Advanced baseball metrics indicate significant decline in MLB pitcher value after Tommy John surgery

Ryan S. Selley*, Daniel A. Portney, Cort D. Lawton, Michael D. Shockley, Robert A. Christian, Matthew D. Saltzman, Wellington K. Hsu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There are conflicting reports regarding the efficacy of Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers following medial ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCLR). As advanced baseball metrics have revolutionized the way general managers define pitchers' value, the authors believe that these should be used to measure clinical outcomes after UCLR. All MLB pitchers who underwent UCLR from April 1, 1991, through July 1, 2016, were compiled (N=253). Pitcher demographics and statistics were collected for up to 3 full seasons preceding and following surgery. Data for pitching controls (all MLB [AMLB] pitchers) were also collected (N=14,756). Prior to surgery, pitchers with UCLR were significantly better than the AMLB pitchers in nearly all advanced value-based statistics: higher wins above replacement (WAR; 0.93 vs 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.80-1.06), lower fielding independent pitching (FIP; 4.23 vs 4.51; 95% CI, 4.12-4.34), lower expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP; 4.17 vs 4.38; 95% CI, 4.06-4.28), higher win probability added (WPA; 0.21 vs 0.05; 95% CI, 0.1-0.32), and higher leverage index (pLI; 1.03 vs 0.96; 95% CI, 0.99-1.06). Pitchers who returned to play after UCLR demonstrated significantly lower value with worse WAR, FIP, WPA, and pLI (P<.05). Conversely, after excluding pitchers who failed to achieve a sustained return to play of greater than 1 year, there were no significant decreases in value after surgery. The authors conclude that, prior to injury, pitchers who have UCLR are more valuable than average MLB pitchers. However, UCLR pitchers perform worse when compared with their presurgical values. This may be affected by players not being able to continue their careers for more than 1 year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-354
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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