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Are Tommy John surgery rates going up?

In light of Tony Gonsolin’s upcoming procedure, let’s take a look at some recent Tommy John trends.

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonsolin, meet Tommy John. The Dodgers starter is headed for surgery today, and he may not be the only one this season. Shohei Ohtani and Félix Bautista are facing ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears as well, though their surgery status is still uncertain. Also uncertain: Is this the continuation of a worrisome trend?

Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs took a look at recent TJ surgery numbers to find out. According to baseball analyst Jon Roegele, Gonsolin is the 22nd major league pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery this year. That’s four down from last year’s 26, and (thankfully) far below the single-season record of 35 in 2012.

But we’re not home free just yet. Five surgeries occurred after September 1 last year, and four happened after that date in 2021. The four-year average of 27 surgeries per year is also the highest since the 2012-2015 stretch. On top of that, repeat surgeries are on the rise.

So, what gives? Jaffe says the pitch clock is an unlikely culprit. Instead, he points to the increased severity of pitcher injuries (longer stays on the injured list, while accounting for the increased minimum stay to 15 days) as a more plausible reason.

The good news: Teams are generally waiting longer to reactivate their pitchers after surgery. That means fewer repeat surgeries and, ideally, longer careers for some of the game’s best pitchers.

Dodgers Links

Can it be August forever? The Dodgers have cruised through the month, and The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya takes a look back and just how good the boys in blue have had it.

Over in Philly, meanwhile, Trea Turner has been having a rough time. Jake Mintz at Fox Sports tells the story of how a radio producer inspired fans to give Turner a standing ovation instead of showering him with boos—to marvelous effect.

J.D. Martinez could rejoin the Dodgers next week, writes Bill Plunkett at the OC Register. Martinez has been out with recurring hamstring and groin tightness, and while he’s still not sure what exactly is going on with the injury, progress has been slowly but surely happening.

One more thing—just who is Tommy John, anyways? Here you have it.