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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Seamheads: Dick Bosman Talks Strasburg Innings Limit and More

As the roving minor league pitching instructor for the Tampa Bay Rays, former Senators pitcher Dick Bosman has helped groom some of the best pitching talent in the majors. I asked Dick to comment on the Washington Nationals handling of Stephen Strasburg this season on our podcast show Friday night. The response was one of the most well-informed sources of enlightenment on the issue I have heard or seen.

...The other key assertion by Bosman is that, based on what he saw and heard about Strasburg before the shutdown, Strasburg was showing definite signs of fatigue. “My sources, and some of those guys are pretty close to the action, say that those last ten starts of his had pretty mixed results,” said Dick. “Which tells me that there is some fatigue starting to creep in there and suddenly you have yourself a risk-reward situation on your hands where pitching this guy–yeah, we might get to the promised land, but we may lose a franchise pitcher along the way for years to come, or forever.”

While this is the key point in the interview, Bosman also raised other key insights into pitcher development He asserted that the maximum pitch count for a developing pitcher would be 110 to 115 pitches in a ballgame, “every once in a while probably at the AAA level,” so that they are ready to pitch at the major league level if called upon by the parent organization. Speaking about pitch counts and the number of innings, Bosman said, “we’re pretty strict about that and we’ve shut guys down toward the end of the year,” said Bosman. ” We’ve done that with guys like Shields, Matt Moore and various other guys when the inning totals get a little high. Sometimes you come under a little scrutiny when you do that.”

...We discussed Strasburg in that light as well. I asked Dick whether he had heard the criticism of the Nationals from within the industry for shutting their ace down in the heat of the pennant race and whether he agreed with it. He said he had certainly heard the criticism, but did not agree with it. “Did it make sense to me that others would criticize them? asked Dick. “Look, we have learned a thing or two about how to rehab guys from Tommy John surgery…Dr. Andrews is a friend of mine. He worked on this body too when my shoulder finally blew out. But he says all the time that how the guys rehab when they are coming back separates the ones who are really successful coming back from the ones who are not.”

So the bottom line for Dick is that Stephen Strasburg is more likely to have a longer and more successful career for having had the Nationals take a careful, patient approach to his rehab.

Thanks to Butcher.

Repoz Posted: October 23, 2012 at 06:02 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. bob gee Posted: October 23, 2012 at 08:25 AM (#4280388)
a good read.
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: October 23, 2012 at 08:48 AM (#4280396)
So the bottom line for Dick is that Stephen Strasburg is more likely to have a longer and more successful career for having had the Nationals take a careful, patient approach to his rehab.

1. I completely agree this is true and the Nats deserve credit for thinking about his long-term health.
2. I'm in the camp that they should have just started his season later so my agreement with limiting his innings doesn't address my criticism of how the Nats handled this. At this point the argument has been done to death, though, so I don't expect to convince anyone nor have anyone convince me. From my POV, holding him back to mid-May was such a no-brainer I don't even know why there's an argument.
   3. spycake Posted: October 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4280484)
Also agree it's been argued to death. I'm pretty much in Shooty's camp: innings limit and caution are cool. Planning to shut down an ace-quality pitcher in early September when you have realistic pennant race/playoff chances is poor planning/prioritizing, from a fan/on-field perspective. Might be better for the team's relationship with Strasburg and Boras, I guess, but that's little consolation for fans/teammates.
   4. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4280508)
I believe Bosman was the pitching coach the season(s) after the Rays' AA franchise moved here in ... '04? (My god, time flies.) Wish I'd had a chance to say hello. Memory tells me he was succeeded by Xavier Hernandez.

It's entirely possible neither is true, of course.
   5. The District Attorney Posted: October 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4280543)
The other key assertion by Bosman is that, based on what he saw and heard about Strasburg before the shutdown, Strasburg was showing definite signs of fatigue.
We keep hearing this, but I don't see the relevance when they had decided before the season even started that Strasburg was not finishing the season no matter what.

If their moves had represented a legitimate response to how Strasburg's health was doing, rather than adherence to a (IMO ill-advised) pre-determined plan, no one says boo. (Hell, they could have kept this plan a secret and then announced in mid-September, regardless of Strasburg's health or performance, that the doctors found a reverse tachyon pulse in his shoulder and he was done. Woulda fooled me.)
   6. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4280590)
We discussed Strasburg in that light as well. I asked Dick whether he had heard the criticism of the Nationals from within the industry for shutting their ace down in the heat of the pennant race


This is impossible. Andy said it was outsiders criticizing the Nats' decision to take a gun to their foot in advance of the playoffs. Why haven't you guys been snapped up by a major league franchise, Andy wondered.

   7. valuearbitrageur Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4280650)
We keep hearing this, but I don't see the relevance when they had decided before the season even started that Strasburg was not finishing the season no matter what.


Those things aren't logically incongruent. It's reasonable to say you will shut down a rehabbing pitcher at the first signs of extended fatigue and know that that means they'll never make it past 160-180 innings, since all pitchers are showing fatigue at that point.
   8. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4280655)
If their moves had represented a legitimate response to how Strasburg's health was doing, rather than adherence to a (IMO ill-advised) pre-determined plan, no one says boo. (Hell, they could have kept this plan a secret and then announced in mid-September, regardless of Strasburg's health or performance, that the doctors found a reverse tachyon pulse in his shoulder and he was done. Woulda fooled me.)

Without addressing the post season possibilities, the shutdown was a response to his health, at least according to the GM. Remember that Rizzo said over and over again that there was no set limit. It was reported by a lot of people that it was 160 but no actual quotes from Rizzo. It was all speculation based on Zimmermann. In fact, there were reports coming out that said that the limit might be as high as 180. I had Strasburg on my fantasy team so I'm pretty sure that I saw almost everything that was written, and it was always speculation. It is most likely that Rizzo had a range in mind and then made his final decision based on health.
   9. McCoy Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4280661)
It wasn't all speculation. Davey Johnson said when camp opened that Strasburg was going to get shutdown after 150 to 160 innings.
   10. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4280665)
Yes, the manager of the team said well before the shutdown that the limit was 160.

And magically he was shut down at 160. Just as Zimmermann was.

Why do people persist in claiming that there was no limit of 160?
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:50 PM (#4280673)
We discussed Strasburg in that light as well. I asked Dick whether he had heard the criticism of the Nationals from within the industry for shutting their ace down in the heat of the pennant race


This is impossible. Andy said it was outsiders criticizing the Nats' decision to take a gun to their foot in advance of the playoffs.

So by "within the industry", I guess you mean "within the industry", whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

Why haven't you guys been snapped up by a major league franchise, Andy wondered.

I have to admit that with your proven track record of offering opinions on the internet, I'm still wondering why you or your fellow "industry" insiders haven't been offered Rizzo's job. You obviously understand so much more about this E-Z subject than some poor schlep like Rizzo.
   12. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: October 23, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4280716)
Why do people persist in claiming that there was no limit of 160?

If you could find one shred of proof that Rizzo had a limit of 160 then I wouldn't bring it up again.
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4280761)
If you could find one shred of proof that Rizzo had a limit of 160 then I wouldn't bring it up again


Already posted in #10.
   14. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4280767)
I see no quotes from Rizzo in post 10. Why not the same burden of proof that you require for the 50-page binder?
   15. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4280774)
This is the strongest "proof" that I can find. Note that it was at the start of August, so according to the article:

It’s not the first time the number 160 has been associated with Strasburg’s innings limit, but as far as I know, it is the first time someone from the team has said it


Also, from the article, it comes one day after Rizzo said:

“Because people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” Rizzo said. “This decision is gonna come from the organization. The speculators on ESPN and MLB Network, they’re guessing. We have a plan for him. We know exactly what the number of innings is going to be. And when I feel that he’s had enough innings, we’re going to pull the plug on him.


So it's certainly plausible that Johnson is basing off of Zimmermann and Rizzo has no hard limit in mind. You choose not to believe it of course, but you do not have anything resembling proof.
   16. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4280778)
We know exactly what the number of innings is going to be. And when I feel that he’s had enough innings, we’re going to pull the plug on him.


If Rizzo knew "exactly what the number of innings is going to be," and that number turned out to be exactly 160, then Rizzo's number was 160 all along, wasn't it?
   17. The District Attorney Posted: October 23, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4280789)
Rizzo said... We know exactly what the number of innings is going to be.
You do realize this undermines your point. ;)

It's reasonable to say you will shut down a rehabbing pitcher at the first signs of extended fatigue and know that that means they'll never make it past 160-180 innings, since all pitchers are showing fatigue at that point.
Well, mmmmaybe. I think that gets at the issue of what exactly "fatigue" means. We all know that pitching a baseball 100 mph is an unnatural action and your arm is not going to feel 100% after doing it. Given that base level of discomfort, so to speak, is it inevitable that you're going to feel worse after a September start than you did after an April start? I have no idea at all.

(I can at least say that the guy only had five starts of more than 6 IP, so all other things being equal, if there ever was a candidate for someone who didn't feel any worse after a September start than he did after an April start, it would probably be him...)
   18. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4280821)
I see no quotes from Rizzo in post 10. Why not the same burden of proof that you require for the 50-page binder?


This is beyond silly at this point. Here, from February 21, 2012:

Strasburg plan: Innings to be limited
Updated 2/21/2012 4:


VIERA, Fla. (AP) – Stephen Strasburg will follow the same path as Washington Nationals teammate Jordan Zimmermann in his comeback from elbow-ligament replacement surgery

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Monday that Strasburg will be limited to 150-160 innings this season. Zimmermann threw 161 1-3 innings last year following surgery and hopes to reach 200 this season

Though there might be a temptation to have Strasburg skip a few starts in order to extend his year, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday that was not in the team's plans.

"There's not going to be a whole lot of tinkering going on," Rizzo said. "We're going to run him out there until his innings are done … He's a young pitcher that's still learning how to pitch in the big leagues. I think it's unfair to get him ramped up in spring training and start the season on a regular rotation and then shut him down or skip him. We're just going to make him comfortable."


So:

1. Johnson said Strasburg would be limited to 150-160 innings.
2. Rizzo said that they were going to run Strasburg out there until his innings are done.
3. Rizzo said they were not going to change the plan.
4. Strasburg was run out there for 160 innings.
5. Zimmermann, apparently by total coincidence, was run out there for 160 innings.

Rizzo has said the decision was his. So Johnson's statement that Strasburg would be limited to 160 innings must be a statement about an innings limit set by Rizzo. Rizzo said they were going to run Strasburg out until his innings were up. Rizzo said the plan was not going to change. Strasburg was run out there for 160.

Anybody who does not conclude, at this point, that Rizzo set a 160 innings limit is simply not operating with a full deck, or is so consumed by bias or emotion that he can't consider this issue objectively.

Please, Greg, consider that you are simply wrong about this issue. It is unfair to make people keep digging up quotes and laying out an ironclad case, only to say, "No, you're wrong." Address the evidence and logic. And there is probably a direct quote out there from Rizzo somewhere - I looked for a few minutes and couldn't find one, but I'm sure a Nexis search or something would pull it up. But no direct quote is needed to make the case to anybody who is willing to consider the issue rationally. The above pretty much ends the ballgame. Rizzo had a 160-IP limit.
   19. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4280829)
Because people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” Rizzo said. “This decision is gonna come from the organization. The speculators on ESPN and MLB Network, they’re guessing. We have a plan for him. We know exactly what the number of innings is going to be. And when I feel that he’s had enough innings, we’re going to pull the plug on him.


This ends the silliness, doesn't it? Rizzo knew exactly what the number of innings was going to be. And, as subsequent events proved, the number Rizzo knew about was 159.1

Why in the hell are you still arguing this, Greg?
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 23, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4280831)
If Rizzo knew "exactly what the number of innings is going to be," and that number turned out to be exactly 160, then Rizzo's number was 160 all along, wasn't it?


Yes. It most certainly was.
   21. Tim D Posted: October 23, 2012 at 11:33 PM (#4281222)
Doesn't make it a good plan once they realized they had a shot at running the table this year.
   22. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2012 at 12:01 AM (#4281237)
Not to beat a dead horse here but the August quotes from Davey that Greg brought up reinforces the fact that Strasburg had a 160 inning limit. Davey Johnson at the beginning of camp goes on record and says that Strasburg will throw 150 to 160 innings this year. Pretty much every single baseball reporter in existence after that writes that Strasburg will be shut down at 160 innings. Then 5 months later Davey Johnson says again that Strasburg will get shut down at 160 innings. Then of course Strasburg gets shut down at 160 innings. So either Davey Johnson just got really lucky with a prediction or Davey Johnson was told what the game plan was for Strasburg early and often. Davey's opinion on when Strasburg was going to get shut down never changes.
   23. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 24, 2012 at 12:14 AM (#4281252)
Speaking for myself, I will continue to beat the dead horse as long as people persist in the nonsense that Rizzo never had a limit of 160.

Really, these two facts make a strong case, even if we had nothing else:

1. Zimmermann gets shut down at 160.
2. Strasburg gets shut down at 160.

Add to that the following two facts, and the case becomes pretty much indisputable:

3. Johnson says Strasburg will be shut down at 150-160.
4. Rizzo says (a) there is an innings limit and (b) he knows "exactly" what it is and (c) the innings limit will not change and (d) the decision is Rizzo's.

So it is indisputable that Rizzo had set an innings limit - because Rizzo said that he had done so. The only thing that remained to be seen was precisely what it was. And ultimately we saw what it was: 160.
   24. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 24, 2012 at 03:48 AM (#4281283)
“My sources, and some of those guys are pretty close to the action, say that those last ten starts of his had pretty mixed results,” said Dick. “Which tells me that there is some fatigue starting to creep in there

I mean, obviously. Mixed results? Fatigue. There's really nothing else it could be. And of course skipping a couple starts a month is totally ineffective in fighting fatigue, couldn't do that. Once a guy gets the fatigue it's pretty much see you in spring training.

   25. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: October 24, 2012 at 08:27 AM (#4281315)
That still doesn't explain why the club told him he had TWO starts left and only let him pitch one of those. That would have given him far more than "160 innings". And what became the last start was only 3 crappy innings. If has a quality start there, it's possible he could have pitched the next one and probably have gotten fairly close to 170 - not that it would really matter much. Does anyone doubt that he would have pitched more than three innings in his last start if he had been effective? 160 is a red herring, there was a range possible.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:12 AM (#4281343)
If has a quality start there, it's possible he could have pitched the next one and probably have gotten fairly close to 170 ... 160 is a red herring, there was a range possible.


Quite a range, there.
   27. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:19 AM (#4281350)
Quibbling about the exact amount of innings he was allowed to pitch when it seems pretty obvious that the range of innings was very small seems like a red herring.
   28. PreservedFish Posted: October 24, 2012 at 09:33 AM (#4281356)
Yes, unless there is anyone arguing that Strasburg could possibly have been allowed to go up to 190+ innings, there's really no argument here.
   29. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 24, 2012 at 10:36 AM (#4281407)
I mean, obviously. Mixed results? Fatigue. There's really nothing else it could be.


Yeah, that's another silly part of all of this. He had a couple of bad starts? My god, that never happens to good pitchers; good pitchers always allow just 1 or 2 runs per start and no more. There are no good hitters on the other team trying like hell to hit the pitcher, so the pitcher's starts should be very even, like free throws in basketball. We know that once a good pitcher sprinkles in a couple of bad starts in August and September, he is toast for the playoffs.

Seriously, he had a couple of bad starts in May, one in June, two in July, one in August, and one in his second start in September. But once he had a bad start in September -- following a good one, no less -- it was time to shut him down. There was no way he would have been useful for the remainder of the season.

People are letting the bad starts on 8/28 and 9/7 The five starts surrounding those were perfectly fine. Two of his last three starts were bad? He had two bad ones in three in both May and July also.

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