Nationals Baseball: Dream a little dream of pitcher health

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dream a little dream of pitcher health

Last year the Nats had amazing starting pitcher health.  For example here are the number of missed starts (where a whole rotation turn took place without said pitcher) for the Nats starters last year:

Gio : 0
ZNN : 0
EJax : 0
Strasburg (while in rotation) : 0
Detwiler (while starter) : 0

Hmm that's not a lot is it?

While neither Strasburg or Detwiler got to their 30th start it's likely both would have if given different circumstances.  How often does that happen, that 5 starters get to 30 starts a piece? Well since the 5 man rotation became the standard (let's say 1982 for the sake of argument - that's 30 years and that gets us past the strike year of '81) it's only happened 7 times. that's 7 times over like 800+ seasons, or like once every 3 years or so. It's a big recipe for success. None of these teams had a losing record and the last 6 averaged 95 wins.

Having four starters hit the 30 start mark is a lot more common (an additional 72 teams) but overall that's still not often. 79 times over 800+ seasons worth of teams is about 3 teams a year.  And how many times has a team managed to do it in back to back seasons? I counted 8 times (and only twice in back to back to back years for what it's worth)

The Nats do have things going for them.  The simple way of looking at it is the older you are, the more pitches you throw, and how often you've been injured before matter most in figuring if you are going to be injured this season. (Here's a recent article from BP about it) . The Nats primarily have young pitchers who either haven't really been injured (Gio) or haven't suffered any game skipping injuries since their major surgeries (Detwiler- hip, ZNN Stras - TJ). They haven't overly stressed any of their arms, keeping the # pitches out of the high end.  But you have to think other teams probably had the same circumstances. As well as the Nats have set themselves up it isn't very likely the Nats will have this kind of health in 2013, and it's nearly impossible they will have it over the next two years.

Exactly how likely is a major injury? That's hard to say. A lot of stuff goes into injury risk and even then it's not hard and fast. To put down a number for the Nats would be just major speculation.To give you an idea though of how unlikely it is - let's say you think Haren has a 25% chance of having a major injury, and Detwiler, Strasburg, and ZNN have a 10% chance, and Gio 5%.  That doesn't seem crazy does it, maybe a little skewed to the Nats even? Well given those numbers it's basically 50/50 the Nats make it through the season with none of these guys having a major injury. A coin flip.

I would say this - it's pretty likely that the Nats will suffer a major starting pitching injury next year. I'd say Haren is the most likely (obviously), followed by ZNN (shoulder issues last year), then probably Detwiler (I worry about the hip more than TJ), then either Gio or Stras depending on whether you care more about pitches (Gio) or the TJ (Strasburg).  But we went over this in the Gio "suspension" article, something like that alone isn't going to derail the Nats season.  What they need to avoid is the scenario where 2 or more arms go down for major time. That isn't very likely (with the completely made up numbers above - I figure the chances are around 15% and nearly all that is the "2" scenario, 3 or more is less than 2% of the time), but it happens to a few teams every year.

While the Nats have set themselves up pretty well for it NOT to be them the move from Haren (32 with recent injury issues) from Jackson (29 and one of baseball's most dependable arms) does increase the likelihood. It's up to the baseball gods now.

13 comments:

cass said...

I still fear for Gio's elbow.

But it's not up to the baseball gods - it's up to the pitchers and the team's training staff. The White Sox have sustained incredible pitching health beyond any other team for the last decade, so this is something of a skill rather than just pure luck. Hopefully the Nationals can get better in this regard.

Harper said...

Ok it isn't ALL up to the baseball gods, but some of it is just luck. The White Sox did have a nice run there - but Buerhle is showing himself to be one of the most dependable arms in baseball history.(Maybe Gio can match that?)

Danks went down last year and it was only saved by a surprise comback by Peavy (who the Sox got 37 starts total from the previous 2 years). So luck does matter.

BooyahSuckah said...

I think the Nats recent policy of not letting the starters get into high pitch counts will help in that regard. Most baseball writers seems to want to denigrate the Nats for not having any starters in the Top 50 (or whatever the number was) of innings pitched or pitches thrown. Who cares? This team won 98 games and had arguably the best rotation in the majors, along with a very strong bullpen. You don't need a rotation full of Verlanders. If everyone can go 6 innings and leave it to the pen and you win 98 games, why on Earth wouldn't you do that? Who cares if it means your guys don't pitch 200 innings? I'll take the health benefits of fewer pitches.

Mike said...

Harper-just want to say how much I enjoy reading this blog and am looking forward to following it once again in the upcoming season. For my money there is not a more informative Nats blog out there. Keep up the good work and thanks!

cass said...

I just found something interesting on BP (it's outside the paywall, too!):

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19653

The research in the article suggests that the biggest predictor of an injury to a starting pitcher, way more than anything else, is an injury suffered by that pitcher the previous year. So, actually, the fact that the Nats rotation got through last season without an injury is great news. Well, except for Haren, of course.

Other than previous injuries, total pitch count for the season seems to be the next best predictor, so the Nats should be in good shape on that front too.

Strasburger said...

I like the way the team handles our pitchers - at least that was a huge part of pitcher health last year.

Unfortunately I think ZNN could miss a stretch because of the shoulder issues you mentioned flaring up again. Haren might be worn, but I see him as more durable than ZNN.

Harper- what do you take away from Stras' first BP session? Also I've been reading that he is try to sacrifice outrageous dip/sink/slide for increased consistency. Whats your take on that?

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

...dang!

I meant to hit the preview button and hit publish instead.

Harper said...

Booyah- I think overall what the Nats are doing now is where all teams will be soon. MY hope though is it leads to a return to the 4-man rotation (assuming we can tease out that pitch count per game matters but pitches per season not so much)

Mike - Thanks to you for reading.

cass - *ahem* (looks to 1st link in my post)

Strasburger - I think it's great. It better to be able to throw the good pitch you want when and where you want it then to throw a great pitch that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. A smart pitcher can take the first pitch and make it work for him all the time.

Froggy - you could always delete. I wouldn't call someone with 3 arm surgeries a pansy. Some guys' bodies just can't hack it.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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