5 pitch margin of error — you aren’t going to stop mid-batter, e.g.
        • Joe Janish June 5, 2012 at 8:48 am
          Where do you get the pitch count figure of 110-115? Santana’s pitch counts this year — prior to his 134-pitch no-no — are as follows: 84,99,55,105,90,108,82,107,96,96. This came over a period of two months / about eight weeks, which is a significant sample and enough to consider it “conditioning.” Over those starts he averaged 92 pitches per outing; if you throw out the high and the low, the average goes up to a hair below 95 — which, to me, establishes what he’s conditioned to throw. A little math tells you that he went 41% beyond his conditioned limit. That’s significant.
  6. Paul June 3, 2012 at 11:07 am
    I am concerned about Johan Santana’s shoulder, but *any* pitch could be the one that sends him back to the disabled list for another extended period of time. I’m glad Terry Collins gave him the chance to complete his no-hitter.

    Mike Baxter’s injury is a shame, but it’s something that could have happened in any game. He might have lost his roster spot next week and he certainly would have lost playing time when Jason Bay returns, so from a team perspective, it’s not a big deal.

    Ramon Ramirez’s injury is the one that leaves me scratching my head – how exactly does a professional athlete pull a hamstring running in from the bullpen to join in a celebration?

    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm
      OK but *any* pitch usually occurs when a pitcher is beyond the point of fatigue. When it’s not due to that, it’s due to wear and tear over a period of time. Either way, it’s fairly rare that an arm injury to a pitcher just “happens” out of the blue.
  7. Paul Festa June 3, 2012 at 11:54 am
    I’m definitely concerned about Johan’s shoulder, as Collins clearly is too. The way I understand the surgery, the anterior capsule should be completely healed – so it’s like having a brand new one, right?. But then again, I’m not a doctor.

    I feel bad for Baxter, and he was a big contributor – More than Kirk, who has gotten all the press. But hopefully Bay can contribute when he gets back.

    As for Ram Ram, he’s been inconsistent this year anyway, but I was counting on him returning to his pre-Mets form at some point. These guys should have all learned from Kendrys Morales to take it easy during celebrations.

    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm
      No, it’s not like having a new shoulder; if it was, Santana would be throwing 95+ MPH again. His shoulder was severely torn, and it was repaired surgically. Usually that means the tear is repaired and the capsule is imbricated, which means they pull part of it to make the capsule smaller (throwing caused it to stretch out, and eventually tear). As a result there is sometimes some loss of range of motion. With Santana there is further concern because his injury was the result of a previously occasional mechanical flaw that creeped into his motion over the course of several years and evolved into his normal style of throwing — and he’s still doing it, so he’s going to continue to put a strain on the very part of his body that was repaired.
  8. Joe June 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm
    For those concerned, my question would be how does 20 more pitches in one case matter one way or the other? If he skips a day or has a low pitch count the next time around, doesn’t it basically compensate?
    • Joe Janish June 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm
      Absolutely not. Again, it’s not like a pitcher has a predetermined number of pitches before he blows out his arm. Rest is unlikely to help anything — if there is damage, it has been done. Injuries occur as a direct result of continuing a particular motion beyond the point of fatigue.

      If you don’t believe this, or don’t understand it, go to the gym and lift a 10-lb dumbbell over your head until you’re exhausted, then do it 30 more times. Let me know if your arm still hurts a week from now.

      • Joe June 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm
        I realize you are an expert and all but I’m not saying this just because I’m talking out of my ass. Pitchers said that it would matter if he had rest. Now, yeah, they can be wrong, you can be right. As to your last comment, actually, I have done something like that. Resting extra DID matter.

        I’m not saying the long tossing thing would not hurt. I have no idea, really. It’s just that if THAT is a problem, which he did regularly, why would 20 pitches (or 30 … whatever the math is with warm ups & all) one single time would hurt him special is unclear. “Fatigue” can mean any number of things. Suddenly a certain magic pitch count is a problem? One single time?

        • DaveSchneck June 4, 2012 at 8:53 am
          I agree. Throwing more pitches increases the risk of an injury, as opposed to not throwing more pitches, this is logical, How much additional risk is the big question. To my eye, Johan did not appear to be beyond the fatigue point, although when not readily visible, no one really knows the fatigue level but the player.
        • Joe Janish June 5, 2012 at 8:57 am
          But in fact you ARE talking out of your ass.

          “Pitchers said that it would matter if he had rest. Now, yeah, they can be wrong, you can be right.”

          What pitchers? And what pitchers know anything about how injuries occur? Are any of them doctors or scientists? Further, it’s not me coming up with this concerns out of my ass — they’re coming from scientists who have put together mountains of data and research on human body movements — be it pitching, running, weight-lifting, and various other movements, athletic or otherwise.

          You seem to misunderstand my point about the dumbbell example. Why did you rest? Because you had discomfort or pain, correct? Therefore, there was damage done. That’s the point — that an injury occurred while you were fatigued.

          I’m not even going to qualify your last paragraph, because it has no logic, data, nor research supporting it — it’s just your opinion. And, sadly, this is the way 90% of professional baseball people think. And since they’re professional baseball people, they must be right, right? Because as professional baseball people, they obviously know more than scientists and doctors who spend their lives researching these kind of things.

  9. Herman Metsville June 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm
    My only concern is Johan’s shoulder. If he can come through with a quality start four or five days from now, that issue will be put to rest. Baxter’s injury is unfortunate, but irrelevant to this situation. Outfielders are supposed to go all out to catch fly balls in any situation. It’s up to management to make sure that there’s enough padding over those walls so injuries can be avoided. As for Ramirez, I can understand a team’s exuberance, but those celebrations are ridiculous. I’m surprised more guys don’t get hurt during them. I always feel sorry for the guy at the bottom of the pile.