Tommy John Surgery: Are pitchers a ticking time bomb?

Written By: Justin Orenduff

According to, out of the 360 pitchers that started the season on the active Major League roster, 124 of them have had to undergo Tommy John Surgery.  Sadly, the number is likely to rise and the worst may yet to come.

The surgery rate among pitchers continues to rise because of the ongoing problematic culture within the game of baseball.  Trends happen in all walks of life and the game of baseball is in a current trend of bad information that preaches velocity, travel baseball, showcase events, and poor instruction at the youth level.  All facets that directly place more stress on the arm. All current American MLB pitchers have grown up in this era.  Let me provide you a glimpse of what young pitchers are subjected to, and often believe is the right way to train and throw a baseball.

I would love to see the medical research that supports the training of 20 lb. wrists on a young thrower to increase velocity in the video above.

matt harvey tommy john

Matt Harvey suffers partial tear in UCL

Baseball suffered a devastating blow this past week when we learned Matt Harvey has suffered a partial tear in his right UCL.  He, like so many others before him, is now ultimately headed for Tommy John surgery.   Many claim he has perfect mechanics, and now our media is relaying the message that every pitcher is a ticking time bomb.  Is this true?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Harvey’s mechanics were better than the average MLB pitcher but he too had faults in his delivery that added more stress to the elbow and shoulder.  But it’s more than just his mechanical pattern, he’s operating within the current structure of MLB.  Let me ask you a question?  Why have no pitchers in the Hall Of Fame undergone Tommy John Surgery?  A better mechanical pattern exists in the natural athleticism inherent in many overhead athletes but unfortunately the natural pattern gets destroyed in the problematic fuel placed into the minds and bodies of pitchers across America.

Our goal at Baseball Rebellion is to influence the next wave of baseball players from a young age to dramatically impact the game of baseball in years to come.  Many current players are already too far gone in bad information, overuse, and saturated in the pitfalls of  today’s culture.

However, I do think some pitchers may have the ability to overcome a mechanical deficiency and make adjustments that allow the opportunity to prolong their careers.  One such pitcher is Brandon Beachy.  I first came across Beachy when I was scrolling though’s injury report and I saw Beachy went on the DL in June 2012 with Tommy John Surgery.  When I first looked at his mechanics, I instantly labeled his delivery of showing characteristics of the “UP, DOWN, & OUT” pattern.  If you want to know exactly what I’m referring to, I encourage you to read my 3 part series of the detrimental effects of this delivery on young throwers here.

Brandy Beachy MechanicsThis summer I managed to attend just one Durham Bulls game, but I happened to witness a Brandon Beachy rehab start for AAA Gwinnett on Sunday July 14th.   I had  no idea he was scheduled to start, but when I saw him warming up on the field, I instantly thought of how I used his delivery in a video of WHAT NOT TO DO.  When I watched him move in his dynamic warmup, play catch, and throw his pen before the game, I couldn’t help but think……this guy could actually make a legitimate adjustment with a couple adjustments in his training pattern.

But, will he be able to make the adjustment?  Because as of right now, NO mechanical adjustment has been made since he underwent his first Tommy John Surgery in 2012 and now after just 5 starts back in Atlanta, Beachy found  himself back on the DL with elbow soreness. What adjustments needs to be made?  Watch the video below.

Brandon Beachy’s Mechanics

Keep the head behind the back hip

whitey ford lead hip

Whitey Ford keeping his head behind the hip

One of the best coaching cues any pitching instructor can use is the simple phrase “keep your head behind the hip”.  The head and spine will work to get back to neutral (centered) as the body moves down the mound and this is why it’s imperative for any pitcher to keep his head behind the hip as long as he can until acceleration of the trunk and arm occurs.  This doesn’t mean LEAN BACK!   A pitching must allow his lower half to move towards the target, hips open, and then the trunk can begin to rotate.  If the head drifts forward in the throw, you lose the ability to rotate a large percentage of your mass.

If Brandon Beachy could add just a small element of better lower half mechanics his head would naturally shift behind his back hip and he would allow his elbow to stay slightly below the shoulder at foot strike.  When the elbow gets above the shoulder at foot strike, the trunk rotation will send the elbow out in front of the body without the support of the entire torso.

Take a look at the elbow positions of Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux.  Many instructors today would never teach such a position.  90 % of all my students initially think the elbow is supposed to be higher than the shoulder because some coach has engrained this in their brain.

Notice the elbow slightly below the shoulder

Notice the elbow slightly below the shoulder

Any pitcher can benefit from keeping his head behind the hip longer because of the exponential benefit produced from the delayed torso.  If you want a strong supported finish, you must keep the head, spine, and arm delayed at foot strike.  The torso and arm must rotate together and decelerate back into the body together.  Look at the difference between Beachy’s finish compared to Clayton Kershaw’s finish.  Beachy stops his chest moving forward and slams his knee back into the body before the chest and arm have the opportunity to get out in front into proper release.  Kershaw allows the trunk to continue to rotate together out in front and continue back into the body.

Brandon Beachy showing a weak finish vs. Kershaw showing a strong finish

Weak Finish vs. Strong Finish

Getting to the Major’s is one thing, but staying there is another.  Many pitchers at the highest level are in drastic need of a mechanical adjustment to help promote the longevity of their career.  However many pitchers have no idea what they are doing wrong, and a mechanical adjustment may be scary.  But if you are recovering from Tommy John surgery, wouldn’t you actively try to figure out what caused your injury in the first place?  Sadly, we are getting to the point where the game of baseball feels all pitchers will inevitably blow out.

But just imagine if you could manage to stay healthy and sign that second contract.  The one that has lots of zeros and will set up you and your family for life.  What has to be done to get to that point?


Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Baseball Pitching Rebellion





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ed kovac

I am a hitting instructor and that’s pretty much what I teach because that is my expertise. I do not teach throwing technique because I do not know the answers conclusively. Your article shows how pitchers are brought thru the system based on performance and adjustments are made during their progression by people who do not have a full understanding of the physical dynamics of the body. this is true in hitting as well. hopefully, coaches at all levels will become sensitive to injury potential of their recommended adjustments in the pitching motion.

Stephen Black
Stephen Black

Justin – do you have any thoughts on infield and outfield throws? – I don’t know many position players dealing with TJ Surgery, but I know a lot that have dealt with cranky elbows – I also know you apply these same technique adjustments to position players.

These are the thoughts I use now to avoid elbow issues: Draw the ‘elbow’ back, pull – drive- snap.
(Draw just loads the elbow with thoracic extension – Pull with the abs/reverse thoracic extension – Drive the shoulder to the target – Snap the wrist with thumb down.)

thanks for your thoughts,

Samuel Ganse
Samuel Ganse

Justin, My son has demonstrated simular mechanics to what you teach. He was able to pick it up a 4-5 years old. He always has thrown accurately and efficiently. He’s had several coaches try to get him ” more over the top” or “straight down the hill” for years. He’s been involved in travel ball and plays quite frequently at a high level. He’s never experienced arm pain ever…… I feel it’s because he kept the blinders on and did what worked and felt good to him. Plus I always felt it looked right. Several of his larger teammates thow… Read more »

Ted Wood
Ted Wood

I still think it’s easy to talk about bad mechanics after an injury and find flaws in a pitcher. Show me a guy that has perfect mechanics and no arm problems and I say it doesn’t exist. At some time no matter what you do you will have arm trouble as a pitcher it’s just too ballistic a movement not too. I would love to hear what guys you think have the best mechanics and will probably avoid arm problems.


Ted, there are other websites and analysts that do just that. The one that first comes to mind is Chris O’Leary. Unfortunately, most of his stuff is now restricted to client access. He largely focuses on timing of the upper body (at least in the articles available to non-clients) but he does look for efficient use of the lower body as well. As his views on mechanics for both hitting and pitching are largely similar with those found here, I sometimes wonder if his work has influenced the coaches for Baseball Rebellion and vice versa.

Chas Pippitt


We have read some of his stuff, and he has read some of ours.

Justin and I would contend that there are some fundamental differences between what we do/see and what O’Leary does.