Ryan Boyer

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Workload Worries

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Tom Verducci of SI.com came up with a study years ago that he dubbed the “Year After Effect” in which he presented facts that showed pitchers under the age of 25 who have 30-inning increases from one year to the next typically underperform the following year. Will Carroll of SI.com expounded on the study, presenting evidence that those pitchers are also more susceptible to injury, as well.

 

Here, we’ve expanded the “Verducci Effect” (as it’s known by now) to include pitchers who have not yet reached their 30th birthday. Now, just because a pitcher is on this list doesn’t mean he’s going to be a terrible fantasy option next season or start out great and fade down the stretch. In fact, most of them will probably be fine. But, at the very least, the innings hike that these hurlers experienced should be something to keep in the back of your mind at the draft table next spring.

 

Alexi Ogando, RHP, Rangers (Age: 28)

2010 IP: 78 1/3

2011 IP: 182

IP increase: 103 2/3

 

Of all the pitchers we’re going to talk about, the biggest red flag should probably be staked next to Ogando’s name. The reasons are many. Not only did he experience one of the biggest innings increases of anyone, but he’s relatively new to pitching, having converted from the outfield. And, when he did make the move, he was used almost exclusively as a reliever in the minors. The 182 innings he threw between the regular season and the playoffs this year are by far the most he’s thrown in his career. We also already saw glimpses of him wearing down in the second half, as he posted a 4.48 ERA after the All-Star break.

 

Matt Harrison, LHP, Rangers (Age: 26)

2010 IP: 85 2/3

2011 IP: 204

IP increase: 118 1/3

 

As you can see, Harrison experienced the biggest innings increase of anyone listed here. He appeared to hit a wall in August (6.07 ERA), which led the Rangers to skipping his turn in the rotation. But, he rebounded with a terrific September (2.64 ERA) and pitched pretty well in the ALDS and ALCS before struggling in the World Series. Anytime someone’s workload jumps up like this, it’s worth noting, and Harrison is no different.

 

Michael Pineda, RHP, Mariners (Age: 22)

2010 IP: 139 1/3

2011 IP: 171

IP increase: 31 2/3

 

As you can see, Pineda barely qualified for the “Verducci Effect,” but, as easily the youngest player listed here and one with huge upside, his name is certainly worth mentioning. The Mariners ended his season one start early and used a six-man rotation for a period of time in the second half, so they were certainly aware of Pineda’s escalating innings count. Pineda did post a 5.12 ERA after the All-Star break, but his velocity stayed up and his strikeout rate actually slightly increased, so it’s not as if he fell flat on his face down the stretch.

 

Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Nationals (Age: 25)

2010 IP: 70 2/3

2011 IP: 161 1/3

IP increase: 90 2/3

 

Zimmermann’s innings were down so much in 2010, of course, because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals were cautious with him, shutting him down in late August in order to keep his innings as low as possible. Like Pineda, Zimmermann saw his ERA shoot up after the All-Star break (4.47), but his strikeout rate rose significantly from 6.4 K/9 to 8.2 K/9. The Nats will probably try to keep him under 200 innings in 2012.

 

Jaime Garcia, LHP, Cardinals (Age: 25)

2010 IP: 163 1/3

2011 IP: 220 1/3

IP increase: 57

 

Garcia saw his numbers tumble after the All-Star break this season, as he watched his ERA and WHIP go up significant and his strikeout rate drop. It could be an indication that he was wearing down as a result of his innings hike, though he did rebound to post some pretty good starts in the postseason. Worth noting is that he missed most of the 2009 season while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

 

Derek Holland, LHP, Rangers (Age: 25)

2010 IP: 134 1/3

2011 IP: 222

IP increase: 87 2/3

 

The good news is that Holland was terrific in the second half (3.06 ERA) and had a sparkling start during the World Series. But, that’s still an awfully big innings increase for a guy that just turned 25 last month. We still love his upside, but he doesn’t come without risk, both in terms of his workload increase, as well as his inconsistency.

 

Daniel Hudson, RHP, Diamondbacks (Age: 24)

2010 IP: 188 2/3

2011 IP: 227 1/3

IP increase: 38 2/3

 

We’re not too worried about Hudson. The innings hike is significant, and he is one of the younger pitchers on this list, but he threw nearly 190 innings in 2010 and nearly 170 in 2009, so logging a lot of time on the mound is nothing new for him.

 

Doug Fister, RHP, Mariners (Age: 27)

2010 IP: 175

2011 IP: 233 1/3

IP increase:  58 1/3

 

Working in Fister’s favor is that he’ll turn 28 early next year, and the fact that he thrived down the stretch, posting a 2.47 ERA in the second half while also shutting down the Rangers in his final postseason start. We’d consider him relatively low risk despite the large innings increase.

 

Justin Masterson, RHP, Indians (Age: 26)

2010 IP: 180

2011 IP: 216

IP increase: 36

 

Another low-risk proposition, Masterson had a much larger innings hike from 2009 to 2010 (50 2/3 IP) and, of course, he fared quite well this past season. Draft with confidence.

 

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays (Age: 24)

2010 IP: 155 2/3

2011 IP: 193

IP increase: 37 1/3

 

The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, Hellickson was even better in the second half (2.64 ERA) than he was in the first half (3.21), showing no signs of wearing down. The Rays also did their best to give the right-hander extra rest when possible during the season, skipping his turn in the rotation multiple times.



Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.
Email :Ryan Boyer



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