July 23, 2015
This past Thursday, July 22, 2015, it looked like the Washington Nationals Yunel Escobar may have broken his hamate bone in his left hand while checking his swing in a game against the New York Mets. He’s back in the lineup for now and starting after the initial injury, but I’m going to take a bit of a chance and predict that he broke his hamate – he was batting a near-career-high average 321 prior to the injury. www.nationals.mlb.com
On June 26, 2015 the Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton, one of baseball’s most prolific power-hitters also broke the hamate bone in his left hand while swinging a bat during a game against the L.A. Dodgers. www.marlinsvideo.mlb.com
The broken hamate bone is an all to common injury that requires surgery to removed the bone fragment from the hand and requires six to nine weeks to recover, post surgery. This injury can happen to any baseball player who swings a baseball bat and it’s caused by compression from the seemingly harmless bat knob. The conventional bat knob is a centuries-old design whose sole purpose was to keep the bat from slipping from the batters hands. But in todays game the conventional bat knob design of the past has become a multi-million dollar liability for the game.
When a batter swings a baseball bat, their hands pass over the knob immediately after intended contact. In that instant, the full force of the swing, combined with the change in relationship between the hand and the knob, violently crushes the knob into the heel of the hand (the hypothenar eminence) and cause resistance in the batters swing.
Evidence of this problem is visible in the hand of almost every player in the game. Look at the palm of a batting glove or the heel of a players hand – they bear testament to the relentless and repeated compression and friction the knob inflicts with every swing.
This past April, Boston College’s second team All-American player Chris Shaw (drafted by the San Francisco Giants, 31st overall) broke his right hamate bone swinging a bat in batting practice. Unfortunately for Chris and the Eagles, the injury required surgery to remove the bone fragment and he missed the next six weeks of the Eagles season. Many believe his absence from the Eagles lineup at the end of the season was a contributing factor to the Eagles not getting into the NCAA post season.
Also this past April, the 15th ranked Maryland Terrapins lost two of their most productive hitters due to broken hamate bones – center fielder LaMonte Wade (recently drafted by the Twins) and back-up catcher and designated hitter Nick Cieri. Fortunately for the Terps, LaMonte and Nick got back to the active roster much quicker than usual and were able to contribute to the Terrapin’s victory over #1 ranked UCLA and advance to the Super Regionals.
On September 1, 2012, Zach Lutz, now playing ball in Japan, was called up to the New York Mets. On September 12, after only 31 MLB at bats, Lutz broke his hamate bone during pre-game batting practice. Was that his only opportunity to make it as a big leaguer? Did that one swing in batting practice derail his career? It’s ironic that the very bat Zack was so accomplished at hitting the ball with would cause his injury and derail his career just as he was realizing his dream.
Accomplished and aspiring ballplayers like these are injured every season by the simple act of swinging a bat. It’s not like they crashed into the wall, collided with another player, got hit by a pitch or in any other way over-extended themselves – they were injured by the knob at the end of the bat.
Coaches curse the broken hamate injury when they lose a player to it and their team struggles to replace that lost offense in the lineup. Players angst over the extended recovery time away from the field and the lost opportunity to contribute to their team. Yet even as the game has changed with “hands inside the ball” rotational swing techniques, stronger players and 90+ mph swings and a grip that places the hands against the knob, the bat design of the past continues to be a serious injury threat for players at all levels of the game.
The hamate injury also has a significant monetary cost to baseball. Giancarlo Stanton’s contract with the Marlins is for $325M over 13 years (for argument sake, this is only a simple math example and doesn’t take into account the specifics of his contract). Not including playoff games, that’s 2,106 games over
13 years – meaning the Marlins pay him $154,320 per game. Because of this one hamate injury, he’s going to miss at minimum 36 games over 6 weeks. The total estimated cost to the Marlins is $5,555,555. That’s enough money to supply 98 wood bats with the ProXR ergonomic knob (@ $99/bat) to every MLB (30 teams), MiLB (240 teams) and D1 NCAA (302 teams) clubhouse.
Not only is the conventional bat knob responsible for players injuries, it’s also the root cause of thrown bats which put fans and players at risk serious injuries. During a swing, at the same instant the knob is mashing down on the hamate bone, it’s also crushing the ulnar nerve, which controls the grip of the ring and pinky fingers. This violent compression can cause the batter’s grip to fail. The next time you see a bat fly into the stands, watch the instant replay closely. You’ll see the batter’s base hand (the one in contact with the knob) lose its grip first and the top hand hold on for a split second longer. That’s why thrown bats land in foul territory and more typically they land in the stands. Then, notice how the batter holds his palms up and looks at his hands in disbelief like they somehow betrayed him – it wasn’t the batters hands that betrayed him, it was the bat. This video of A.J. Pierzynski losing his grip on a bat is typical of all thrown bats. http://m.mlb.com
The design problem with conventional bat knobs is reminiscent of the recent General Motors (GM) ignition switch design problem. GM knew there were issues with the ignition but rather than deal with it head-on, they chose ignore it and hope it would go away. It took people getting seriously injured before they were forced to address the problem. Perhaps with Giancarlo Stanton and now Yunel Escobar’s hamate injuries baseball will finally take notice and address this fundamentally flawed relic of baseball’s past. The time has come to retire current bat design and replace it with cutting-edge, ergonomically-sound, player-protection, performance enhancing technology – technology that has been designed and developed specifically for baseball in the 21st century.
The simple act of swinging a baseball bat shouldn’t cause holes in batters hands, broken hamate bones and thrown bats. It’s time to get a grip on the problem and act.
A CALL TO ACTION
TO THE GAME
– Your most valuable assets – players and fans – are at risk of injury from flawed, out-of-date design.
– Would you rather hold on to a 135-year-old bat design of the past or would you rather have players stay on the roster by using a safer bat that gives players more performance, better grip and more power?
– The swing has changed, the players have changed and the game has changed. It’s time to bring the bat into the 21st century as well.
TO THE PLAYERS
– The conventional bat knob is abusing your hands, breaking bones, causing thrown bats and taking you out of the game.
– Bat knob compression and friction is impeding your performance at the plate.
– The knob prevents you from extending the bat, covering the plate and prevents you from freely swinging through the ball.
– The knob acts like a speed bump in your natural swing and slows down your hands.
– Reducing compression and resistance in your hands allows your swing to deliver more precision and more power transfer from your hands to the ball.
– The bat you’re currently swinging is a ticking time bomb that could go off in your hands giving you a different kind of break than the one you’ve been striving for.
– There are some indications that a player will never regain 100% of their grip strength and control after hamate excision surgery.
– There are some indications that post-hamate surgery results in a drop in power and a lower batting average.
– Can you afford 6 to 9 weeks out of the season?
TO THE FANS
– Ask any baseball player to show you their batting glove and hand. You’ll be surprised at what you see.
– Keep your eyes on the game – bats leave the field of play and land in the stands all the time.
– Thrown bats aren’t the batters fault and it’s not an accident. Baseball players have some of the most powerful grips in all of sports – the bat knob is forcing its way out of their hands.
TO THE OWNERS
Some quick facts that are all about the money:
– The average MLB hamate injury costs a club $739,000
– Gordon Beckham’s hamate injury cost the White Sox $672,700
– Pablo Sandavol’s two hamate injuries cost the Giants $819,000
– Nick Markakis’s hamate injury cost the Oriole’s $2.76mm
– Giancarlo Stantons hamate injury set a new record and may cost the Marlins over $5M
– Yunel Escobar’s broken hamate may cost the Nationals upward of $1.2mm
– The cost increase of roughly $10/bat to put 100 ergonomic bats in every MLB and MILB clubhouse (270 teams) would be $270,000.
MLB Players With Broken Hamate Injuries
This is a short and incomplete list of MLB players who have broken their hamate bone swinging a bat over the last 20 seasons.
The number of college players suffering from broken hamate injuries is difficult to determine since it’s not officially tracked.
Albert Almora – Cubs Yonder Alonso – Reds Pedro Alvarez – Pirates Willy Aybar – Rays Keon Barnum – White Sox Jose Bautista – Blue Jays Gordon Beckham – WhiteSox Joe Benson – Twins Domonic Brown – Phillies Jose & Ozzie Canseco – Athletics Chris Dickerson – Reds Yunel Escobar – Nationals Danny Espinosa – Nationals Eric Farris – Twins Adonis Garcia – Yankees Nomar Garciaparra – Red Sox Carlos Gomez – Mets Ken Griffey Jr. – Mariners Robbie Grossman – Pirates Tony Gwynn, Jr. – Dodgers Eric Hinske – Blue Jays Brandon Jacobs – Red Sox Ryan Kalish – Red Sox Andrew Lambo – Pirates Jed Lowrie – Red Sox Zack Lutz – Mets Nick Markakis – Orioles J.D. Martinez – Astros Joe Mather – Cardinals Derrick May – Cardinals Arron Miles – Cardinals John Nelson – Cardinals Derek Norris – Nationals David Ortiz – Red Sox Dustin Pedroia – Red Sox Wily Mo Peña – Red Sox Nick Ramirez – Brewers Scott Rolen – Phillies Pablo Sandoval (double trouble) – Giants Gary Sheffield – Yankees Giancarlo Stanton – Marlins Jim Thome – Indians Troy Tulowitzki – Rockies Tim Wheeler – Rockies Ryan Zimmerman – Brewers
THERE IS A REAL SOLUTION
My company, ProXR, LLC, has developed, tested, refined and patented bat technology call ProXR (meaning “x-treme response”). This innovative, simple and elegant design dramatically reduces the compression and speed-bump forces caused by conventional bat knobs. Because of this, ProXR gives batters real improved performance – increased plate coverage, increased swing precision and increased barrel speed at contact. ProXR is approved for use in play and it has already been used in many regular season games by Prince Fielder and Mike Hessman. ProXR is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the first bat of its kind ever used in baseball.