The Angels ran into a lot of unluckiness last year when three important pitchers encountered arm troubles, which is why it was highly concerning that Tyler Skaggs is facing a few road blocks to begin the season.
In his first spring training start, Skaggs did not perform well. But the bigger story is his decreased velocity and whether it is a foreshadowing of what is to come.
Tyler Skaggs didn't finish an inning in his spring debut. Four walks and an error. Scouts clocked his final fastballs between 86 and 88 mph.— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) March 4, 2017
According to Pedro Moura of the LA Times, Skaggs was throwing 89 to 92 mph to begin the inning. Three ticks less in velocity is bound to set off alarm bells. Quite conveniently, Moura joined Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan on the Effectively Wild podcast to discuss the Angels in an interview that was released on Tuesday. He went on to discuss Skaggs, saying [Skaggs] tried to sacrifice velocity for command but it did not prove to be helpful.
Skaggs had low shoulder strength and a “little weakness”. Nothing major for Skaggs, but he will forego his next scheduled start (Friday) as a precautionary measure.
There is still just cause for some concern, but the bigger story is what the Angels are doing to prevent such pitching injuries moving forward.
According to J.P. Hoornstra of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:
For the first time ever, the Angels’ medical staff has been administering a standardized strength test after each starting pitcher exits a game.
This is a welcome sign for an organization scarred by injury, and an opportunity to identify potential injured ligaments before they can become increasingly injured in the next five days.
If the Angels did this last year following Garrett Richards’ first 110+ pitch start, who knows? Even though he said he was fine, perhaps the strength test would disagree, he would not have been allowed to start, so he could not have become injured? Evaluating arm health for the modern pitcher is crucial to minimize potential injury to starters, and therefore protect a ballclub for success.
Managers want to use their best players, General Managers want player values to be high, and owners want to sell more tickets, which can be achieved in part by having healthy players. All three in this chain are incentived to have healthy assets at their disposal.
If the Angels are to make any noise this year, they are going to want Tyler Skaggs. And in order to have a healthy Tyler Skaggs, you might want to administer these strength tests, too.