Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inning Debate Breakdown

I've always sided in the old school realm of thinking over holding young pitchers back and limiting innings and pitches. I know there is a lot of evidence that will support these teams in limiting their huge investments, but I've always felt it was still unnecessary. I decided that I would take a small sampling of major league players from all different skill sets and judge them solely on their workloads. Without relying on much more than the Innings Pitched stat and general intuition on how good a pitcher is, I decided to analyze a few categories: Age of MLB debut (rookie season, September callups do not count), IP each of the 1st 3 years of their career, Career IP, and years pitched. After I present these limited statistics, I will give you the name of the player and hopefully we will be able to get some analysis if babying young pitchers arms pays off in the end.

21 years old, 22.2 IP/112.1 IP/78.2 IP, 2,477.2 IP over 16 years (155 IP/yr)... Jeff Suppan. Slow Start, Mediocre Career, Mediocre Pitcher.

24 years old, 141.2/233.0/127.1, 1,932.1 IP over 10 years (193.2 IP/yr)... Roy Oswalt. Fast Start, Good Carrer, Good Almost Great Pitcher.

21 years old, 12.1/157.0/15.2, 622.2 IP over 6 seasons (104 IP/yr)... Josh Johnson. Injury plagued start with lots of pitches, Soon to be Phenominal Pitcher.

25 years old, 36.1/164.2/179.2, 737.2 IP over 7 seasons (105 IP/yr)... Chris Young. Lots of pitches early. Injury rattled career.

23 years old, 23.2/120.2/100, 1642.1 IP over 11 seasons (150 IP/yr)... Ted Lilly. Low Inning start. Prolonged average career.

22 years old, 133/98/254, 4,916 IP over 23 seasons (213 IP/yr)... Roger Clemens. High workload early, prolonged great career.

22 years old, 41/82/173, 1698 IP over 12 seasons (141 IP/yr)... AJ Burnett. Low early workload, questionable future and injury risk.

21 years old, 23/191/180, 3256 IP over 20 years (162 IP/yr)... Kevin Brown. High early workload, became an inning eater and ended with terrible arm problems.

24 years old, 136/202/235, 2194 IP over 12 seasons (182 IP/yr)... Tim Hudson. Very high early workload and has had some injury concerns lately.

21 years old, 180/210/197, 2,040 IP over 9 seasons (226 IP/yr)... CC Sabathia. Very high early workload with no injury concerns and a great innings eater.

22 years old, 74/189/128, 818 IP over 8 years (102 IP/yr)... Rich Harden. Medium workload with a large second year and huge injury concerns throughout his career.

23 years old, 154/229/207, 1314 IP over 11 seasons (120 IP/yr)... Mark Mulder. Heavy early workload and an injury shortened career.

21 years old, 51/221/239, 2,188 IP over 11 seasons (199 IP/yr)... Mark Buerhle. Heavy early load and a good career innings eater with no injury concerns.

22 years old, 116/211/118, 657 IP over 4 seasons (164IP/yr)... Mark Prior. Heavy early load and huge arm problems.

21 years old, 166/137/174, 1,294 IP over 13 seasons (99 IP/yr)... Kerry Wood. Heavy early workload followed by a career of injuries.

23 years old, 77/88/26, 1600 IP over 10 seasons (160 IP/yr)... Bronson Arroyo. Low early workload and became a reliable innings eater.

22 years old, 134/104/97, 1,431 IP over 13 seasons (110 IP/yr)... Carl Pavano. Medium early workload followed by an injury sustained career.

I'm not sure if I'm even closer to a final judgement on if the innings should be limited or not. You have some guys with light early workloads that are injury prone, some with high workloads that become sustainable workhorses. I don't think it is as simple as laying some general pitch count on guys. I think there needs to be a good scouting department that can say, this guy has potential to be a workhorse, or this guy's arm may fall off. I truly believe scouting absolutely trumps the numbers game in this case.

What I would like to do is go through some of the young arms that have been put on pitch counts and we can vote to see who's arm will explode and who will become a workhorse. However, I'll save that for another post.


  1. Zach -

    Awesome topic at a good time. So I took a little bit of time and looked at each of the pitchers you mentioned and noticed a trend. If you don't include Harden or Pavano, (both just destined to be injured not matter what) regardless of the innings pitcher, it is the pitches they throw and natural velocity combined that matter.

    Basically, pitchers that throw harder combined with a elbow wrenching curve ball tend to get injured not matter the innings limit.

    For example, when Josh Johnson was injured throughout the start of his career he had a curveball in his arsenal. Starting in 2008, he became a three pitch guy (FB, CHUP, and SL) and is now dominating with less trips to the DL.

    Prior, Wood, Hudson, Burnett, all guys who through mid to upper 90's fastballs and a high level of curveballs all ended up with arm problems at one point or another.

    Flip side, lower velo pitchers who throw curveballs at a high rate seemed to last longer. Suppan, Lilly, Arroyo, and Buerhle all are nice innings eaters.

    While I have no clue if I'm right or not, I have always wondered if the curveball does as much damage as people say it does.

  2. good point. I'm going to try to get a list of the young players right now being walked along by their organizations. I'll try to add a column in which lists their curve ball percentage.

  3. What about Tim Wakefield? He's pitched FOREVER.