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Two years ago, when we first introduced Pitcher Abuse Points, pitch counts
were still shrouded in a veil of mystery. They were available, mind you,
but they were squirreled away at the bottom of box scores, and rarely
ventured from their hiding place to appear in game summaries or in
televised accounts of the game. Columnists never brought them to our
attention. Livan Hernandez could throw 140 pitches in utter obscurity.

Today, ESPN tracks Rick Ankiel‘s pitch counts the way CNBC tracks
the NASDAQ.

While we’d like to take a share of the credit for the increased monitoring
of pitcher workloads, it was Jim Riggleman and Kerry Wood who did
more to convince people that pitchers have their limits than any mountain
of words could ever do.

The purpose of PAP today is less to make the argument that pitchers’
workloads need to be monitored carefully; that is becoming less and less of
a debate with every fallen young pitcher. What PAP is designed for is to
establish the framework in which pitcher’s workloads should be evaluated.

(For those unfamiliar with PAP, you can read the
original article
from the summer of 1998.)

Veterans

The list of highest PAP scores for pitchers 30 and older:

Name               Team          Age    PAP   GS   PAP/S   Workload

Randy Johnson Arizona 36 344 12 28.7 28.7 Pedro Astacio Colorado 30 295 12 24.6 32.8 Chuck Finley Cleveland 37 275 11 25.0 25.0 Al Leiter New York (NL) 34 228 11 20.7 20.7 Mike Mussina Baltimore 31 218 12 18.2 21.2 Roger Clemens New York (AL) 37 212 12 17.7 17.7 Kevin Tapani Chicago (NL) 36 207 12 17.3 17.3 Kent Bottenfield Anaheim 31 188 12 15.7 18.3 Robert Person Philadelphia 30 185 11 16.8 22.4 Orlando Hernandez New York (AL) 34 179 11 16.3 16.3

Randy Johnson led the thirtysomething crowd when we did our
first
1999 PAP update
as well. Actually, despite averaging almost exactly eight
innings per start so far, Johnson’s PAPs per start have dropped from 38.8
to 28.7. Johnson is averaging "just" 114.8 pitches per start,
down from an average of 120.2 last season. While his pitches per batter
have dropped slightly, from 3.90 to 3.82, the real reason he’s throwing
fewer pitches is that so few batters reach base against him that he faces
barely 30 batters per start.

While Johnson’s recent sore arm is a sign that even the Big Unit has
limits, anyone predicting his imminent demise should remember this: the
single best predictor of a pitcher’s future potential is his strikeout
rate, and Johnson still has the best strikeout rate of any starter in the
National League.

Pedro Astacio, still fresh from his flogging at the hands of Jim
Leyland, is being worked just as hard by Buddy Bell. Astacio seems to be
handling it fairly well; that he never threw more than 200 innings in a
season until he was 26 years old might be helping.

The rest of this list is your standard assortment of aces and workhorses.
Chuck Finley, Al Leiter, Mike Mussina, Roger
Clemens
and Orlando Hernandez are no strangers to high
workloads. Not that their high pitch counts are completely benign; after
all, notably missing from this list is Curt Schilling, who serves as
proof that reaching your 30th birthday does not make you immune to the
absurd expectations of a thoughtless manager (or, in Schilling’s case, a
manager who doesn’t have the courage to take his ace pitcher out of the
game). Kevin Tapani really has no business being on this list after
the cavalcade of injuries he went through last season, but this is hardly
the number one reason why Don Baylor has no business running a major-league
baseball team.

A mild upset on this list is Kent Bottenfield, who has gone from
journeyman to #1 starter inside a year. Unfortunately, he earned the
expectations that come with the job and a place on the DL with them.
Robert Person is easily the biggest surprise in the top ten, simply
because no one expected him to pitch well enough to stay in games this
long. And Terry Francona, bless him, doesn’t know when to say when: instead
of thanking his good fortune and easing Person into his new role as the
team’s stopper, he’s gotten greedy.

Tweeners

The hardest-working pitchers in their middle age (26 to 29):

Name               Team          Age    PAP   GS   PAP/S   Workload

Rick Helling Texas 29 335 12 27.9 41.9 Mike Hampton New York (NL) 27 251 12 20.9 38.3 Russ Ortiz San Francisco 26 236 11 21.5 42.9 Jason Schmidt Pittsburgh 27 234 10 23.4 42.9 Pedro Martinez Boston 28 180 10 18.0 30.0 Jimmy Haynes Milwaukee 27 169 12 14.1 25.8 Sterling Hitchcock San Diego 29 165 11 15.0 22.5 Brad Radke Minnesota 27 159 12 13.3 24.3 Shawn Estes San Francisco 27 137 9 15.2 27.9 Esteban Loaiza Texas 28 134 11 12.2 20.3

Sterling Hitchcock‘s presence on this list seems tragically
prophetic, now that he appears doomed to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Hitchcock carried the heaviest burden on the Padres last year, averaging
12.1 PAPs per start and posting a Workload of 20.1 (remember, workload is
the generic term while Workload refers to Age-Adjusted PAPs per start).
While Hitchcock’s 2000 workload appears reasonable on the surface, he did
throw 137 pitches in one start, the fourth-highest pitch count of any
pitcher this season. When you add in the fact that Hitchcock was known to
be nursing a "minor" injury since spring training, is it really
that surprising that his elbow popped?

Mostly, this list is made up of good young starters on teams that don’t
have an older ace to rely on. Rick Helling has been the Rangers’
nominal ace for three years, and with Aaron Sele no longer around to
share the load, Johnny Oates is working Helling harder than ever. Oates
must think he has a replacement for Sele, from the way he is working
Esteban Loaiza. Mike Hampton may have Leiter and Rick
Reed
to cover for him, but you don’t trade for the league’s Cy Young
runner-up and worry about protecting his arm, especially when he’s a free
agent after the season. Hampton’s epic control problems during the season’s
first month certainly didn’t help.

Jason Schmidt has been one of the hardest working pitchers in his
age group since we started charting PAP in 1998, and the Pirates are still
waiting for him to materialize into the top starting pitcher everyone
expected him to be. Coincidence? I think not. Russ Ortiz had the
second-highest Workload in baseball last year and currently sports a 6.88
ERA. Dusty Baker thinks the solution is for him to watch Pedro
Martinez
and Roger Clemens and learn how to throw complete games.
Shawn Estes, who actually leads the Giants with three complete
games, had baseball’s seventh-highest Workload in 1997, then struggled for
two years before finally recovering this year (with a strikeout rate 33%
less than it was three years ago). We think the solution is to get rid of
Dusty Baker. More on that later.

Pedro Martinez ranks fifth with an average of 18 PAPs per start, down more
than a third from his average of 27.3 last year. He’s still throwing lots
and lots of innings–7.75 per start, up more than half an inning a start
from last season. Even more so than Johnson, Martinez’s secret really isn’t
a secret at all: he’s so utterly unhittable that he has faced only 321
batters in 85.1 innings, an average of 3.76 batters per inning. Or to put
it another way, Martinez has given up just 0.76 net baserunners
(baserunners minus double plays and baserunner kills) per inning. Hey, if
you can whittle your workload down by retiring 80% of opposing hitters,
that’s great. Mere mortals have to come up with some other way.

Jimmy Haynes? Well, someone has to sponge up innings in Milwaukee,
and it might as well be the guy who puts up more walks than strikeouts.
Hey, at least Davey Lopes isn’t overworking Jeff D’Amico. Brad
Radke
is actually being used with some restraint, considering he’s been
the Twins’ ace for several years and that he might not be their ace much
longer. Maybe this is a sign that the Twins intend to keep him after all.

Young Pitchers

The chef highly recommends any of the following well-cooked entrées, the
25-and-under pitchers with the highest PAP scores:

Name               Team          Age    PAP   GS   PAP/S   Workload

Livan Hernandez Florida 25 344 11 31.3 67.8 Randy Wolf Philadelphia 23 233 11 21.2 53.0 Sidney Ponson Baltimore 23 191 12 15.9 39.8 Kelvim Escobar Toronto 24 190 12 15.8 36.9 Jeff Suppan Kansas City 25 187 13 14.4 31.2 Kris Benson Pittsburgh 25 168 12 14.0 30.3 Ryan Dempster Florida 23 146 12 12.2 30.4 Matt Clement San Diego 25 107 12 8.9 19.3 Chris Carpenter Toronto 25 101 12 8.4 18.2 Octavio Dotel Houston 24 98 11 8.9 20.8

He’s b-a-a-a-c-k.

Like the villain in an out-of-control horror series, Livan Hernandez
just…won’t…die. His managers have flogged him, tortured him, made him
pitch the ninth inning in 12-1 laughers, left him in to work out of a jam
after he’s walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning. And he keeps
coming back for more.

On the surface, Hernandez’s ability to still pitch with some degree of
effectiveness is worthy of commemorating; he is, after all, the two-time
defending champion of the Most Abused Pitcher award, and well on his way to
winning again.

But if anything, his ability to survive only makes his abuse more tragic,
as it suggests that he might have become a truly special pitcher had he
been handled with anything approaching common sense. As a 22-year-old
rookie for the Marlins in 1997, Hernandez allowed just 81 hits in 96
innings (7.57 H/G) during the regular season and went on to win World
Series MVP honors. Since then:

1998: 234 IP, 265 H (10.18 H/G)
1999: 200 IP, 227 H (10.23 H/G)
2000: 86 IP, 104 H (10.93 H/G)

Hernandez has managed to improve his control from 3.99 walks per 9 innings
in 1998 to 2.31 this season, which is why he has managed a very respectable
3.99 ERA in 2000. But his stamina has already begun to suffer. Take a look
at these splits so far this year:

Pitches 1-60: .243/.283/.365
Pitches 61-105: .322/.380/.492
Pitches 106+: .524/.535/.667

Rather dramatic, no? Not only is Dusty Baker jeopardizing the
right-hander’s future by forcing him to work to deep into ballgames, he’s
actually hurting the Giants’ chances of winning in the process. Maybe
Hernandez will manage to remain "healthy," but keep in mind that
the last pitcher to rank in the top three in Workload for three straight
years, Bobby Witt (1988-90), had rotator cuff surgery in 1991 and
hasn’t been the same since.

Several other pitchers have been worked as hard as Hernandez at a young age
and warded off injury for years. But almost without exception, all of those
pitchers, from Bob Feller to Fernando Valenzuela to Dwight Gooden, never
had a season in their thirties that came close to the success they had in
their twenties.

Managers

With Jim Leyland’s retirement and the coup in Toronto that cost Tim Johnson
his job, Baker has only Terry Francona to challenge him for the title of
Most Abusive Manager. Randy Wolf could become the Phillies’ best
left-handed starter since Steve Carlton, but Francona seems determined to
prevent that.

Thomas Boswell wrote earlier this season that much of Mike Mussina’s early
struggles may have stemmed from the fact that Mike Hargrove, unlike his
predecessors in Baltimore, had forced Mussina to rack up outings of 100 or
more pitches right from Opening Day, instead of easing him into longer
outings as the season progressed. (Thanks to reader William Wang for
bringing the article to my attention.)

The failure of the Indians to develop a dominant starter during Hargrove’s
time there can be traced to Hargrove’s overwork of Charles Nagy
early and Bartolo Colon and Jaret Wright later. And now,
Hargrove is working Sidney Ponson even harder than Ray Miller did
last year, when Ponson averaged 10.8 PAPs per start and a Workload of 28.8.
Sort of a mini-Livan, Ponson has managed to take the mound every five days
and pitch reasonably well (4.71 ERA in 1999, 4.70 ERA so far this year),
but after starting last season 7-4 with a 3.69 ERA, Ponson’s upside looked
a lot higher than it does right now.

Jim Fregosi might take better care of his starters than Tim Johnson did,
but the difference is small. The Blue Jays have been hurt as much as any
team in baseball by their recklessness with their rotation. Kelvim
Escobar
had the second-highest Workload in baseball in 1998, and after
a brilliant first two seasons in the majors, saw his ERA balloon to 5.69
last season. Two years ago, Escobar and Chris Carpenter were
considered two of the finest young arms in baseball, but neither one has
developed as well as the Blue Jays would have liked, and the organization
only has themselves to blame.

A case for better bullpens: Jose Rosado had the fifth-highest
Workload in baseball last season as Tony Muser sought any excuse to keep
his relievers out of the game. Now, he’s probably done for the season, and
Muser has turned his attentions to an unsuspecting Jeff Suppan. The
Pirates could probably be a little more gentle with Kris Benson, but
his workload should not be considered nearly as worrisome as that of
teammate Jason Schmidt: Benson is 25 and almost into the next
grouping, he never threw more than 160 innings in a season until last
season and, unlike Schmidt, he is pitching well enough to earn the mantle
of team ace.

Ryan Dempster and Matt Clement have both pitched too well for
their teams to keep their workload in a safer range. I worry more about
Dempster, who is younger and being worked hard for the second straight year
(10.3 PAPs per start last season). Octavio Dotel is certainly not
the Astros’ ace; his workload is a reflection of the bullpen woes that have
created an extremely trying year in Houston.

Conspicuous by his absence from this list is Rick Ankiel, which is a
good thing. Here, we’ll list Ankiel’s numbers so far this year, along with
Kerry Wood’s numbers from his rookie season:

Name           Season   Age  Pit/GS   PAP   GS   PAP/S  Workload

Kerry Wood 1998 21 109.2 532 26 20.5 58.0 Rick Ankiel 2000 20 101.9 97 11 8.8 26.5

(Ankiel is listed as a year younger than Wood in the chart above, but in
fact Wood turned 21 that June and Ankiel turns 21 in July. They’re
essentially the same age.)

Rick Ankiel’s Workload ranks 17th among all pitchers so far this year; Wood
had the fourth-highest Workload in 1998. Ankiel has thrown more than 100
pitches just four times in his 11 starts; Wood threw fewer than 100 pitches
just four times in his rookie season. Clearly, Ankiel is being handled much
more sensibly than Wood was. Of course, Ankiel hasn’t fanned 20 men in a
game yet.

The fact that Ankiel is averaging more than 100 pitches per start is clear
evidence that Scott Boras has a point: Tony La Russa could be a lot more
protective of Ankiel’s arm than he has been. Boras’s reputation has
preceded him in this argument, to the point where 60% of fans in an
ESPN.com poll thought he was out of line in "advising" the
Cardinals to watch how they use Ankiel. But Boras is doing exactly what any
competent agent should do: he is looking out for the interests of his
client. And in this particular case, it works out that what’s good for Rick
Ankiel is good for the fans. If Scott Boras had been Kerry Wood’s agent in
1998, fans might have had a reason to watch WGN in 1999. Well, other than
the Andy Griffith Show reruns.

The Good News

After all the nasty words we used above, we thought we owed you a look at
the kinder, gentler side of baseball. Presenting the 12 least-abused
pitchers in the game(minimum: eight starts):

Name               Team          Age    PAP   GS   Pit/GS

Jeff Fassero Boston 37 0 11 88.7 Brian Rose Boston 24 0 8 70.0 Todd Stottlemyre Arizona 35 1 11 91.9 Scott Karl Colorado 28 2 8 79.4 John Halama Seattle 28 3 10 87.6 Hideki Irabu Montreal 31 3 10 77.0 Chad Durbin Kansas City 22 3 9 79.4 Brian Meadows San Diego 24 5 12 84.1 Pete Schourek Boston 31 5 10 89.9 Dwight Gooden TB/Houston 35 7 9 83.8 Sean Bergman Minnesota 30 8 12 79.8 Ramon Martinez Boston 32 8 10 84.7

We could have just listed the top ten, but that would have deprived us of
the opportunity to make a very compelling point. Four of the 12 pitchers on
this list hurl for the Red Sox, and we’ve already accounted for the guy not
on this list. What this means is that the Red Sox really are using Pedro
Martinez to take the load off the rest of the pitching staff, virtually
guaranteeing an off day for everyone else except Derek Lowe. This
allows Jimy Williams and Joe Kerrigan to protect the entire remainder of
the rotation, which consists of two injury cases (Ramon Martinez and
Pete Schourek), an enormous reclamation project (Jeff
Fassero
) and a young pitcher (Brian Rose). While Rose and
Martinez are struggling, Schourek (3.63 ERA) is having his best season
since his One Good Year of 1995 and Fassero (3.93 ERA) is trying to become
the first pitcher in history to record an ERA under 4.00 the year after
posting an ERA above 7.00 in at least 100 innings.

The usual cadre of fragile arms is on this list; Buck Showalter is doing
his best to protect Todd Stottlemyre‘s rotator cuff. Teams have been
trying to baby Dwight Gooden‘s arm for years, but the damage is past
the point of repair. There are the young (Brian Meadows), the
ineffective (Hideki Irabu, Scott Karl, Sean Bergman)
and the, uh, both (Chad Durbin).

The biggest surprise on this list has to be John Halama. Halama has
done the near impossible: he has found a way to be neither a favorite of
Lou Piniella–who shows his love by letting you throw 120 pitches–nor be
in his doghouse, a la Ken Cloude. Halama gets the ball every fifth
day and he gets pulled when he gets into a jam, a philosophy recently
unseen in the Pacific Northwest.

The Danger Dozen

As always, we finish with the list of the 12 hardest-worked pitchers,
adjusted for age, in baseball. Remember that the age-adjustment formula is
simply PAP * (38-age)/6, with a minimum of 1. In other words, all pitchers
age 32 and over don’t see their PAP changed at all, a 26-year-old pitcher
would have his PAP doubled and a 20-year-old would have his PAP tripled.
Workload is simply PAP, adjusted for age, per start. The list:

Name               Team          Age    PAP   AAPAP   GS   Workload

Livan Hernandez San Francisco 25 344 745 11 70.2 Randy Wolf Philadelphia 23 233 583 11 53.0 Russ Ortiz San Francisco 26 236 472 11 42.9 Jason Schmidt Pittsburgh 27 234 429 10 42.9 Rick Helling Texas 29 335 503 12 41.9 Sidney Ponson Baltimore 23 191 478 12 39.8 Mike Hampton New York (NL) 27 251 460 12 38.3 Kelvim Escobar Toronto 24 190 443 12 36.9 Pedro Astacio Colorado 30 295 393 12 32.8 Jeff Suppan Kansas City 25 187 405 13 31.2 Ryan Dempster Florida 23 146 365 12 30.4 Kris Benson Pittsburgh 25 168 364 12 30.3

Forget Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. When quantity, not quality, is
what you’re looking for, there is no more dominant pitcher in baseball than
Livan Hernandez.

Rany Jazayerli, M.D., can be reached at ranyj@baseballprospectus.com.