Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Saturday, August 04, 2012

ESPN Stats & Info: Why Strasburg shouldn’t be shut down

Since 2001, 20 pitchers fit the profile of a young arm with a considerable workload. The criteria:

• The pitcher needed to be 23 years old or younger.

• It was the pitcher’s first season throwing 150 innings.

• The pitcher had not previously thrown 150 innings in his pro career.

Did their performance from the beginning of the season until the end of July differ from their performance from August until the end of the season?

In general, the answer was no. In four of the five categories analyzed (ERA, strike percentage, miss percentage and WHIP), the median performance change was no more than five percent, a modest change at best.

If there is any trend, they improved their strikeout-to-walk ratio by more than 30 percent. Otherwise, their statistics lack a clear pattern, despite the polarizing nature of the innings-limit debate.

JE (Jason) Posted: August 04, 2012 at 09:42 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: injury, medical, nationals

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Walt Davis Posted: August 05, 2012 at 02:13 AM (#4200755)
Is there more in the link? Cuz this seems to entirely miss the point. The limit is not about Strasburg wearing down this season, the concern is about his future. That concern may be off-base but showing that similar pitchers didn't wear down in-season doesn't address it.

Some of the group:

Brett Anderson at 21, 195 IP in 3 years after that
Armas at 23, hurt at 25
Billingsley at 23, solid but unspectacular since
Bonderman at 20, solid but unspectacular
Buehrle at 22, woo-hoo!
Bumgarner at 21 in 2001, so far so good
Cahill at 21, 3 good years since
Cain at 21, jackpot
Cecil at 23, seems healthy majors/minors
Joba at 23, this didn't end well
Cueto at 22, slightly fragile jackpot

OK, too many, I'm getting bored. There are many happy endings (King Felix, Verlander, Kershaw) and sad endings (Prior, Harden, Kazmir). I suspect there's no magic to the 150 innings at <=23 in the aggregate other than standard "pitchers get hurt." Also, almost by definition, anybody we recognize as a stud in his prime survived his early usage. Still, at least it's on point.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: August 05, 2012 at 02:40 AM (#4200757)
• It was the pitcher’s first season throwing 150 innings.

• The pitcher had not previously thrown 150 innings in his pro career.


How do you expect to find guys who met both of these critera?

   3. boteman Posted: August 05, 2012 at 04:11 AM (#4200759)
The excerpt doesn't mention Tommy John surgery, but TFA mentions it with regard to a couple other pitchers, then goes on to conclude that there is no conclusion to be drawn despite the headline. This whole thing centers around Strasburg's T.J. surgery, not just that he's 23 or whatever else is mentioned.

That's my take, although it's too late/early to be reading this stuff and I'm over the whole discussion since Rizzo's mind is (supposedly) made up; this article won't change it. We shall see come September.
   4. I Am Not a Number Posted: August 05, 2012 at 08:50 AM (#4200776)
The FA was written by two interns. Two, because analysis this deep is just too much work for one person.
   5. Scott Fischthal Posted: August 05, 2012 at 09:47 AM (#4200792)
I loved the sample size for their dismissal of the Tommy John surgery -- two. One of whom was AJ Burnett, who returned in June, pitched 120 innings and was several years older than Strasburg. The other was Jordan Zimmermann -- who Rizzo and Johnson have stated is the blueprint for what they're doing.

What an astoundingly bad piece of analysis.

   6. Spectral Posted: August 05, 2012 at 09:54 AM (#4200794)
It seems to me that referring to what pitchers do in general neglects that Strasburg is an individual, not a pitcher in general. Now, granted, using past evidence to determine what a pitcher could take physically is a reasonable thing to do, but it's also reasonable to account for individual variance in Strasburg's case in a fashion that the Nationals training and medical staff is far better equipped to do than anyone else possibly could be. I don't know that the Nationals have the best possible blueprint for this, but they seem to be a "smart organization" and I'm more inclined to trust them than an analysis that relies purely on what pitchers do on average.

I still don't want Strasburg shut down, but I think the author of this piece makes a really poor argument, especially for the reason Walt lays out in post #1.
   7. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4200797)
Joba at 23, this didn't end well
Though, of course, that had a lot more to do with Pudge Rodriguez than innings pitched.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 05, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4200799)
Joba at 23, this didn't end well


KEEP STRASBURG AWAY FROM TRAMPOLINES!
   9. TomH Posted: August 05, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4200960)
...and bugs
   10. ClobberSaurus Posted: August 06, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4201425)
Instead of making the test be first year over 150IP, maybe some study of number of IP increased over prior seasons. Something like < 100 IP previously and > 150 IP this season.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: August 06, 2012 at 11:21 AM (#4201437)
I hate to think this, but they should just get their '2003-Mark-Prior year out of him while they have the chance.
   12. andrewberg Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4201480)
I hate to think this, but they should just get their '2003-Mark-Prior year out of him while they have the chance.


I am with you on this. Shutting him down seems like an implicit acceptance that he is likely to get hurt again (unless there is some reason to believe that he is more likely to get hurt late in a season than early in a season, which this crappy article seems to refute). If he's going to break down, why would you shelve him during a pennant race so you can reallocate those innings to the middle of another season when the team might not be in contention? This year is pennant race bird in hand.
   13. Guapo Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:19 PM (#4201491)
I hate to think this, but they should just get their '2003-Mark-Prior year out of him while they have the chance.


Remind me never to let you watch my marshmallows for me.

I am with you on this.


You neither.
   14. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:34 PM (#4201502)
Shutting him down seems like an implicit acceptance that he is likely to get hurt again (unless there is some reason to believe that he is more likely to get hurt late in a season than early in a season, which this crappy article seems to refute). If he's going to break down, why would you shelve him during a pennant race so you can reallocate those innings to the middle of another season when the team might not be in contention? This year is pennant race bird in hand.
While I agree that having a shot at the postseason is something you need to weigh, I think you're missing something fundamental here: the innings limit this year, if enforced, is because they have reason to believe that a higher workload *this year* is an unacceptable risk.

In other words, no it isn't "an implicit acceptance that he is likely to get hurt again" in general terms, but is specifically meant to mitigate what they deem higher risk to his career right now as he continues to recover from surgery and the resultant time off.

Edit: And I should add, I'm not entirely sold that the limit they chose still makes sense, I'm just arguing the premise that the limit means they see him as inherently fragile.
   15. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:43 PM (#4201504)
Can someone explain how Ivan Rodriguez injured Joba Chamberlain? Suddenly this is what everyone says about Joba Chamberlain. I have no memory at all of whatever incident this is referring to.
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:49 PM (#4201507)
Since retiring, Ivan Rodriguez has gone into the trampoline selling biz. The company is called Acme.
   17. Nasty Nate Posted: August 06, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4201509)
Can someone explain how Ivan Rodriguez injured Joba Chamberlain? Suddenly this is what everyone says about Joba Chamberlain. I have no memory at all of whatever incident this is referring to.


I've noticed the same thing. And #16 doesn't really explain it.
   18. Good cripple hitter Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4201516)
It's a reference to Joba's shoulder injury in 2008. From bronx banter:

Rangers third baseman Ramon Vazquez singled on Chamberlain’s first pitch of the fifth inning. Ian Kinsler then worked the count full. Chamberlain’s 3-2 pitch was a slider low and away. Kinsler checked his swing and drilled the pitch straight down into the dirt in front of home plate. The ball bounced once, then rolled forward just enough to enter fair territory. Ivan Rodriguez pounced on the ball and fired it to second base, where Robinson Cano turned an apparent double play.

[...]

Chamberlain saw the home plate ump rule the ball foul and came forward off the mound pointing to both Kinsler and the umpire. Ivan Rodriguez didn’t hear him, and Rodriguez’s throw to second base came directly at Chamberlain’s head. In ducking that throw, Chamberlain lept backwards off his feet and landed on his rump before tumbling over in a backwards somersault. Before Chamberlain’s body hit the ground, however, his right arm reached back and attempted to brace his fall.

Chamberlain denied that the fall had anything to do with his injury.
   19. jingoist Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4201519)
Isn't Acme the same company that Wylie Coyote gets all his neat Roadrunner capture supplies from?
   20. andrewberg Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:06 PM (#4201525)
And I should add, I'm not entirely sold that the limit they chose still makes sense, I'm just arguing the premise that the limit means they see him as inherently fragile


That's exactly the problem I have with it. If there was a scientific reason to believe that going above 160 IP this year was more of a risk than 180, 200, 120, or limits in the offseason, or limits in the future, or whatever else, then I'd be on board with it. But I have seen nothing to suggest that it is much more than an arbitrary number, and that is not enough to outweigh the shot at winning the division, at least to me.
   21. Chris Needham Posted: August 06, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4201571)
[20] BING BING BING. That's what's driving me crazy about the "shut him down" arguments -- it's as if there's something scientific or empirical about the choices they're making when it's nothing of the sort.

I have a few suspicions that the team's looking at it more closely than counting innings. There are certainly ways to go about it: values for pitches under stress, types of pitches, etc. As well as some type of pitchfx-based analysis to try to id any change in mechanics or delivery.

But this isn't the case where anyone can say, "if we shut him down after 180 innings, we've reduced the chances for injury by 47% in 2014".
   22. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: August 06, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4201627)
I think arm fatigue can be a factor in injury. If it isn't why do they limit minor league pitcher innings? By that logic, as long as a pitcher is effective, keep pitching him. Managers have no problems doing that generally. Rizzo has never set a specific limit, he's just said it won't be as much as a normal workload for a more experienced pitcher. It seems to be more in keeping with a developmental constraint, as they're still developing a young pitcher where you don't want to add too many innings from year to year when they are a prized prospect. He hasn't had the advantage of even a full professional healthy year yet. The interruption caused by the injury set back the timetable, so going past 180 would be odd unless you just ignore it totally. Then you still have to consider the the mechanics issue that may have brought some of this on, and there's reason to be careful. At every little step they are careful with this guy, too hot, too much Ben Gay, too many pitches, too many reporters asking him questions, etc. This guy is worth as much to them as the playoffs.
   23. andrewberg Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:00 PM (#4201642)
This guy is worth as much to them as the playoffs.


You're probably right, but that presents it as a dichotomy where there probably isn't one. I also think you are hitting on the right point that there is a lot more art than science to this process. They have many experienced people around who understand pitcher usage, mechanics, repeated motion, fatigue, pitch type, etc much better than most of us do. If they see red flags in those factors that trumps the IP line, then there's not much I can criticize.

On the other hand, what do we actually KNOW about pitcher usage? I don't mean what Tom Verducci believes, or what many teams seem to apply. What do we actually know?

-Pitchers who started and pitched deep into games every day over 100 years ago did not last very long.

-For a long stretch of time, pitchers started about every 4th day and threw lots of innings (many over 300 annually, with fewer pitches per inning). Some stayed mostly healthy with less developed training/medical care, others got hurt. We do not know much about their mechanics, we know more about many of their body types.

-Some pitchers cannot stay healthy for more than a few starts at a time no matter what kind of pitch count restriction they are on.

Am I missing anything big?

These premises have led me to believe that the main factor in pitcher injuries is mechanics. There will be guys who get hurt from over-exerting on an individual pitch or outing (especially with longer ABs and longer outings now). There will also be guys who wear down over a very long period of heavy use (I think Roy Halladay is an instance of a durable guy who has worn down over time. Blyleven eventually had arm surgery, so did many other work horses). Nonetheless, I believe that mechanics- and to an extent, body type- drive pitcher health. That makes me pessimistic about Strasburg, though there are certainly guys who looked to be injury prone early and overcame it with time.
   24. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 06, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4201662)
Remind me to never let you watch my marshmallows for me.

That's child abuse!
   25. Lassus Posted: August 06, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4201698)
Thanks for #18. I also had no idea what the heck you were all talking about.
   26. Ron J Posted: August 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM (#4201824)
#23 Even today the best study on the matter is still probably Craig Wright's in The Diamond Appraised. And his conclusion was nowhere near as strong as most people make it out to be. Basically, be risk adverse with pitchers under 25. He suggested an IP limit of around 170 and also suggested that you limit the workload in any given game (his recommendations are expressed in batters faced rather than pitches)

It's not that this eliminates the risk of injury, it's just that pitchers who are worked hard under the age of 25 don't tend to have great careers no matter how good they looked when starting out.

Earl Weaver had his own way of handling young pitchers. He liked to give them a year of long relief and then after that, they were pretty much treated as any other pitcher. Even then, when Jim Palmer was coming back from injury in 1969 he handled him pretty carefully. In an odd sort of way it helped that Jim Hardin was also having arm problems. Cuellar and McNally went every 4th day and Palmer, Hardin and Phoebus split the other spots. (With Palmer rarely going on 3 days rest)
   27. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 06, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4201852)
Can someone explain how Ivan Rodriguez injured Joba Chamberlain? Suddenly this is what everyone says about Joba Chamberlain. I have no memory at all of whatever incident this is referring to.

I've noticed the same thing. And #16 doesn't really explain it.


I've noticed the same thing, and it's a silly thing to say, since IRod's throw to second (causing Chamberlain to fall awkwardly) had nothing to do with any shoulder injury.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
rr
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(4849 - 1:03pm, Oct 31)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip

NewsblogDeadline: World Series Ratings: Game 7 Scores Home Run For Fox
(20 - 12:56pm, Oct 31)
Last: A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose)

NewsblogSend Alex Gordon! | FiveThirtyEight
(97 - 12:53pm, Oct 31)
Last: BDC

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(645 - 12:53pm, Oct 31)
Last: rr

NewsblogAngell: The Best
(26 - 12:52pm, Oct 31)
Last: donlock

NewsblogNY Times: In Rare Film, White Sox Before They Were Black Sox
(4 - 12:52pm, Oct 31)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip

NewsblogJoe Maddon is to become Cubs manager, sources say
(126 - 12:51pm, Oct 31)
Last: Scott Lange

NewsblogThe Players' Tribune: Jeter: The Clean Up
(6 - 12:47pm, Oct 31)
Last: donlock

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-31-2014
(17 - 12:46pm, Oct 31)
Last: Flack42

NewsblogFull Count » Red Sox sign Koji Uehara to 2-year contract
(27 - 12:44pm, Oct 31)
Last: Nasty Nate

NewsblogBoston.com: Youk Retires
(12 - 12:27pm, Oct 31)
Last: Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat

NewsblogNo, Alex Gordon wouldn't have scored an inside the park home run
(153 - 12:15pm, Oct 31)
Last: AROM, Instagram Gangsta

NewsblogMLB -- It's time to back off on manager bashing - ESPN
(9 - 12:05pm, Oct 31)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogStatcast: Gordon stops 90 feet from tying Game 7
(1 - 12:03pm, Oct 31)
Last: Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame)

NewsblogA Visit to Madison Bumgarner Country, and a Proud Father's Home - NYTimes.com
(3 - 11:06am, Oct 31)
Last: Hal Chase School of Professionalism

Page rendered in 0.4343 seconds
52 querie(s) executed