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.
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12 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    They're not going to let Moore throw 200 innings

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      That is possible, but why not? He won't break the 20% mark. Hellickson threw 193 innings last year at age 24. David Price threw 221.1 innings in 2010 at age 24. And Moore had more innings last year than either of those guys had in the year before those seasons (they both had about 160. Moore had 175).

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      • Mike C says:

        If they do trade a Shields or Niemann midseason the likleyhood of increased innings for Moore will definitely be a possibility. Especially is we are talking about pitching into October I would think.

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    • Mike says:

      They don't need to if they go with a 6 man rotation for the first few months. 1) Shields, 2) Price, 3) Hellboy, 4) Moore, 5) Davis, 6) Niemann with Cobb/Torres available to fill in if someone gets injured. Even if they trade Big NyQuil or WD40 they won't lose much with Cobb filling in for either one, so a 6 man rotation for April-June seems like an easy call. In the odd weeks where they have days off someone may need to skip a start to prevent Shields or Price from having too many days off, but whoever gets skipped can throw on the side or come out of the pen to keep fresh (or if they have options like Moore/Davis? start a game in Durham).

      I know its unusual, but with all of these young arms unless they get blown away with a trade offer for two of the top 7 I don't know why the Rays wouldn't do it. Hopefully they all pitch up to their abilities and become more valuable trade pieces for a midseason trade to bring in the last player needed for the championship run. A solid young #3 starter, which is what a healthy Niemann or Davis would be on a lot of teams, should command a pretty good price at the trade deadline, and a few good starts early in the year could make their trade values jump. Cobb or Torres could easily pitch as a 4 or 5 in most rotations in the league next year, and getting them some starts early in the season should make them more valuable as well. In any case, all these arms is a damn good problem to have.

      Friedman is a lot better at this than you or me and I have no doubt he already has a plan in mind to maximize the value of these arms. I would be shocked if the Rays didn't have 5 healthy and rested starters for the stretch run, a ready and very capable replacement in Durham in case of injury, and also have a shiny new bat or two driving in Des and BJ come August. Its going to be another great season, and i can't wait. Thankfully I have Tebow to keep me somewhat occupied for a while longer because otherwise I'm not sure I could take it. I'm looking forward to some more October dreams.

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  2. Rytor says:

    James Shields and the race to 300! :)

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  3. Sarah says:

    How do you factor in (hopefully) postseason? If you were hoping your pitchers might be pitching in October, do you limit them a bit more so they are each available for a few additional starts later on? Of course if it's late September and you are way ahead of the competition you skip a few starts, but the Rays are never in that position. So the question would be whether you limit innings say in June and July so you have not exhausted an arm that you'd like to have fresh in late September and October.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      this is certainly an issue and one the Rays have faced before. But generally, they have just let their pitchers go through their limits if the postseason is involved. That certainly happened with Price in 2010, and Hellickson last year.

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    • ttnorm says:

      Can't worry about the post season until the regular season is wrapped up.

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  4. Joe says:

    lol 300

    And how much steak would the pen buy him this year? That would be awesome. Verlander almost actually reached 300 when you count postseason.

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  5. RedBull says:

    I don't see them using a true 6-man rotation. However, I do see them calling up Cobb, Torres, and possibly even Archer for random starts for Davis, Niemann, and Moore. Especially for Niemann, who historically throws better on longer rest. Price and Shields don't like the longer rest, and I'm pretty sure their numbers show it. I do agree that Friedman is just waiting for the right deal. He knows he's sitting with the best hand at the table, so he can afford to slow play it. He might also be waiting until spring training to see if Morales or Trumbo are healthy, and could pull a deal off then.

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  6. mrTr0ut says:

    300 innings translates to something like 30 complete games lol

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