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Game 22 Open Thread - Kansas City Royals (10-11) vs. Baltimore Orioles (11-10)


Ed Zurga

What day is it?


Ventura has become a bit of a media sensation due to his ability to throw a baseball really, really hard. Jeff Passan has a piece up at Yahoo Sports where he asks Yordano to recount the first time he hit triple digits.

"It was in Arizona, my first time throwing 100," Yordano Ventura said. He's working on his English these days, getting better and better, and talking about that magical binary number extracts the best in him. "No scoreboard. Radar gun only. One of my teammates hold it. He told me, 'Hey. You throw 100 today.'

Ventura was 19.

Oh cool. When I was 19, I was able to beat all the teams on NBA Jam while drunk, but I guess his feat is more "news-worthy."

Ventura has thrown 14 pitches at 100 mph already this year, according to Pitch F/X. Its the most anyone has ever thrown in April, and more than all of the rest of baseball combined. He has thrown the six fastest pitches thrown this year, and he has thrown the fastest fastball in Pitch F/X history. In summary, Ventura throws the ball hard.

But is he a star meant to dazzle us and flame out or is he here for the long haul? Steve Busby is regarded as one of the greatest pitchers in Royals history, but he gave us just two full seasons before injuries did him in. Injuries cut short the careers of Dennis Leonard and Jose Rosado, and probably gave us less than a 100% Bret Saberhagen. Does Yordano's extreme velocity and slight frame make him an injury risk? The Star's Sam Mellinger looks into it:

Glenn Fleisig is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on what makes baseball pitchers break down. He is the chair of research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which was founded by the famous orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, and among other things has worked with eight Cy Young winners and thousands of professional pitchers in search of a better understanding on arm injuries....

Fleisig and his staff use slow-motion cameras and body sensors to examine the specific kinetics of each pitcher. The fact that Ventura stands just 6 feet tall (a generous listing on the Royals’ official roster) does not make him a greater injury risk than a bigger pitcher.

"Take a 6-foot-6, 260-pound guy versus a 6-foot, 200-pound guy," Fleisig says. "The tall guy has more body weight, a longer arm. But I don’t know if the guy who’s 20 percent heavier has 20 percent stronger tendons and ligaments. Their muscles are bigger, their bones tend to be bigger. But I haven’t seen, scientifically, if the ligaments are bigger. That’s the assumption, but I’m not sure. "I don’t think your height and weight are a key factor for your injury risk."

Fleisig’s research indicates the most important factor is the quality of a pitcher’s mechanics, followed by physical preparation, use, rest and nutrition. If all other things are equal, the harder a pitcher throws, the higher the injury risk. But that’s true regardless of size and does not account for whether a pitcher is born with stronger ligaments to sustain the greater force. Hard throwers have gone entire careers without major problems, and soft-tossers have been in and out of rehab.

This is an endless wave of unknowns, in other words.

A known unknown, perhaps. We don't know if Ventura will break, but its a possibility that lingers in the back of our minds. With all the emphasis on pitch counts and protecting pitchers, we haven't seen an appreciable decline in pitcher injuries (hey! A Jeff Zimmerman sighting!). Perhaps its just best to maximize the time you have with these amazing pitchers, and let the chips fall where they may. Or at the very least, stop worrying about what will come and just enjoy watching Ventura zip fastball after fastball past stupefied hitters.

Hey, did I mention its Yordano Ventura Day?