November 29, 2006

Year-After Effect could strike many young arms in '07: Tom Verducci of SI proposes that 2007 could be a down year for all of the upstart rookie pitchers from this past season due to overuse. As the title foreshadows, Verducci refers to this phenomenon as the Year-After Effect, based on a general rule of thumb among executives and pitching coaches: young pitchers should not have their innings workload increased by more than 25 or 30 innings per year.

posted by gradys_kitchen to baseball at 09:23 AM - 15 comments

Interesting story. In this day and age, though, I find myself just expecting young pitchers to blast onto the scene, then flame out in a few years. The overwhelming need to be a power-pitcher in order to get signed, get moved through the minors, and get that shot at the show puts their arms through such amazing strain, and just look at the ages of the guys on his chart! Most are 22-24 years old. Very few of today's pitchers seem to have the training regime or the proper mechanics to be effective in major league baseball for the long haul. Roger Clemens is the main example, because if every pitcher was made to follow his training schedule, throughout the year as well as between starts, they'd probably collapse from sheer exaustion. It would, however, result in more of these pitchers having longer careers. Another issue is the need for players to develop a variety of pitches earlier in their development. The utter destruction a arm, elbow, rotator cuff, etc. experiences from the things a high-level baseball pitcher does with it is ridiculous! And as was mentioned, it's all about "Win now" in the majors. People are looking to secure jobs, play and produce for big payoffs, and the idea of bringing someone along slowly through the minors is history. Plus, don't forget some of the pitchers aren't all that great to begin with. They may be good enough to have a big year or so early in their career, but how talented are they to be able to last down the road when they are getting older and everyone knows their game? It's almost similar to the quarterback situation in the NFL. As the actual talent pool gets thinner, the rush to find the next dominant starter increases. The mantra in major league baseball now is to just make it and at least sign one big contract. After that, if they're fortunate enough to be around to sign another, that's just icing on the cake.

posted by dyams at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2006

This is Verducci's baby - he's been the guy studying it for a few years now, and the data seems to support his theory. I'd be interested in seeing if how the corolation differs if the pitchers throw 20 innings more, or 15 innings more - 30 innings seems a little arbitrary. And there are always exceptions - though they all appear to be of the giant dude variety. I'll say this: He was bang on in predicting Chacin's injury. I read that before the season started. Yankee fans better hope he's wrong about Wang - that dude is your ace. Tigers fans better hope the exception hits them. Their two best pitchers are due for a shutdown.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:18 AM on November 29, 2006

I'd bet Verducci knows his Wang.

posted by yerfatma at 10:55 AM on November 29, 2006

Another issue is the need for players to develop a variety of pitches earlier in their development. The utter destruction a arm, elbow, rotator cuff, etc. experiences from the things a high-level baseball pitcher does with it is ridiculous! Amen dyams. Data point: Kerry Wood

posted by smithnyiu at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2006

Data point: Kerry Wood After reading the article and just before posting, I checked on Wood's stats thinking the same thing and was suprised that he was brought along moderately: Pro year 1: 114 IP Pro year 2: 156 IP Pro year 3: 166 IP Of course I have no idea how many IP he had in High School.

posted by gradys_kitchen at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2006

Put me down as endorsing every word of dyams' post, but I need to add a comment regarding "idea of bringing someone along slowly through the minors is history." That is a painfully true fact; however, the need in the majors is so very strong for pitching that there is not the time available for proper nurturing of young arms. Because of expansion, the sheer numbers of good wings needed causes management to push harder for those with potential to be brought up through the ranks much faster than even they believe might be better for the pitcher. One might say that it is selfish on the part of management, but the player desires to move much faster than he actually does in essentially every case. It is a tough game to be in, but I do believe Detroit has a better formula with young pitchers than almost anyone at present. Roger Clemens regimen/schedule was referenced. Nolan Ryan's preceded his and we may note that Kenny Rogers has brought knowledge from Ryan to the Tigers. I see a lot of Rogers in each of those kids already. Should he influence them as well on conditioning as he has in mound attitude, then we may see a little less of Verducci's Year-After-Effect in these two kids' second year. And, if that doesn't work, our Toy Ranger, GM Jon Daniels, will send up some more stars from Texas?

posted by Bud Lang at 11:52 AM on November 29, 2006

So that is why my royals suck so bad! Greinke and Herandez were both supposed to be amazing starters by now. I guess this explains why.

posted by brainofdtrain at 04:23 PM on November 29, 2006

Innings don't kill pitchers. Pitches kill pitchers. Pitches per inning for those people on Verducci's Watch List who pitched at least 100 major league innings last year: Wang: 14.01* Bonderman: 15.35 Sanchez: 15.45 Bonser: 15.63 Weaver: 15.71 Olsen: 15.94 Verlander: 15.98 Marshall: 16.38 Hamels: 16.46 Loewen: 17.70 *4th in MLB among pitchers with 1000+ pitches in 2006, behind Greg Maddux, Chad Qualls, and Roy Halladay. These ten pitchers averaged 196.5 innings last year, so for the sake of argument I'll use the pitch counts for a 200 inning season. Makes my math easier. Wang: 2802 Bonderman: 3070 Sanchez: 3090 Bonser: 3126 Weaver: 3142 Olsen: 3188 Verlander: 3196 Marshall: 3276 Hamels: 3292 Loewen: 3540 Wang and Hamels both went 80 innings over their previous professional high, but seeing that difference of nearly 500 pitches for every 200 innings makes me think that Wang had an easier time going that high because he was so efficient last year (and obviously this makes Hamels' situation going into next year that much more precarious). I think Verducci is on the right path, but I think he's counting the wrong stat. If two pitchers can differ by as many as 738 pitches over the same 200 innings, I'm not sure innings tells me that much about the strain on the pitcher.

posted by BullpenPro at 08:14 PM on November 29, 2006

I also have to wonder if Verducci is taking into consideration innings pitched in the Arizona Fall League or the Mexican, Caribbean and South American leagues during the off-season. A pitch is a pitch, whether it's thrown on a major league diamond or on a sandlot. (To be honest, when I saw this post, I thought the topic was going to be long range effects of the extra innings pitched in the WBC last year.)

posted by BullpenPro at 08:23 PM on November 29, 2006

Pitches kill pitchers. Pitches per inning More accurately, pitches thrown above 100 in an appearance, but it varies from pitcher to pitcher where that 100+ cutoff is.

posted by yerfatma at 05:34 AM on November 30, 2006

I think you're way ahead of me, yerfatma. Here I thought I was being so clever, and it turns out I'm about eight years behind my time. At least I'm still ahead of Verducci.

posted by BullpenPro at 06:56 AM on November 30, 2006

All pitch counts are not created equal. "If you have a veteran who knows what he's doing out there, he may throw 140 pitches, but of the 140, he's only maxing out on 40. The other 100, he's taking something off. But when the slop is flying, he'll reach back and make his best pitch. "With younger guys, the reason there is so many injuries is that, with young guys, their answer when they start to struggle is to reach back. So, of those 140 pitches, 40 are their best sliders and 80 are their best fastballs. That's why you pay attention to pitch counts." -Tony LaRussa I read somewhere Nolan Ryan had a pitch count of 235 in a game once, and given the contol issues he had early in his career, I can only imagine his season pitch count totals were astronomical. Throwin' hard all the time, too. Amazing.

posted by mjkredliner at 08:11 AM on November 30, 2006

June 14, 1974 vs Boston, Ryan threw 235 pitches in 13 innings. An interesting pitch count article here.

posted by mjkredliner at 08:26 AM on November 30, 2006

This isn't a new phenomenon -- the early and mid-late '60s Orioles had a slew of young pitchers flame out because of early overuse. Palmer and McNally came back, Wally Bunker and Chuck Estrada didn't. And the early '80s A's had a staff of young pitchers who were chewed up and spit out by Billy Martin...

posted by ajaffe at 09:47 AM on November 30, 2006

Palmer and McNally came back, Wally Bunker and Chuck Estrada didn't. A small change of fate and Wally Bunker would have been doing all those underwear commercials.

posted by dyams at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2006

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