The pitch clock in Major League Baseball shaved a good amount of time off the average game and generally drew rave reviews from fans on the pace of play. Not everyone is a fan and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer says that the clock is causing more severe pitcher injuries, citing renowned surgeons Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Here's Scherzer during an appearance on Foul Territory:
"[Dr. Meister] saw that the elbow injuries this year were just way more severe. If you look at all the data that came across the game, that the pitcher injuries, arm injuries, they're on the high end, but the severity of the injuries are much more problematic."
"Both of them are seeing the same thing, that there's an uptick in severity."
The number of days lost to the injured list this past season rose 6.1% across baseball, though the number of placements on the injured list dropped. Do the math and that says the injuries this past season took longer in recovery time, though that's all players and not just pitchers.
There were a decent number of pitchers needing to undergo major surgery, though that's the case every single season. Even if there was a rise in Tommy John surgeries, for example, one season of data doesn't do a great job in proving that the pitch clock was culprit. The minor leagues have been using the clock for years and pitchers back in the '80s -- and every previous decade -- worked much faster on the mound than in the last several years without a clock.
Further, all kinds of variables go into pitcher injuries. There's accumulation, as heavy workloads in 2021-22 can greatly contribute to an arm injury in 2023. There are also freak accidents. Pitchers who worked quickly in the past weren't more susceptible to arm injuries than those who took a long time to throw a pitch. We don't have a control group of pitchers throwing in parallel worlds without a pitch clock to know if one year of an adjustment is definitely what caused the supposed increase in severity in pitcher injuries, either. Correlation, as your high school statistics teacher taught you, does not imply causation.
Also, what about the pitchers who max out every pitch? It seems to me that these are all related and the increase in maxing out every pitch is what caused the pitchers to need more recovery time in between pitches, increasing the average time of game so significantly in the past 15-20 years.
More than anything, the human arm wasn't meant to do what pitchers do over the course of their careers and that's why there are always going to be a lot of pitcher injuries, especially as they throw harder and harder.
Scherzer is generally on top of things relating to the game, so this situation bears monitoring. It's entirely possible that the pitch clock causes an increase in pitcher injuries, but one year of data doesn't tell us whether that's true or not. Pitcher injuries have been increasing for years.