One of the biggest concerns with young starting pitchers is their workload and easing them into a 200-ip season. The Rays typically prefer to limit their starters to a 20 percent increase in innings from one season to the next. If a pitcher exceeds that mark, they could be at a higher risk for injury or just a tired arm in the next season.
Last year, we saw the red flag with David Price, whose 221.1 innings pitches in 2010 was a 36.1 percent increase over the 2009 season. And while Price’s FIP improved from 3.42 in 2010 to 3.32 in 2011, his ERA ballooned from 2.72 in 2010 to 3.49 last year. Was he just unlucky? Maybe. But Price also showed that at times last year, he tired late in games.
So let’s take a look at how much the pitcher’s were used in 2011 and if there are any red flags…
Maybe the most important thing we see in this table is that the Rays big-6 starting pitchers (David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Matt Moore) are all free to throw 200 innings in 2012. So there shouldn’t be any concerns about limits late in the year like we have seen with other pitchers in recent years.
A few things that stand out to us…
- Jeremy Hellickson’s 24% increase in innings worked last season is a little concerning and something to keep an eye on.
- Obviously James Shields won’t throw 300 innings in 2012, but this does show that he has no limits. He threw an absurd number of innings. But it was also his fifth season throwing 200 or more innings, so his arm is likely to rebound just fine.
- The Rays may want to ease up on Matt Moore just a tad, just to be safe. But his motion is so easy that 174 innings on his arm is probably not as stressful as it would be on somebody like Scott Kazmir who is a max-effort pitcher.
- For those that want to see Alex Cobb in the rotation this season, we can now see why that may not happen. He threw only 120 innings in 2011 and will probably be limited to about 150 this year.
- Jeff Niemann is most likely free to pitch 200 innings as his limit is an artifact of seeing his innings drop in 2011 due to injury. However, if the Rays feel there are any lingering issues, he could be limited in 2012.