Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Matt Moore & the Cautionary Tale of Tommy John Surgery

The New York Yankees went against the grain a bit last season when they learned that their 25 year old ace Masahiro Tanaka had a less than 10% tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Instead of putting Tanaka under the knife to get the UCL replaced while having the right-hander miss not only the remainder of the 2014 season but much of the 2015 season the Yankees took the road less traveled. Tanaka and the Yankees, under the advice and supervision of not one but five doctors including the team doctor and Dr. James Andrews, the Tommy John surgery specialist, decided to try and rest and rehab program hoping that the ligament would heal on its own avoiding the surgery. The Yankees were killed for this decision by the media and the fans and every hanging curve ball or every loss for Tanaka leads to outrage about not getting the surgery, even though it was the right decision not to.

There have been more than a few pitchers who have tried to rest and rehab the UCL rather than going under the knife but only a couple have actually had any success with it. Ervin Santana followed the same path and has never needed the surgery to date while Adam Wainwright went years without needing the surgery. Tanaka has been so far so good on the elbow since the rehab, despite what you read on Twitter after a bad outing, making the Yankees and that team of doctors look better and better every single start. The main reason behind the decision, at least in my opinion, was because while the TJS success rate is as high as it has ever been the surgery is far from 100%. Look at Matt Moore of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Moore was demoted back to the minor leagues and Triple-A over the weekend after continuing to struggle on the mound this season. Moore is in his first season removed from the Tommy John surgery and will head to the minors looking to sort out his issues. Moore has posted a 1-3 record in six starts since returning from the DL and has failed to go past five innings in any of the starts. Moore is just the most recent example, Ryan Madson has been trying to work his way back from Tommy John surgery for parts of four seasons now with limited success. The surgery is not 100% and even if it was 99% effective you want to avoid the knife if you can, the Yankees did that and I commend them for it. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)