Why isn't the pitcher injury and Tommy John Surgery epidemic showing any signs of reversing?
In my opinion, that is in large part because, in asking Tom House what is happening, why, and how to fix it, baseball is talking to one of the people who is the problem, not the solution.
As a result, he is unlikely to throw himself under the bus.
I have spent the past year studying literally everything Tom House -- and his protege and co-author of Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch, Doug Thorburn -- has written or said, focusing on his most recent statements.
I don't see any signs that anything significant has changed in Tom House's teaching in at least the past 15 years.
Selling Theory as Fact
Far too often, Tom House presents theory as fact.
And, far too often, what Tom House presents as absolutes are what the best pitchers -- starting with Nolan Ryan -- do not do.
As I explain in The Killer Quintet, in my opinion and experience, too many of Tom House's core teachings continue to make it far more likely that a pitcher will move like Mark Prior than Nolan Ryan; they literally make it impossible for a pitcher to move the way Nolan Ryan did.
Nolan Ryan and Mark Prior
I do not believe Tom House has learned from his experience with Mark Prior and Anthony Reyes; the way Mark Prior moved remains entirely consistent with Tom House's key principles.
Rather, everything I read and see tells me Tom House is teaching pretty much the same mechanics, pretty much the same way, as before. That includes ignoring the Inverted W, the arm action that in my opinion was the largest factor in Mark Prior's shoulder problems due to its tendency to create a Timing problem.
Tom House in July 2015
The only thing that seems to have changed since Mark Prior's collapse is that Tom House has increased his emphasis on conditioning. While there is some evidence that improved conditioning has reduced the incidence of shoulder problems of late, elbows are still failing at troubling rates.
What's more, while I believe that conditioning can delay the onset of serious problems, I have yet to see any evidence that Tom House's or any other conditioning program can completely work-around the increased loads that the mechanics that he forces his pitchers into places on their arms.
Not to mention the fact that Nolan Ryan threw harder than Mark Prior ever did.
You Blew It
I bought Nolan Ryan's Pitcher's Bible hoping to learn how Nolan Ryan got where he did.
Instead, I what I got were Tom House's theories about how pitchers should move, many of which -- as Nolan Ryan points out -- are at odds with what Nolan Ryan did and thought.
Nothing typifies that better than the fact that Tom House taught Reid Ryan, Nolan Ryan's son, to move quite differently than his Hall Of Fame father did.
Where Does He Come Up With This Stuff?
My biggest concern with what Tom House teaches is that, too often, it has no basis in fact. For instance, pay attention to what he says at 2:00.
Tom House in October 2013
In case you can't hear what he's saying, here's a transcript of the relevant lines.
If you look at the glove relative to the front foot, where do you think, at release point, the glove is relative to the front foot on ALL the elite pitchers?
It's stopped and in front.
I'm not sure what the disconnect is. Is he (actually) looking at video of elite pitchers? Who is he looking at? Who does he he define as an elite pitcher? Is this theory he's presenting as fact?
All I know is, when I look at David Price at the release point, his glove isn't where Tom House says it is (or should be).
David Price just post release point 2015
Maybe the answer is that Tom House doesn't consider David Price to be an elite pitcher? NOTE 1
Learning from Mark Prior?
While many believe something to the contrary, in my opinion the words of Tom House and Doug Thorburn in Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch, suggest they still believe that Mark Prior's pitching mechanics were perfect; what caused his shoulder problems was his basepath collision with Marcus Giles.
I have two problems with that argument.
First, Anthony Reyes' pitching mechanics were essentially identical to Mark Prior's, and his career was also cut short by shoulder problems. Second, if you compare Mark Prior's statistics before and after the Marcus Giles collision, in many cases (e.g. WHIP) his statistics were better after the collision, not worse. Also, if you look at his fastball velocity readings during the Bartman Game, there is no sign of the velocity decline that you would expect to see in a pitcher who earlier that season suffered a traumatic injury to his labrum.
The problem with the idea that Mark Prior's pitching mechanics were perfect is it gives Tom House license to continue teaching what he taught Mark Prior.
That seems to be exactly what he's doing.
If you look at the arm actions of pitchers performing what I believe may be the Most Dangerous Pitching Drill, you will see a major problem; an inverted arm position. This is an issue because it will often create a Timing problem where the pitcher's shoulders start rotating while their arm is at best flat, if not internally rotated.
While this may increase the pitcher's velocity in the short term, it will often create elbow and shoulder problems in the long term.
Case in Point
The clip below, which is from a video that I believe was shot in July 2015 when Tom House was working with Tim Tebow, shows him supervising a client; a client who is exhibiting an inverted arm action literally under his nose.
Tom House Supervising an Inverted W Pitcher
The best-case explanation for why this is happening is what you don't see.
A high-speed video camera.
Whenever I am trying out a new drill, I always film it with my high-speed camera. I do that because I want to ensure that the drill doesn't just produce the desired gain, but also does so without creating a problematic arm action or a Timing problem.
I believe the reason why so many of Tom House's clients display problematic arm actions is because, when working with clients and evaluating their progress, he seems to do so with his naked eye (and presumably a radar gun).
The problem is that the naked eye is simply too slow to see critical factors like a pitcher's Timing.
While some will likely say that their experience gives them the ability to see things that the untrained eye can't, in my experience that is not the case. While I can still see the spin of a ball when catching my son, I couldn't see the critical mechanical stuff when I was younger and, as I have gotten older and my eyes have started to age, at best my eyes are no better than they were before.
I have identified the five most dangerous pitching cues that I believe are at the root of The Epidemic. Four of the five are frequently used by Tom House when he talks about pitching mechanics.
Inverted Arm Actions
The Art and Science of Pitching appears to endorse arm actions which I would describe as the Inverted L or the Inverted W, two positions that recent research suggests are problematic.
Flat Arm Syndrome
As I discuss at length in my piece by the same name, in my opinion one major problem with what and how Tom House teaches is that many of his drills work -- they do create quick velocity boosts -- not for the stated reasons, but by creating a Timing problem called Flat Arm Syndrome.
The Most Dangerous Position is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.
Although it isn't a major teaching point, The Art and Science of Pitching shows pitchers showing the ball to center field and in a position of Premature Pronation that experience and research suggests is problematic.
The Big Question
Why didn't Tom House teach Mark Prior to throw like Nolan Ryan did?
Maybe the answer is that Nolan Ryan simply didn't think that much about mechanics and just did what came naturally. That seem plausible given what I've heard about what Rube Walker taught, which was minimal.
What I find startling is that Mark Prior appears to have been taught from a template that prevents a pitcher from moving like Nolan Ryan did; much of how Nolan Ryan moved goes against what Tom House taught and still teaches, and that shaped Mark Prior's pitching mechanics.
I can only assume that the answer is Tom House is trying to develop a single approach that he can teach to all pitchers, which includes both athletes and non-athletes. He also believes in this approach because it quickly delivers results.
My concern is that what I continue to see in pitchers who bear Tom House's mechanical signature is that they (still) move in a way that recent research suggests is problematic.
1. I do wonder if part of the problem is that, when Tom House talks about elite pitchers, he's talking about the best pitchers to have come to him and that he has studied in his lab. The (obvious) problem with that approach is that you are limited to who comes to you and how good they are. I believe my approach of effectively bringing the lab to the player -- by bringing a high speed camera to multiples games in which the pitcher is pitching -- is superior because I can study pitchers who truly are the elite of all the pitchers in the world.