Bobby Parnell Will Have Tommy John Surgery

Bobby Parnell has decided to have Tommy John surgery, and, as a result, will be out for the rest of 2014.

I can’t say this is surprising, nor can I blame Parnell for the decision. In fact, I thought it was ludicrous of him to take this long to come to terms with the inevitable. Had he been throwing 97-99 MPH prior to the partial tear, and pitching effectively, I might think differently. But what was the best scenario, had the platelet-rich plasma injection successfully staved off further tearing of his UCL? Parnell would be throwing between 90 and 92 MPH, without great command, and always be at risk for fully tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or medial collateral ligament, depending on which medical school you were versed). How effective would Parnell be in the low 90s?

Better to get Parnell under the knife now, hope all goes well with the surgery and rehab, and have him back at 100% next April. Full recovery usually takes no more than 9-10 months, so it’s completely realistic and reasonable to expect such an outcome.

And hey, the Mets have Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde to close out ballgames — what are you worried about?

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. meticated April 7, 2014 at 1:58 am
    Did your astute eyes dissect his delivery flaws and anticipate this…Although notwithstanding my incomplete understanding of all the elements ending in replacement surgery, my knowledge does inform me that this is predictable being that the biological stressors inherent in pitching should affect everyone equally if all the biomechanics were similar…they’re obviously not…who has the best usage of motion and release with follow thru…is it Kershaw or Koufax?? Seaver or Gibson?…can it be inculcated or are we back to discussing a revamping of the entire paradigm
    • SL April 7, 2014 at 7:59 am
      The key is elbow extension. There are great examples right on the Mets. Look at Harvey from last year, and then look at Thor’s delivery. Note them at the point of maximum elbow flexion and external rotation.
      You’ll see the difference right there.

      In the old days, pitchers used what we now call the pendulum technique and had almost zero elbow flexion which is why they never blew out their elbows (think Christy Mathewson, etc – check out some pre WWII vids on you tube).

      When you here a pitcher described as a “short armer” that’s what they mean, although the pitching motion has been so corrupted that even that is becoming rarer (hearing the term, not the actual form).

      Velocity should come from the hips and the large muscles of the back, principally the lat, and NOT from the “whip” of the elbow.

      • Joe Janish April 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm
        SL, I’m confused by your reply; I mean that sincerely.

        The elbow shouldn’t whip, nor should it be counted upon for velocity — that we seem to agree upon.

        What do you mean by “There are great examples right on the Mets. Look at Harvey from last year, and then look at Thor’s delivery. Note them at the point of maximum elbow flexion and external rotation.
        You’ll see the difference right there.” ?

        I have not seen much footage of Syndergaard’s delivery, so the contrast/comparison is lost on me. Also, I’m not familiar with the term “pendulum technique” as it applies to baseball pitching. If you could point me toward info on it, I’d appreciate it (Google is only showing me rotational hitting theories.)

        Again, being sincere here, hoping to learn something. Thanks.

    • Joe Janish April 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm
      My eyes are not so astute. Sometimes I see weird things, I try to take/find high-speed film, and I show it to people who know more than me about body movement.

      In most cases it is very difficult to figure out a dangerous mechanical flaw without a) speaking with the pitcher and getting his feedback on pain/discomfort/something that feels “not right”; b) seeing high-speed film of the pitcher from several angles (front, back, sides); and c) having an advanced degree in human anatomy / biomechanics / kinesiology.

  2. Izzy April 7, 2014 at 6:49 am
    You are surprised a person spent some time before deciding to go under the knife?? You thought it was “ludicrous”. do you think surgery is a game that should be taken lightly? The fact that he took his time, and hopefully, reviewed his options with experts other than Alderson and Collins, and came to his conclusion intellectually was anything but ludicrous. Your ludicrous statement is almost akin to Esiason stating that Murphy’s wife should have been told to have a C Section so he wouldn’t miss the first real game. Surgery, should never ever be taken lightly,
    • Joe Janish April 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm
      From the perspective of someone who makes his living throwing a baseball, and presumably, wants to continue making that living and earning many millions of dollars, YES, I believe it was ludicrous to consider rehab vs. surgery for more than 48 hours — from the perspective of a MLB pitcher, it’s denial.

      Understood that surgery is not a “game,” but at the same time, MLB players have a very short window in which to make their fortune, and at age 29 and turning 30 in September, Parnell’s window is closing very rapidly.

      • crozier April 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm
        In Izzy’s defense, Joe, this is the Mets we’re discussing here, where medical decisions haven’t always favored the players. One could be forgiven for being cautious.

        See also: Ryan Church.

        See also: Chris Young, rushed back only to hit the disabled list after one inning. I don’t always share the most cynical views of this community, but the Mets have a lousy track record in the category of caring for their own.

  3. DanB April 7, 2014 at 7:48 am
    How many of us are hoping that Valarde responds to the challenge, pitches decent, and gets traded? New York Mets –do well and get traded. Stink up the place, and shortstop and first base are yours forever!
  4. SL April 7, 2014 at 7:56 am
    Full recovery most definitely does NOT take 9-10 months.
    Not sure where you’re coming up with that one.
    The physical recover is 10-14 months, but as has been shown repeatedly in every case, for a pitcher, return to form, if it happens, occurs only about one full season After a return to pitching.
    Expect Parnell, if he comes back fully healed, to be himself in 2016, although it’s a bit easier for a reliever, particularly a closer who is only throwing 10-15 pitches at a time.
    • Joe Janish April 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm
      Perhaps “full recovery” is not exactly the right choice of words; my bad. In reality, “full recovery” could take as long as a year and a half to two years, if it happens at all. But it is absolutely reasonable to expect a pitcher to be back on a mound within 9 months, assuming everything goes well with the surgery, the pitcher follows the standard prescription of rehab, the root cause of the injury is discovered and corrected, and the pitcher is properly monitored during rehab.

      However, MLB trainers (and front offices?) for whatever reason think it’s better to push that timetable out to 12-14 months, they don’t necessarily follow the standard prescription, they rarely find and correct the cause of the injury, and, may not know how the pitcher needs to be monitored.

      Now, “back on a mound” and “competing in MLB games” may or may not be the same thing. Even with MLB trainers changing the prescribed rehab, the average rate of return to the same level of competition has been between 11 and 12 months (that info from stats provided by Dr. James Andrews).

      Where are you getting your 10-14 months number? Unless there are complications from surgery (i.e., ulnar nerve irritation such as is happening with Brian Wilson right now), in most cases it shouldn’t take more than a year to be pitching again.

      Why is it easier for a pitcher throwing 10-15 pitches at a time?

  5. crozier April 7, 2014 at 9:29 am
    Correct, Joe: I’m not worried. Was Parnell missed in August and September? Hawkins saved 13/15, comparable to Parnell’s 22/26. I’m surprised you aren’t more cynical about the supposed elite status of the closer. The rising trend is changing closers on a near-yearly basis. The Red Sox have Uehara, suddenly unhittable at 39. It won’t last, and so what? They’ll find someone else to do it.
    • Joe Janish April 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm
      Exactly. As another example, the Reds have Hoover, who … oh, wait …

      Kidding; one blown save doesn’t mean Hoover won’t be effective over a larger sample size.

      But, it IS ironic and unfortunate that his name is Hoover, and a vacuum’s function is to suck …

      • crozier April 7, 2014 at 1:21 pm
        Okay, so that’s pretty awesome.
  6. argonbunnies April 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm
    The return time for TJ is well documented. The return time for spinal fusion, on the other hand, is clearly a bit longer than the few months the Mets gave Parnell. I think he simply needed to take it slow, and throw in the 80s for a while until his body was ready to ramp it up. He did a good job of that in spring training, but couldn’t forget about velocity once the bell rung.