Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Ahhh, Pitching Injuries

Good comments on Pineiro, Jack.  The Mariners have a dubious record of over-using pitchers, and have a full stable of injured pitchers to prove it.  Steve from the Mariners Wheelhouse did a great piece on how the Mariners have bungled pitcher development and incurred unnecessary injuries at a rate that is hard to ascribe simply to chance.

I've always thought that overall pitch count was less important than high pitch counts per inning, which have always seemed to me like they would be more taxing and tiring than just a high cumulative total.  While I don't know how to find data on how often Mariners pitchers have had innings where they throw more than, say, 25 pitches, I do know that they are among the worst in baseball in things like pitches per batter faced (P/PA) and pitches per inning pitched (P/IP).  Among 547 men who have appeared as a pitcher this year in MLB thus far, here are where Mariners pitchers rank (a lower ranked number is bad, obviously):

PITCHER            P/PA (RANK)          P/IP (RANK)
 
Rafael Soriano     4.1 (62)             28.5 (12) 
Travis Blackley    4.1 (64)             21.3 (32)
George Sherrill    4.2 (45)             21.0 (34)
Matt Thornton      4.2 (54)             20.2 (49)
Clint Nageotte     3.8 (237)            18.8 (108)
Mike Myers         4.1 (84)             18.4 (122)
Shiggy Hasegawa    3.9 (198)            17.5 (187)
Ron Villone        4.0 (131)            17.3 (204)   
J.J. Putz          3.7 (316)            16.9 (250)
Jamie Moyer        3.9 (157)            16.8 (262)
Bobby Madritsch    3.4 (505)            16.3 (321)
Ryan Franklin      3.7 (339)            16.2 (323)
Joel Pineiro       3.8 (292)            16.0 (365)
Julio Mateo        3.6 (396)            15.7 (396)
Freddy Garcia      3.7 (353)            15.3 (454)
Eddie Guardado     3.9 (165)            14.7 (498)
 
To make matters worse, the M's have high pitch counts too, with six pitcherson their staff (or who spent most of the year on their staff) among the highest pitch counts in MLB, including a RELIEVER and a guy who hasn't pitched in the Bigs in almost two months (Pineiro is #5 with 2246 pitches, Garcia is #15 with 2162, Moyer is #38 with 2068, Franklin is #63 with 1883, Villone is #137 with 1142, and Meche is #168 with 889).

I don't know that much can be done about this.  You would hope that with good coaching (and playing in what's considered a pitcher's park), Mariner pitchers would challenge hitters more and throw fewer pitches than this, but I tend to think this is a performance issue rather than a coaching issue.  From a manager's perspective, though, if you don't want to burn these guys out, I think you want to watch high pitch-count innings and maybe let guys who do that more often throw fewer pitches overall.   Particularly when you see guys who have arguably been over-used become ineffective (like Meche) or hurt (like Pineiro -- who BTW was in the top 16 pitchers in Pitching Abuse Points before he was injured, according to Baseball Prospectus), and when you have an organization-wide epidemic of pitching injuries. 

It wouldn't hurt to correct mechanical issues (like pitching in front of the rubber) that might be contributing to high pitch counts, though.  Yeah, that might be a good idea.

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