"Sometimes you have to look underneath the surface and I tend to agree it has a lot to do with youth sports and travel teams and multiple travel teams and kids pitching to win when they're really young and throwing too many pitches. I think the more recent epidemic curiously might be tied to what they're doing before they even get here professionally."Having watched enough youth baseball in my time, I have to disagree. Youth leagues require their managers to keep pitch counts for their pitchers. They also have innings pitched limits and non-consecutive game start rules. The one point of agreement is that travel leagues and especially private club teams have caused young players to play more often than in the past; to some, it is a 12 month season of games and training sessions.
But the real problem of the increase in significant arm injuries is the fact that pitchers have been quantified by numbers. The radar gun turned many players into flame throwers and not pitchers. The concept that a player has a finite amount of pitches his body can take is a vague assumption that somehow has been repeated as truth by general managers. And yes, major league teams use pitch counts to control usage of their pitchers. And then pitchers have in the back of their mind to conserve their number in order to get enough innings to earn a victory. Then they stop throwing strikes to nibble the corners for chasers.
But some older pitchers have remarked that the real reason today's pitchers are not durable is the fact they train differently than in the past. Before the union and big money CBA contracts, professional baseball players were part timers. They all had off-season jobs in order to earn a living. Many of the players were factory workers or farmers. So during the off-season, they used their entire bodies in physical labor. This coordinated work was called being "country strong."
But today, the modern athlete is tuned in to be a gym rat with personal trainers and strength coaches. The weight training routines to build muscle mass is probably the worst thing to happen to pitching since lowering the mound. Old school pitchers were of two body types: the lanky string-bean who could throw all day because he was flexible and not muscle bound or the round beer barrel type who had large leg muscles with a simple torque turn to throw effortlessly. Fergie Jenkins was the first type; Rick Reuschel an example of the second type.
Jenkins has been quoted in the past saying that the problem with current pitchers is that they don't throw enough these days. They don't get their bodies used to throwing 9 innings per start (which pitchers in Fergie's era were expected to do). They may have actually more time off per start with the current 5 man rotations (up from the 4 man rotations of the 1960s-1970s). In today's game, a starter who throws 200 IP per season is golden; in the past, 300 IP was the norm for quality starters.
The reason that youth pitchers throw more innings as the reason that they break down as major leaguers is not the real problem. Before pitchers come to the majors, the team drafting them will have done due diligence and put them on the team's work-out development routines. If anything, based on historical statistics, it is the modern training techniques that may be the biggest cause of arm injuries in the majors.