Let’s go back to 2012, when the Washington Nationals made one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory by shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg late in the season, even though it meant that Strasburg, though not injured at the time, would not pitch for the Nationals in their Division Series. The Nationals lost that series to the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two, and Lana del Rey wrote “Summertime Sadness” as a result (no, not really). The Nationals justified that decision by saying that they wanted to keep Strasburg below 160 innings pitched for the season to prevent him from further injury. In 2011, Strasburg only pitched in five games, spending most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was healthy through most of 2013 and has been so far through 2014.
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An expert on biomechanics and a team source talk about their approaches to evaluating and managing pitcher workloads.
For today's article on impervious and not-so-impervious pitchers, I got my David Laurila on, speaking to Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute—whose name is almost always followed by the phrase, "the world's foremost authority on biomechanics"—and to a scouting executive from a major-league club (affectionately and frequently referred to in the article as "the executive"). Both had a lot to say, and not everything they said fit into the article. One of the things I failed to fit in was their extended perspectives on pitcher workloads and the efficacy of innings limits, so I'm rectifying that by posting both takes here. Dr. Fleisig comes first, followed by the team official.
Homer Bailey and Dillon Gee get the Sporer-style VP treatment this week.
Leaving Ervin Santana(Yahoo! 67%, ESPN 66%, CBS 87%) has finally seen his ESPN percentage surge, leaving him available in very few leagues now—as it should be in light of his May performance (2.91 ERA in 34 innings), although the timing here isn’t the best as he comes off his worst start of the month during which he walked seven Mariners while allowing four runs in five innings. Everyone is entitled to a hiccup here and there, though, even if it is against Seattle (just ask Derek Holland), and the important part is that he has allowed just three home runs for the month after allowing 10 in April.
Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
Mike looks at 2011's crop of young pitchers who maybe be approaching innings limits.
As I was reviewing the first half of the Dodgers season over at my own blog this week (shameless plug here), one topic that came up was the solid performance of rookie starter Rubby de la Rosa. Forced into the rotation about a month ago when fifth starter Jon Garland’s season ended due to injury, he’s offered the club plenty of value (3.74 ERA / 3.94 SIERA), striking out more than a man per inning while doing some on-the-job learning with his control at the major league level. While his debut has been a nice surprise, he is also already nearing a career high in innings pitched with 85 2/3 combined innings under his belt between the minors and majors this year. His previous high was 110 1/3 innings last season, which followed three years in which he totaled just 69 2/3 frames. The Dodgers are woefully out of the chase, so the priority must be on preserving the 22-year-old for the future–not pushing him beyond his limits this year in pursuit of an October run which will almost certainly not come.
Despite handling their young fireballer with kid gloves, the Yankees find themselves without one of their top relief pitchers for the next year.
Some 24 hours after placing Joba Chamberlain on the disabled list with what was reportedly a flexor strain, the Yankees announced that a dye-contrast MRI revealed that their star set-up man had suffered a torn ligament in his elbow. Instead of being lost for a matter of weeks, Chamberlain is almost certainly headed for Tommy John surgery, ending his season and leaving the Yankees’ bullpen in total disarray.
Like any free-agent pitching market, this one is full of risks. Youth is almost nowhere to be found—just six of the 37 starters available are under 30 years old, and many of those seem much older. The free-agent starters are risky for different reasons, though, be they for health, poor 2010 performance, or age, but if teams sort through the options, they are sure to find a few pitchers worth adding to their roster.
The Texas rotation is ready to board the Ryan Express, the O's and Reds pull a wee bit of a trade, no more shattering bats, and overdue laurels for Tony Kubek.
LAS VEGAS-Nolan Ryan's 27 seasons as a major league pitcher seem to have spanned every era of baseball history except that of the dead ball. The Hall of Famer began his career in 1966, during a time when pitchers frequently threw complete games, and he ended it in 1993, when the era of one-inning closers and a platoon of set-up men was well under way, and when managers became just a little more ready to settle for six innings out of their starters.
Scaring up tomorrow's relief heroes on today's pile of the overlooked or undervalued.
Game Five of the 2008 World Series will long be remembered for its umpires' Beatles-inspired belief that, as John Lennon sang, "When it starts to rain, everything's the same," a philosophy which prevented sundry sodden millionaires (and Carlos Ruiz) from seeking shelter until the middle of the sixth. Despite the headlines garnered by this debacle, however, an equally intriguing story lay behind the first two relievers that Joe Maddon sent to the mound when play resumed two days later. Why does this tale of two stoppers matter? Because not long before they found themselves charged with holding the Phillies at bay in the highest of high-leverage situations, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell were readily available. While the Rays made a point of adding this particular pair, the auction for relief help really never ends; by examining two who got away, future bidders may improve their chances of spotting tomorrow's bargains.
That Balfour and Howell were on the spot at that juncture wasn't a surprise given the duo's regular-season performance. They had been charged with similarly demanding duties (and fulfilling them capably) for some time, placing fourteenth and seventh, respectively, among major league relievers in WXRL. The farther back we go, however, the more unlikely it appears that anyone could have predicted the tandem's development into the two-headed anchor of a pennant-winning bullpen. Exactly a year before their pressure-packed outings in the World Series, the pair were coming off of disappointing 2007 campaigns followed by almost four weeks' worth of offseason. Both had posted impressive lines in Triple-A (Howell, a starter prior to this season, led the International League in strikeouts), but ERAs near eight in the majors led to the ominous appearance of labels like "journeyman" and "Quadruple-A pitcher" in their BP2K8 player comments. PECOTA wasn't especially optimistic, either; each hurler handily exceeded his 90th-percentile forecast, though it's important to note that both Howell's and Balfour's projections featured big Improve/Breakout Rates.