The sad saga of the De-load Program, a failed attempt at proving the Rangers were the smartest guys in the room.
DE-LOAD IS D.E.A.
Three years ago, in an attempt to revolutionize the prevention of Tommy John surgeries, the Texas Rangers pioneered what they called the “de-load program.”
De-load is now de-funct. It was de-sasterous.
The ordeal is chronicled by Rangers reporter Levi Weaver in his wonderful article for The Athletic.
The idea behind de-loading was to prevent injuries. Injuries, however, doubled.
The Rangers rushing headstrong into a program that hadn’t been proven, hadn’t been tested and, in retrospect, was simply the wrong thing to do.
“It wasn’t as effective as it could have been,” Jon Daniels admitted. “And at the end of the day, that’s on me.”
Not effective as it could have been is sugar coating it, to say the least.
As Weaver pointed out, according to Jon Roegal of Hardball Times, 29 percent of all pitchers who appeared at least once in the major leagues from 2009 to 2018 had to eventually undergo Tommy John surgery. Since the Rangers started the de-load program, 54.5 percent of their pitchers who participated in it have undergone surgery.
Rangers first round pick in 2016, Cole Ragans tore a ligament in his pitching elbow a month ago. He will be going in for his second Tommy John.
The philosophy of de-load was to take pitchers coming out of high school who had a heavy workload and totally shut them down for a few months. Give them time to recuperate.
“The problem with the Rangers’ system might have been that there was too much rest,” Weaver wrote, “to the point that pitchers began to lose fitness in the muscles specific to pitching a baseball.”
In other words, shutting down an engine totally and then trying to restart it puts way more stress on it than if you just drove the car a little slower.
The Rangers de-loaded them for two months, then threw them right back into competitive games. That was one of the worst things they could have done.
Now the Rangers have scrapped de-loading and have unofficially partnered with a company called Driveline, whose program is built around pitchers throwing weighted balls.
Will Driveline work?
Not the way the Rangers are doing it. Which is on the cheap.
As Weaver reports, “According to multiple sources with knowledge of the program…while the team was using Driveline’s equipment, Driveline itself was not retained to implement the program. Instead, Rangers employees were left to interpret instructions and install the curriculum on their own.”
They bought the instruction manual for the plane but decided to build the plane themselves with parts laying around the warehouse.
For all of Jon Daniels’s brilliance, he just seems snake bitten when it comes to figuring out pitching.