The Thing That Caused Johan Santana’s Shoulder Re-injury

How did Johan Santana re-tear his shoulder capsule?

Was it the 134-pitch no-hitter?

Was it that “voluntary bullpen session” aimed at silencing suggestions that he wasn’t in shape?

Was it related to a mistake in his surgery?

Was it something mysterious, that couldn’t possibly be explained?

Could this re-injury have been prevented?

No, no, no, no, and maybe. Ironically, the answer to the question of how this happened was verbalized by Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen shortly after spring training opened in mid-February of 2012.

Warthen was quoted by The New York Post saying this:

“I’ve been looking at video from when he’s been down here recently and comparing it to video from 2008, before he got hurt,” Warthen told The Post outside the team’s spring training complex yesterday. “It’s no different. Not even one percent. That’s extremely important.”

Yes, Dan — it was extremely important. Unfortunately, you didn’t understand why.

I don’t mean to pick on Dan Warthen; his perspective and interpretation of the information in front of him is merely an example of a much larger problem with ALL MLB pitching coaches: they’re simply not qualified to analyze, nor correct, anatomical movement / human kinetics. Do any pitching coaches hold a degree in kinesiology? Have any completed advanced studies in biomechanics, human anatomy, physiology, or neuroscience? I’m guessing that 95% of pitching coaches at all levels of baseball have not. Therefore, they shouldn’t try to be experts when it comes to the delicate and dangerous motion of pitching a baseball.

Here’s the irony of Warthen’s statements: they indicated another shoulder injury was imminent, because that motion Santana was using most of the time in 2008 was EXACTLY WHAT CAUSED HIS SHOULDER INJURY IN THE FIRST PLACE.

It’s really quite simple, when one steps away from the isolated, prehistoric planet of organized baseball and peers at the situation from a practical, logical viewpoint. Warthen’s statement is akin to saying, “I stepped in a lake, and my shoe got soaking wet,” and then saying, “I stepped in a lake, just as a I did before, and my shoe got soaking wet again” — yet, expecting the shoe to stay dry after the second time!

Johan Santana severely damaged his shoulder twice because of a mechanical flaw. I lied a bit when I said that the no-hitter and the voluntary bullpen session weren’t the cause; the truth is, they were the cause, but not the isolated cause — rather, both instances were contributors. As long as Santana retained the same damaging mechanics he employed prior to his injury, his reconstructed shoulder was a ticking time bomb that was going to go off eventually. Did the 134-pitch effort speed up the process? Eh. Yeah, but not on its own; the no-hitter was just as culpable as, say, a pair of 75-pitch bullpen sessions, or 15-minutes of long toss, or any other event in which Santana was incorrectly throwing a baseball.

Major League Baseball would like to believe that pitching injuries are a complete mystery, caused by uncontrollable forces such as biorhythms, outer-galaxy alien forces, Cajun witchcraft, or plain ‘ol dumb luck. It’s simply not true, and it’s unfathomable that we live in an age of advanced science, and have mountains of research and scientific analysis available to explain why injuries occur, and why some movements are safe while others dangerous, yet baseball resists knowledge, preferring instead to embrace ignorance as if it was a badge of honor.

Newsflash to “Organized Baseball”: the world is not flat.

But don’t take it from me, because I’m no expert, either. I’ll get the lowdown on Johan’s re-injury from a scientist whose life is spent studying, understanding, and correcting human movements. Look for the Q & A here next week. In the meantime, enjoy Easter weekend.

2013 Spring Training

About the Author

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.

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