The Rays missed the playoffs this season, in part because the pitching staff did not show the same consistency and dominance exhibited in 2008. Of course, with the length of the 2008 season and the short off-season, this was not unexpected.

But while many would consider this season a disappointment, the Rays never look at one season in a vacuum. At the same time the team was contending for the playoffs, the front office was already building for 2010 and beyond. Part of this plan included a plan for each pitcher in an effort to maximize their effectiveness for this season and the seasons to come.

Let’s take a look at the workload of each of the starting pitchers and a few of the key relief pitchers and how that might affect them moving forward.

A few notes on the table…

  • The two returning starting pitchers, James Shields and Matt Garza showed a decrease in innings pitched this season due to the lack of postseason starts. However, both pitchers threw more regular season pitches. Garza went from 2,947 pitches in 2008 to 3,427 pitches this year while Shields went from 3,131 to 3,328. the 480 pitch increase for Garza is why his Stress* level showed an increase despite the fewer innings pitched. Shields also showed a small increase in Stress. Garza’s stress is due to the large number of starts in which he threw at least 110 pitches, a mark Shields rarely breaks.
  • The three rookies, David Price, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis increased their innings pitched ~20-25%. The Rays have stated in the past that as they build up the strength in the young arms, they want each pitcher to increase their workload ~20% each season, and that is exactly what each pitcher did this year. A 20% increase again next season will put each pitcher near the target of 200-220 innings pitched (Price 195; Niemann 213; Davis 234).
  • When we looked at the toll of the long 2008 season last off-season, we underestimated the affect on the relief pitchers. But looking at how much the Rays scaled back JP Howell, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, it is clear that each was burned out in 2009.

Garza’s large number of pitches and increased Stress in 2009 is a little worrisome, however, both he and Shields seem to be right where they need to be. That is, 200-220 inning pitchers, year in and year out. Meanwhile, the white glove treatment given to the rookies leaves them ready to make the jump in 2010 to 200-inning workhorses.

Looking at the table, it now seems that the Rays have been building this pitching staff with their eye on 2010. In fact, the Rays recently stated that one of their goals for 2010 was 1,000 innings pitched from their starting pitchers. While the young arms were held back to an extend in 2008, each starting pitcher will be free to throw 200+ innings next season and it will be exciting to see what they can do.

*Stress is a statistic based on the number of pitches a pitchers throws after reaching 100 pitches in a start. The Stress increases to the third power for every pitch over 100. For example, if a pitcher throws 95 pitches, he would have zero stress for that start. If a pitcher throws 110 pitches, his stress is 10^3 divided by the total number of pitches.

 
 

5 Comments

  1. Beth says:

    So is the lesson here that each successful post-season competitor needs to trade for pitchers from also-ran teams in order to field healthy arms the following year? Otherwise the message would seem to be that playing through October dooms you the following year.

    I haven’t followed the Phillies closely, but have they had a problem with tired arms? Certainly Hamels and Lidge didn’t repeat last year’s performance, but they’ve had enough pitching nonetheless to get to the postseason.

    • well, the big concern is when young pitchers show a substantial increase in innings pitched from one year to the next or over their career high. In the case of Shields, Garza and Balfour that was the case. That coupled with the short off-season and it was just not an ideal situation.

      I am not sure what the innings pitched situations were with the Phillies last year in relation to previous seasons, but they did have a couple of veteran arms in the rotation, and those guys, while not immune to the extra workload, tend to deal with it better.

    • a good comparison is the ’07 Tigers after they were in the World Series with a bunch of young arms.

  2. Sam A says:

    I think you are giving them too much credit. Garza was left out there to throw over 100 pitches in several meaningless September games as I recall.

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