There's no guaranteed way to prevent injuries from happening, especially to pitchers. But there certainly are guaranteed ways to cause injuries.
Former Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff suffered some long-lasting shoulder injuries this year in the first year of the pitch clock at the major league level. It didn't take long into the season for Woodruff to suffer an injury, just a couple of starts. It was an injury deep inside the shoulder that you typically do not see happen to pitchers that often.
Woodruff missed the next four months of the season rehabbing from that injury, then came back and was pitching quite well for a few weeks. Then, all of a sudden, an injury to the same area deep inside the shoulder popped up and required surgery that will likely keep him out for all of 2024. That injury calling into question Woodruff's 2024 campaign is what directly lead to the Brewers non-tendering the co-ace of their starting rotation. If it wasn't for the injury, he'd still be a Brewer.
It's a tough break for Woodruff and for the Brewers. It's not the way things should've ended between player and team. To make matters even worse, that injury could've possibly been preventable.
Brandon Woodruff's surgeon suggests the pitch clock instituted by MLB is leading to more severe injuries to pitchers.
Rangers pitcher Max Scherzer was on Foul Territory TV on Monday talking with the hosts about the rise in pitcher injuries in 2023. He cited top surgeons within the game Dr. Neal ElAttrache and specifically Dr. Keith Meister. Meister was the specialist that Woodruff saw for his initial injury in April and performed the shoulder surgery on him back in October.
According to Scherzer, those surgeons linked the pitch clock and increased pace from it this season leading to more severe injuries among pitchers.
There seems to be a clear correlation between the increased pace and decreased amount of time for a pitcher to recover after a pitch and injuries to those pitchers. The doctors who see these pitchers all the time, including the doctor who performed the surgery on Woodruff, have noticed a change and an increase in severity since the introduction of the pitch clock.
Brandon Woodruff appears to be a victim of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's push to speed up baseball games.
According to Baseball Savant, Woodruff has had a tempo of 24-25 seconds between pitches with runners on base for his entire career. In 2023, that tempo was sped up to 19 seconds due to the pitch clock only giving him 20 seconds. That difference of 5-6 seconds of recovery is a massive change.
If it weren't for the pitch clock, Woodruff's pace would still be around his normal time of 24-25 seconds. If he were at that pace, it's quite possible, even likely, he'd be healthy right now considering he's never had an issue with arm injuries before. Woodruff didn't have a single arm-related injury prior to 2023 when the pitch clock was installed.
Woodruff may never be the same pitcher ever again. Surgeries deep inside the shoulder like Woodruff's can be difficult to come back from and the rate of success is much lower than even Tommy John surgery. His entire career could be derailed due to this injury, his Brewers career already has, and the consensus among baseball's top doctors is that injuries like Woodruff's were directly caused by the pitch clock.