From the article:
Serrano was dealing with irritation and inflammation in his right elbow after his start against Memphis on Feb. 20. Serrano skipped a start this past week and had the nagging injury looked at by doctors.
“It is a ligament but it’s not torn,” Dave Serrano said. “I know that for a fact. If he does have a surgery it will probably be Tommy John, but it’s not torn. It’s pulled away from the bone.”
Could this injury have been avoided? Possibly. We can take a look at some video and several still photos of Serrano to see what mechanical flaws may have influenced his elbow injury.
First, some video footage from March 2015, posted by Corey J. Turner:
A few issues I see right away:
- Throwing hand is far behind at foot strike
- “Hooking” right hand behind back causes hand to be behind
- Leading with the elbow
- Staying upright and not getting over the front leg
- Stunted follow-through results in right elbow not properly released after ball release
The problem of hooking — meaning, he “hooks” his hand behind his back after breaking his hands and bringing the ball back — is common among young pitchers and easily fixed. It should be fixed, because it causes timing issues — mainly, that the arm tends to lag behind while the rest of the body moves forward. That puts significant stress on the arm because it has to “catch up.”
Here is a still photo of Serrano’s “hooking” issue. It’s not quite as drastic as what Rick Sutcliffe used to do, but it’s enough to disrupt efficient timing:
Here’s a side angle of the hooking. We can’t see whether his front foot has yet hit the ground, but it certainly looks close to that point. When the front foot hits dirt, the hand/ball needs to be up in the air, fingers pointed more toward the sky than the ground, with the forearm at somewhere around a 90-degree angle from the bicep. In this photo the hand/ball is in the opposite position.
Equally problematic and dangerous is Serrano’s follow-through — or more appropriately, lack of it. After releasing the ball, a pitcher wants the momentum of his arm to continue down and past a point somewhere below his knee, with the elbow naturally bending and fingers relaxed. In contrast, Serrano’s arm stays almost completely straight and snaps back. What he’s been doing is akin to “slamming on the brakes” — with his elbow taking the brunt of deceleration. This flaw is seen in the video above — watch how his hand snaps back up after the ball is let go.
You can kind of see a clue to this mechanical flaw in the following photos. In the first, it looks like his right arm is smacking into his left thigh, preventing the arm from following through.
Another example here. Though his arm has bent at the elbow, deceleration has literally hit a wall — again, the left thigh. If Kyle had been able to get his head and upper body over the front leg, his arm may have had a better chance of properly following through (and he would have had more velocity).
Here’s another example of the elbow not being released — the arm stays straight. This photo is from 2013, when Kyle was still in high school, so he’s been pitching with this particular mechanical flaw for at least a few years.
Again, this is not an uncommon flaw, and in fact we see MLB pitchers staying too upright, not getting over the front leg, and not allowing the elbow to properly release — Mets star pitcher Matt Harvey has had these issues, and they likely were part of the reason he tore his UCL. Just because a pitcher is able to throw over 95 MPH and dominate MLB hitters doesn’t necessarily mean he has efficient, flawless mechanics. In fact, MOST pro pitchers have at least one if not several CORRECTABLE flaws that will eventually cause a severe arm injury. Those inefficiencies are among the main reasons we see so many Tommy John surgeries being performed today.
We’ll keep tabs on young Kyle Serrano, and wish him the best of luck in getting back to the mound. Hopefully, while he’s on the mend, he’ll find a way to correct these flaws to prevent future injuries — as well as allow him to pitch with greater efficiency and more velocity.