Will Johan Santana’s Velocity Suffer As A Result Of The Surgery?

An article by posted on January 13, 2012

Interesting response by Anthony DiComo when he was asked a question regarding a potential loss in velocity for Johan Santana who had already seen the velocity on his fastball decline in the years before his shoulder surgery in 2010.

Isn’t Johan Santana the first pitcher of his kind to suffer this kind of injury? He isn’t a power pitcher at all, and most of the pitchers coming back from a rotator cuff tear don’t succeed because their velocity drops.
– James S., New York

You could make the argument that Santana is a unique case study given how frequently he uses his secondary pitches — in particular, his changeup — in relation to his fastball. But medical history has indicated that lower radar gun readings do not necessarily equate to easier recoveries. R.A. Dickey will tell you that even the game’s softest throwers put extreme force on their shoulders and elbows due to the physics of delivering a pitch. And Santana is hardly a pushover; as far as starting pitchers go, he has maintained roughly average fastball velocity throughout his career.

That’s not just my opinion. I recently posed this exact question to Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the co-chief of sports medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. His reply: “I don’t think [the changeup] puts less stress on a shoulder. I would call it different stress.”

It’s also important to distinguish between Santana’s anterior capsule surgery and the more common (and even less promising) rotator cuff surgery. Regaining velocity following a rotator cuff operation can pose a significant challenge to any pitcher. Regaining velocity following a capsule tear is easier — Washington’s Chien-Ming Wang, for example, enjoyed strong radar gun readings after his return from capsule surgery last summer.

More than velocity, it’s the recovery period following an outing that tends to flummox capsule surgery patients. Given last summer’s positive reports, Santana’s quality of pitches should be fine this spring — or at the very least adequate. The challenge will be bouncing back after throwing 100 of them.

As long as Johan Santana maintains a similar differential between his fastball and his once killer changeup, he should be close to what he was before the surgery no matter how high his fastball registers on the radar gun. What made Johan an elite pitcher was how deceptive his changeup was.

Original Post 1/12

Mets ace Johan Santana long-tossed today in Port St. Lucie. He just wrapped up a conference call a short while ago about his rehab, readiness, 2012 season.

  • Mets Rehab Program: Santana says he is about three weeks from the day he started throwing. He’s now throwing from 90 feet on flat ground. Next step is 110 feet, which he hopes to do tomorrow. ”I’m doing everything the way they have told me. There is a program we have to follow and the key is to start Spring Training without any problems.”
  • About Opening Day: “I don’t want to guess anything. I’m getting ready for when Spring Training starts. I’m going to go one day at a time. Everyday I’m going to do my best to be ready.”
  • About Spring Training: Santana hopes to be throwing bullpens with other starting pitchers Feb. 22, but: “I don’t want to set any time frame.”
  • About the 2012 season: “We’re going to compete, we’re gonna play hard and we’re gonna have fun. I know we’re going to have a young team. It’s a learning process for everyone and I look forward to it. We have the talent to compete.”

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I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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