Back in January we took a look at the workload of each of the starting pitchers in 2009 and 2010. The result was a ginormous red flag next to David Price’s name that left us a little worried that he might not pitch as well in 2011.

Here is what we said back then:

Price’s numbers raise a red flag. In 2010, Price had 14 starts with at least 110 pitches and saw his innings pitched increase by 36.1% over the year before. That is a lot of stress on Price’s left arm.

What we should have added was that is an enormous amount of stress on an arm that was just 24 years old in 2010.

Some call it the “Verducci Effect,” a term coined by Will Carroll, who showed that pitchers under the age of 25 have a higher probability of regression or even injury if they experience a sharp increase in innings over the previous year.

Whatever you want to call it, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Price is struggling.

It also raises the question if maybe the Rays should shut Price down at some point to give his arm a break and start preparing for 2012.



  1. Amanda says:

    With all due respect, Cork, there's one massive flaw with that point of view. These problems can't be because of a magical barrier at an age or a magical number of innings pitched. Twenty years ago and beyond, this wasn't a problem. Four-man rotations, limited use of receivers, little to no pitch counts, and these types of problems were rare and not the norm.


    The more likely reason is because of newer outside influences: Steroids (please don't read that as an accusation against Price). Babying pitchers so they don't build up arm strength. Allowing pitchers in youth leagues to throw curve balls ad nauseum. These seem a much more likely reason why young pitchers are hitting walls. (Funnily enough, it did start around the time of the steroid era, and the idea of babying pitchers grew out of the mysteriousness of young pitchers breaking down.)

    That's why I'm so interested to see what happens to the Rangers organization-wide pitching staff over the next few years. It will be an interesting case study to see if Nolan Ryan's idea of taking away pitch counts will make a difference. He may be wrong, but at least it's a variable being tested, and a valid one at that.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      A couple of things...

      1. I would argue that these things were even more the norm back in the day. This is much longer discussion than this space allows, but back when pitchers threw more pitches and worked on less rest, teams were weeding out a lot of very good pitchers whose arms weren't cut out for that type of work. Pedro Martinez would have never made it to the big leagues in the 40s or 50s, and if he did, he would have been a journeyman reliever. And how many great pitchers had their arms destroyed in the minors because of those workloads? Some pitchers can do it. Their arms are more genetically engineered for that type of work. But a lot of guys aren't. And back then, it was more important that you could throw 9 innings on 3 days rest than it was to be a great pitcher that might start to break down in the 7th inning.

      2. And I dont think it is a magical barrier and I dont think Will Carroll does either. He is just saying that a young pitcher, whose arm is still dveloping, is MORE LIKELY to break down or regress if their workload experiences a large jump. That doesn't mean they will. Just that it is more likely to happen to a 24-year old than it is to somebody that is 34. Think of it like lung cancer. Smoking 2 packs a day doesn't mean you are going to get lung cancer. It does however make it more likely.

    • Sarah says:

      Amanda, you may be right. Or we may be failing to account for the dozens of pitchers from earlier eras whose careers were shot after two or three years. Back when teams made very modest investments in the talent (no big signing bonuses or multi-year contracts) what incentive did managers and owners have to protect the long term effectiveness of their pitchers? Letting them pitch multiple innings even if it led to a lot of dead armed 26 year olds may have been the norm. There are always going to be a few who thanks to luck or genetics will be able to get through a 15 year career like this with no damage. Of course, we all know of all those Hall of Famers who pitched a gazillion complete games; the potentially excellent pitchers whose careers were cut short just fade away.

      I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm just saying you are not looking at all the evidence. I assume if major league teams are "coddling" pitchers it's because they have evidence that in the long run they get more out their pitching staffs that way. But let the Texas Rangers prove that assumption wrong!

    • td32 says:

      I always find this argument entertaining. People always assume that every pitcher "back in the day" had a clean bill of health, and never got innjured. Unfortunately, people always site the Nolan Ryan types, but never point out the guys who had their careers ended early due to arm injury.
      Considering Will Carroll, and others, have done much research and have accumulated data on this subject, I would tend to trust their opinions more then the crowd that thinks players simply were "tougher" in the glory days.
      Price's problems revolve around his lack of secondary pitches. When he doesnt command his fastball, he simply isnt a very good pitcher. Outside of his fastball, all of his other offerings are mediocre at best.

      • Ken Heller says:

        Very much on the point td32, Price used to have a very nasty slider, which kept hitters honest. This year batters just wait for a fastball in their zone then tee off or walk if it's not there. The Yanks and Sox particularly have worked long counts against him this year.

      • Beth says:

        Right, but the question is WHY his development of secondary pitches has regressed. Did he and Jim Hickey just decide to abandon the slider and curve, because who needs a secondary pitch? I doubt that -- if it's obvious to US that hitters are waiting for the fastball, then they must have noticed this, too. That's where Cork's discussion on Price's innings comes into play -- could the wear on his arm be affecting his ability to really perfect those secondary pitches?

        Also, he was better for the first third of the season than he's been for the middle third. Does that provide further evidence that he's put too much stress on his arm?

  2. Don says:

    Horses that are less athletic (slow) are less likely to get hurt( suffer injuries) than fast horses...why is that? they are weaker and use less muscle energy...right? athletes are ATHLETES

  3. Kevin says:

    What regression? His FIP is basically the same as last year and his xFIP is more than half a run better. His K% is up and his BB% is down. His HR rate is worse and my initial reaction was to blame it on throwing too many fastballs but his fastball usage is actually down from last year.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Trying looking at his first and second half splits. His FIP before July was under 3.00. Since then it is more than 5.00. And his K:BB has been cut in half.

      He was great in the first 3 months. The regression has been since then. And it has been dramatic.

    • Sarah says:

      Kevin, responses like yours are what give stats guys a bad name! You can't possibly have watched Price struggle through his last few starts and come away thinking he's pitching as well as he did when he was a Cy Young contender last year. I think Cork's observation about first half/second half comparisons explains why he can have some decent numbers still -- because he had some great April and May starts. But I would swear that his struggles started just before the all star break, and he's been at best mediocre since then.


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