Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Working CC To Death

I, like most of you, thought that Ned Yost was working CC Sabathia too hard, unnecessarily. I'm starting to change my mind on the subject (Note: I change my mind alot. So should you.) Here's an article from Joe Sheehan that you probably can't read because it's gated. (If you love baseball, you should pony up and get a subscription, by the way. My Baseball Prospectus subscription is well worth it, and I don't even play fantasy baseball. If you do play fantasy baseball, this should be the first thing you pay for at the beginning of each season. Plus it will stop you from making idiotic comments about Tony Gwynn, Jr. in the JSonline forum.)

Here's the important part:

It is, however, a very clear sign that we’ve gone too far. A good idea—protecting pitchers from injury due to overuse—has been warped, with ill effects for the industry. The marginal innings that veteran starters aren’t throwing—and we’re talking about maybe 10-20 a season for some large number of pitchers—are not just going to inferior pitchers, but they’re driving roster decisions that have changed the way the game is played. As much as La Russa-influenced tactics have helped redesign reliever usage, the lack of those extra pitches and extra innings has forced teams to carry 11, 12, and sometimes 13 pitchers as a workaround. That change has reduced the amount of platooning and shortened benches to the point that many teams have non-functioning reserve corps. All for the gain of low-leverage innings from low-impact pitchers.

The solution here is fairly simple: forget that anyone ever mentioned the number "100." That number isn’t meaningful in any sense. If you really want to use numbers to guide you, here are two: 25 and 120. Once a pitcher is 25 years old, you can generally consider him physically mature enough to handle a full workload. A full workload for a mature, healthy pitcher should include starts of up to 120 pitches without inviting injury risk. Usage beyond that mark—actually, 121 pitches in the PAP^3 framework—do raise the risk, but that risk can be measured against the context of the situation. Flags fly forever, and the pursuit of one does sometimes outweigh the risks involved.

Caleb Peiffer referenced this article (which is how I came to read it) in today's Brewers/Pirates preview. He also mentions that Pirates' starter Paul Maholm has been excellent lately:

Pittsburgh will throw its own left-hander at the formidable Milwaukee southpaw, one who has become the ace of the Pirates' staff. Maholm has been among the best starters in baseball over the last three months; after turning in just three quality starts in his first 10, he has now tossed 12 in his last 15, and hasn't gone less than six innings in any of those 15 turns. Over that stretch, Maholm has a 2.88 RA and 1.06 WHIP, with a K/BB ratio of over 3/1. His second-best start of the season by Game Score came in Miller Park back on July 5, when he gave up four hits and one run over eight innings in a game Pittsburgh lost 2-1.

On paper it looks like a CC start against the Pirates should be an easy "W", but don't be surprised if this one is closer than you think.

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