Being able to throw baseball over 100 mph is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, a player with that ability can throw the ball by just about any opposing batter. On the other hand, there is a lot of stress and tension that runs up and down the arm while throwing that hard. Worst case scenario is that something could snap, and that was the case for Jordan Hicks of the St. Louis Cardinals, a right-handed reliever with the ability to hit 104 mph with his fastball.
The #STLCards announced today that closer Jordan Hicks has a torn lunar collateral ligament (UCL), a diagnosis that often leads to Tommy John surgery. Release says the team is determining the next course of action.
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) June 24, 2019
According to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Hicks has torn his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and could be heading for Tommy John surgery. It is not yet confirmed of the severity of the tear, but if surgery is required, Hicks will be out of at least 12-16 months to recover and rehabilitate.
This will be a tough loss for the Cardinals. Hicks has brought stability to the Cardinals bullpen with his 3.14 ERA and 0.942 WHIP in 28.2 innings pitched. His K/9 sits at 9.7 on the season with 31 in those 28.2 innings. He has also only walked 11 batters, good for a 2.81 K:BB ratio.
The Cardinals bullpen will surely take a hit without him. While his numbers indicate that he is susceptible to giving up a run on occasion, his ability to throw 104 mph makes him a valuable asset. The Cardinals bullpen ERA currently sits at 4.08, which is good for 10th in MLB.
The Cardinals starting pitching not living up to expectations as they currently sit in 12th in MLB with a 4.19 ERA. Additionally, prized off season signing Andrew Miller is not pitching to his resume with a 4.15 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 26 innings pitched. Between all of that, the Hicks injury indicates that the team needs to be active for pitching as the trade deadline approaches.
The best case scenario for the Cardinals is that Hicks can avoid the surgery altogether. This has happened. In 2014 Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees also tore his UCL, but was able to avoid the surgery and return to action after rehabilitation. Five years later and Tanaka still has not needed the surgery.
The difference between these two situations is the type of pitcher each player is. Tanaka is more of finesse pitcher. He relies on the the movement of his pitches rather than the velocity. Meanwhile, Hicks relies on his 104 mph fastball, and the stress he puts on his arm every time he throws it could mean the ligament could snap again at a moments notice.
Now, Tanaka could see his UCL snap at a moments notice as well. That being said, because he is not throwing the baseball his absolute hardest on every pitch, the risk is not as high as it will be for Hicks.
Only time will tell what fate has in store for Jordan Hicks, but it looks like surgery and a lengthy stint away from baseball may be heading his way.
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