As Corey Dawkins and I discussed in today's Collateral Damage, Barry Zito's mid-foot sprain is pushing him to the disabled list for the very first time in his career. He has never made fewer than 30 starts in a season–he didn't start the year with the club in his age-22 rookie campaign in 2000–and has led the league in starts four times. He has had a remarkable run of health, regardless of the quality of his performances, and seemed somewhat of a lock to at least show up to work each year. However, Zito's move to the DL didn't knock him off the top of Mt. Health, as there are other pitchers who lay claim to even more impressive track records.
Livan Hernandez is in the midst of season #16, and he has yet to hit the DL–a stretch that includes 445 major league starts, nearly 100 more than Zito had accumulated. Say what you will about his smoke-and-mirrors performances, but Hernandez has thrown nearly 3,000 innings in the majors since 1996 without succumbing to injury, despite four of the top 78 season entries in the pitcher abuse point database. He is, as many suspected while he was surviving those very seasons, a freak. That is said with utmost admiration for his accomplishments.
Derek Lowe is in season #15, and also has yet to visit the disabled list. Thanks to a few seasons as a reliever, he is a bit behind Hernandez's innings total at 2,353 1/3, but that is more than Zito has thrown (2,211 1/3) and covers a stretch of 606 games pitched (326 of them starts). Dan Wheeler, who has primarily been a reliever in his career, has pitched in 536 games over 12 years without injuring himself enough to visit the DL, and Mark Buehrle, though he lags behind Zito in total starts (338 to Zito's 356), is a handful of innings ahead of him at 2,297 1/3.
Bronson Arroyo is the only other pitcher with more than 10 years and nary a DL trip, and he takes over Zito's spot as the #5 active leader. With just 262 games started (298 total games) and 1,692 2/3 innings, he has quite a ways to go to catch up to the four arms in front of him. Given he is two years older than Buehrle, it is going to be tough to be the active leader at any point, assuming the others avoid the injury bug as well.
Thanks to Dan Turkenkopf for the data assist.