Razzball: 20 Risky Pitchers

Head on over to Razzball to see their 20 Risky Pitchers For 2009.  They did the math.  Guys I like who are unfortunately top ten injury risks, by their metrics: Ricky Nolasco, Brett Myers, Andy Sonnanstine, and Johnny Cueto.  These guys are typically being drafted late enough where it's worth the gamble.

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Razzball Predicts Pitching Injuries

Very cool post at Razzball, attempting to find predictors of pitching injuries.  They learned that high pitch volume doesn't do much to predict injuries, but a high percentage of breaking pitches thrown does.

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The 3400 Club: 2007 Members

It was interesting to learn that almost the exact same number of pitchers cross the 3400 pitches thrown barrier each year.  In 2008, the group had 19 members.  In 2007, 19 pitchers also passed the benchmark.  Here they are:

  1. C.C. Sabathia - 3892
  2. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 3865
  3. Carlos Zambrano - 3774
  4. Jeff Francis - 3771
  5. Dan Haren - 3635
  6. Brandon Webb - 3623
  7. Jake Peavy - 3610
  8. Scott Kazmir - 3609
  9. Aaron Harang - 3590
  10. Gil Meche - 3578
  11. Doug Davis - 3574
  12. Daniel Cabrera - 3563
  13. John Lackey - 3495
  14. Dontrelle Willis - 3491
  15. Andy Pettitte - 3487
  16. Joe Blanton - 3483
  17. Javier Vazquez - 3463
  18. Bronson Arroyo - 3431
  19. Barry Zito - 3411

Let's take Davis out of the mix since he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer the following year.  That leaves 18 pitchers in this group.  10 of the 18 had serious injuries in 2008.  Specifically I'm referring to Dice-K, Zambrano, Francis, Peavy, Kazmir, Harang, Cabrera, Lackey, Willis, and Pettitte.

The eight who emerged unscathed: Sabathia, Haren, Webb, Meche, Blanton, Vazquez, Arroyo, and Zito.  Arroyo did deal with forearm cramps at one point though.  Also keep in mind that sometimes these 3400 pitch seasons often result in issues or even surgery two years later.

There is reason to believe the 2007 class was an anomaly though.  2005 and 2006 data indicated following-year injury rates of 15-25%.

A dozen pitchers tossed 6800 or more pitches across 2007-08:

  1. C.C. Sabathia - 7804
  2. Gil Meche - 7133
  3. Joe Blanton - 7030
  4. Brandon Webb - 6980
  5. Dan Haren - 6974
  6. Matt Cain - 6957
  7. Johan Santana - 6943
  8. Javier Vazquez - 6925
  9. Carlos Zambrano - 6895
  10. Roy Halladay - 6890
  11. Justin Verlander - 6883
  12. Bronson Arroyo - 6867

I like Sabathia as much as the next guy...but he was three pitches away from being the MLB leader in pitches thrown in each of the last two seasons.  At some point pitching far more than any other human has to take a toll.

So what is the application for fantasy baseball?  So many top pitchers cross the 3400 barrier that you can't downgrade all of them.  And the year-after injury rate can vary wildly.  At the end of the day this info may just be a tipping point in a certain decision - maybe now you take a Ted Lilly over a Gil Meche.

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The 3400 Club

Longtime RotoAuthority reader finite24 brought up an interesting topic recently: injury risk the following season for pitchers who threw 3500+ pitches.  I decided to dig more deeply into this topic, pulling the benchmark down to 3400 pitches thrown in a season.  I included playoff pitches, as well as an estimate of minor league pitches thrown by Brett Myers this year.

First up, your 2008 class (19 pitchers):

  1. Cole Hamels - 3914
  2. C.C. Sabathia - 3912
  3. Brett Myers - 3781
  4. Jon Lester - 3738
  5. Tim Lincecum - 3682
  6. A.J. Burnett - 3650
  7. Matt Cain - 3606
  8. Johan Santana - 3598
  9. Roy Halladay - 3560
  10. Gil Meche - 3555
  11. Joe Blanton - 3547
  12. Chad Billingsley - 3543
  13. James Shields - 3543
  14. Justin Verlander - 3528
  15. Ervin Santana - 3526
  16. Mark Buehrle - 3490
  17. Javier Vazquez - 3462
  18. Ryan Dempster - 3450
  19. Bronson Arroyo - 3436

How great is the injury risk for these guys?  I'll go into detail on past years' results in future posts, but I'm seeing anywhere from 15 to 61% of those in this "club" deal with significant injury the following year.  Best I can estimate is that anywhere from 3 to 12 of these 19 will be significantly injured in 2009.

My top ten pitchers for the risk averse (did not cross 3400 in '08 or '07 or have a major pitching injury in either year):

  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Cliff Lee
  4. Derek Lowe
  5. Kevin Slowey
  6. Ted Lilly
  7. Zack Greinke
  8. Scott Baker
  9. Andy Sonnanstine
  10. Joe Saunders

That list gets really tough at the end.  It is a fact of life that you're going to have several injury risks on your staff.

Tomorrow we'll look at those who threw 3400+ pitches in 2007 - a group that responded horribly in 2008.

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The Verducci Effect: 2009

On Monday, Peter Bendix of Beyond The Box Score took a look at The Verducci Effect. The gist of Tom Verducci's theory:

"It's like training for a marathon. You need to build stamina incrementally. The unofficial industry standard is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It's a general rule of thumb, and one I've been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it's amazing how often they pay for it."

Bendix notes that five of Verducci's seven most risky young starters had injury or performance problems in 2008.  Bendix identifies seven to worry about for 2009: Jon Lester (9th round), Cole Hamels (4th round), Chad Billingsley (8th round), John Danks (13th round), Mike Pelfrey (18th round), Tim Lincecum (3rd round), and Jair Jurrjens (16th round).

I know there is some debate on whether minor league innings should be included in the calculations, but I prefer to.  Let's identify some other young starters who had big increases from 2007 to 2008.

  • Ricky Nolasco: 157.3 IP increase.  He did toss 140 in '06.
  • Dana Eveland: 151.3 IP increase.
  • Rich Harden: 135.3 IP increase.  Pitched 189.6 innings in '04.
  • Todd Wellemeyer: 111.3 IP increase.  Entering contract year.
  • Jonathan Sanchez: 82.3 IP increase.
  • Zack Greinke: 80.3 IP increase.  Should be noted that he pitched 183 innings in '05.
  • Greg Smith: 74.3 IP increase.  He's in Colorado now, anyway.
  • Zach Duke: 61.6 IP increase.  He pitched 215.3 innings in '06.
  • Clayton Kershaw: 47 IP increase.
  • Ervin Santana: 42 IP increase.  Santana may be an exception since he reached 204 innings in '06.
  • Manny Parra: 33 IP increase.

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Number Of Pitches Thrown

Let's take a quick-and-dirty look at a simple stat, number of pitches thrown.  Your 2007 leaders:

  1. Carlos Zambrano (3689).
  2. Dan Haren (3635).
  3. Jake Peavy (3610).
  4. Scott Kazmir (3609).
  5. Aaron Harang (3590).
  6. C.C. Sabathia (3581).
  7. Gil Meche (3578).
  8. Daniel Cabrera (3563).
  9. Dontrelle Willis (3491).
  10. Jeff Francis (3485).

Interesting list - the majority of these pitchers have missed time due to injury in 2008.  Your '08 leaders:

  1. A.J. Burnett (3286).
  2. C.C. Sabathia (3267).
  3. Matt Cain (3215).
  4. Justin Verlander (3214).
  5. Gil Meche (3150).
  6. Tim Lincecum (3137).
  7. Johan Santana (3135).
  8. Roy Halladay (3130).
  9. Ervin Santana (3129).
  10. Cole Hamels (3095).

Sabathia and Meche have really tallied up the pitches, and C.C. has many more coming.  Sabathia's suitors both in real life and fantasy baseball should exercise caution.  He will be going in the second or third round and definitely carries risk.  It wouldn't be surprising to see a few more of these guys go down next year.

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Innings Caps

Let's look at some starters and their possible innings caps this year.  Who might be shut down early?  We'll assume teams will be reluctant to extend their young starters more than 30 innings past the previous year's total.  Of course, the rule may not apply to some of these pitchers. Greinke, for example, tossed 183 innings in '05 and may be able to handle that kind of workload.

Some of these pitchers will switch over to shutdown risks as the playoff picture clears up.

  • Cole Hamels.  Cap: 220.  Pace: 230 plus playoffs.
  • Jeremy Guthrie.  Cap: 205.3.  Pace: 221.  Shutdown risk.
  • Tim Lincecum.  Cap: 207.3.  Pace:  216. Shutdown risk.
  • Ervin Santana.  Cap: 214.3.  Pace: 217 plus playoffs.
  • Zack Greinke.  Cap: 152.  Pace: 204. Shutdown risk.  I asked Royals beat writer Bob Dutton about this one, so we may have a more definitive answer soon.
  • Jon Lester.  Cap: 193.  Pace: 203 plus playoffs.
  • Paul Maholm. Cap: 207.6.  Pace: 207.
  • Ricky Nolasco.  Cap: 85.  Pace: 205 plus playoffs.
  • Scott Olsen. Cap: 206.6.  Pace:  198 plus playoffs.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez.  Cap: 215.  Pace: 201.
  • Joe Saunders.  Cap: 223.6. Pace: 206 plus playoffs.
  • Chad Billingsley.  Cap: 177.  Pace: 201 plus playoffs.
  • Nick Blackburn.  Cap: 178.6.  Pace: 195 plus playoffs.
  • Edinson Volquez.  Cap: 208.6. Pace: 193.
  • Jair Jurrjens.  Cap: 173.3.  Pace:  195. Shutdown risk.
  • Gavin Floyd.  Cap: 206.6.  Pace: 194 plus playoffs.
  • John Danks.  Cap: 169.  Pace:  190 plus playoffs.
  • Jered Weaver.  Cap: 207.  Pace: 184 plus playoffs.
  • Johnny Cueto.  Cap: 191.3.  Pace: 188.
  • Brian Bannister.  Cap: 215.6.  Pace: 187.
  • Greg Smith. Cap: 152. Pace:  187. Shutdown risk.
  • Mike Pelfrey.  Cap: 182.6.  Pace: 187 plus playoffs.
  • Zach Duke.  Cap: 153.3.  Pace: 184. Shutdown risk.
  • Dana Eveland.  Cap: 67.6.  Pace: 182. Shutdown risk.
  • John Lannan.  Cap: 189.3.  Pace: 184.
  • Edwin Jackson.  Cap: 191.  Pace: 184 plus playoffs.
  • Matt Garza.  Cap: 205.  Pace: 190 plus playoffs.
  • Jonathan Sanchez.  Cap: 105.6. Pace: 179. Shutdown risk.
  • Todd Wellemeyer.  Cap: 110.3. Pace: 186 plus playoffs.
  • Manny Parra.  Cap: 163. Pace: 175 plus playoffs.
  • Shaun Marcum.  Cap: 189. Pace: 180.
  • Armando Galarraga.  Cap: 191. Pace: 186 plus playoffs.
  • Luke Hochevar.  Cap: 194.6. Pace: 170.
  • Joba Chamberlain.  Cap: 146. Pace: 139 plus playoffs.
  • Clay Buchholz.  Cap: 178. Pace: 160 plus playoffs.
  • Sean Gallagher.  Cap: 146.3. Pace: 165. Shutdown risk.
  • Clayton Kershaw.  Cap:  152. Pace: 164 plus playoffs.
  • Scott Kazmir.  Cap: 236.6 . Pace: 171 plus playoffs.
  • Wandy Rodriguez. Cap: 212.6. Pace: 156.
  • Rich Harden.  Cap: 56.6.  Pace: 171 plus playoffs.

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9 Pitchers Who Could Be Shut Down Early

We saw it last year with Tim Lincecum, James Shields, and others.  Teams are growing increasingly cautious with prized young arms, and will often shut healthy young pitchers down to avoid a 30+ inning increase over the previous year.  Here are 9 pitchers on non-contending teams who might be shut down early next month.  We'll have a more comprehensive list later today, which will include young at-risk hurlers on playoff contenders.

  • Jeremy Guthrie.  Cap: 205.3.  Pace: 221.
  • Tim Lincecum.  Cap: 207.3.  Pace:  216.  Manager Bruce Bochy said they'll watch Lincecum but "he'll stay out there."
  • Zack Greinke.  Cap: 152.  Pace: 204.
  • Jair Jurrjens.  Cap: 173.3.  Pace:  195.
  • Jonathan Sanchez.  Cap: 105.6. Pace: 179.
  • Greg Smith. Cap: 152. Pace:  187.
  • Sean Gallagher.  Cap: 146.3. Pace: 165.
  • Dana Eveland.  Cap: 67.6.  Pace: 182.
  • Zach Duke.  Cap: 153.3.  Pace: 184.

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Disabled Pitchers To Watch

The following hurlers are both on the DL in at least one of my waiver wires.  Consider them in mixed leagues.

  • Matt Capps, RP.  Capps is set to return in early September from right shoulder bursitis.  The smart play by the Bucs would be wait until '09, but you never know.  Not sure if he'd bounce right back into the mix for saves.
  • Dustin McGowan, SP.  McGowan won't need shoulder surgery, and theoretically could return in mid-August.  Again, the smart move would be to shut him down.  But keep an eye on it.
  • Chien-Ming Wang, SP.  With no setbacks, Wang could return in September and snag a few starts.  He's out with a foot injury.
  • Jeff Francis, SP.  Never been a big Francis fan in mixed leagues.  But, he's aiming for a July 29th return from shoulder inflammation.
  • Tom Glavine, SP.  Ditto for Glavine - barely mixed league material.  He has no timetable, anyway.
  • Brad Penny, SP.  He could return next month from a shoulder injury.  If Clayton Kershaw is up and going strong, Penny could be a dark horse for saves.
  • Rafael Soriano, RP.  He could be back from his elbow injury in a few weeks, but is still shaky.  He'd have to be healthy and effective for a while to supplant Mike Gonzalez.
  • Phil Hughes, SP.  Still doesn't have a timetable to return from his rib injury.  Late August is possible though.
  • Chris Carpenter, SP.  Could return in August from Tommy John.  We presume he'll have some rust.
  • Orlando Hernandez, SP.  He could be back in August, though the Mets don't really have a rotation spot for him.
  • Yovani Gallardo, SP.  A September return from his ACL tear is unlikely but hasn't been ruled out.
  • Chris Ray, RP.  He could return from TJ in September, but probably won't get saves if George Sherrill is around.
  • Jason Schmidt, SP.  Still rehabbing in the minors, he's hasn't looked good.  I would pass.
  • Anibal Sanchez, SP.  Expected to rejoin Florida's rotation on July 28th following labrum surgery.  Pretty shaky pickup.
  • Noah Lowry, SP.  He's not even throwing yet after his forearm nerve injury.
  • Carl Pavano, SP.  Just kidding.

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Disabled Hitters To Watch

Some quality hitters are residing on mixed league waiver wires.  They're there because they're currently on the disabled list.   Let's see if we can find any gems.

  • Rafael Furcal, SSFurcal feels great after back surgery.  He could be back in late August, giving you a full month of production at a scarce position.
  • Frank Thomas, DH.  He is expected to take batting practice this week and could return from his quad injury in early August.
  • Hank Blalock, 3BHe could return Friday as the Rangers' starting first baseman after all kinds of maladies and setbacks.
  • Gerald Laird, C.  He should return from a hamstring injury by month's end.  He was raking in June prior to the injury.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, 3B.  He could be back next week after rehabbing his shoulder.
  • Three injured speedy guys: Dave Roberts, Julio Lugo, and Luis Castillo.  All three are questionable enough where I would not do a pre-emptive pickup though.

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