DODGERS AND “THE ARM”

Disclaimer: This post is by DodgerRick.  The opinions in this post are not necessarily those of Mark Timmons (it was fun to say that).  However, you have to consider what he says.  It is well-reasoned and thoughtful. Enjoy and praise him if you want more.  Here’s Rick:

I am a skeptic when it comes to the current age of the tissue-paper arm. Baseball babies pitchers like never before but there are more serious arm injuries, not fewer, than ever before. Why is that?

A little trip down memory lane is not only nostalgic but informative. The 2016 Dodgers infamously used 15 different starting pitchers who pitched an average of 5.3 innings per start. Their top 5 starters (by number of starts) started only 108 of the Dodgers’ 162 games in 2016 (67%).

By comparison, the 2016 Cubs’ top 5 starters started 153 out of 161 games (95%) and averaged 6.1 innings per start and the Indians’ top 5 started 139 out of 161 (86%) and averaged 5.8 innings per start (even with all of the injuries suffered by Indians’ pitchers last year.)

Now, down memory lane. The last 3 Dodgers teams to go to the World Series were 1977, 1981 and 1988. What were their numbers like? In 1988, the Dodgers’ top 5 starters started 133 of 161 games (83%) and averaged 6.4 innings per start (numbers brought down by 43 year old Don Sutton who started 16 games for the Dodgers in what was his swan song).

In 1981 (a shortened season) the Dodgers top 4 starters started 103 of 110 games (94%) and averaged 6.5 innings per start. In 1977, the top 5 started 158 of 162 games (98%) and averaged 7 innings per start.

The point is that if you want to build a winning team it has to start with starting pitchers who pitch ever 4 (or 5 days) and pitch deep into games. I acknowledge that there have been teams with poor starters but great bullpens, usually, but not always, with great offenses, that have won without good starting pitching but that is the exception and not the rule.

I have been reading Jeff Passan’s outstanding 2016 book The Arm and it has quite the story to tell. Ask yourself – where did the idea of a pitch count of 100 come from? Is there any evidence supporting the supposition that a pitcher turns into a pumpkin after 100? What about the 5 man rotation instead of 4? It turns out there is absolutely none. From page 97 of The Arm:

“If doing something is bad, the thinking now went, doing less must be better. The widespread adoption of the five-man rotation gave starting pitchers an extra day of rest but didn’t demonstrably help keep pitcher healthier. When Russell Carleson of Baseball Prospectus studied every start from 1950 to 2012 to learn whether an extra day of rest helped a pitcher perform better the answer surprised him. “There was no indication that pitchers did better or worse based on how many days of rest they got” he wrote. “ What was significant was the number of pitches that the pitcher had thrown in his previous start.”

The magic number? 140 pitches.

It turns out that a dermatologist (skin doctor) named Rany Jazayerli wrote an article for Baseball Prospectus in 1998 called “Pitcher Abuse Points” that suggested as an hypothesis, without any study, that more than 100 pitches was abusive to pitchers’ arms. Baseball bought it without a second though. As Passan wrote

“The upper boundary on a modern pitcher is around 4,000 pitches in a season. Four thousand plus pitch season were prevalent in the 1920s and ‘30s, dipped in the 40s and ‘50s, made a comeback in the ‘60s and peaked in the ‘70s. An estimated 22 pitchers exceeded 4,000 pitches 1970 (alone). It’s almost as many as the entirety of the 1990s…Since 2000, only Randy Johnson (twice) and Livan Hernandez have thrown 4,000 pitches in a season. Nobody in baseball crack 3,500 pitches in 2015. Baseball took a well-intentioned idea- limit young pitchers’ workloads to prevent them from getting hurt because of overuse – and applied the doing less must be better philosophy to every pitcher, as though handed down on Mount Sinai by the baseball gods.”

Pasasan points out that there is little relationship between pitch counts and injury (or effectiveness), or days between starts and injury (or effectiveness), or innings pitched and injury (or effectiveness). He even notes that there is no evidence supporting the so-called Verducci effect (which suggests that young pitchers shouldn’t increase their workload by over 30 innings in a given season). In short, in the face of increasing limits on a starting pitcher’s workload, the number of injuries goes up and not down.

So, you ask, how does this apply to the Dodgers?  A few points. First, Dodger pitchers from past seasons prove the points that more innings in a season don’t mean arm disasters – just the opposite. The Dodgers’ ’77 rotation included Don Sutton (5282 innings in his career over 23 seasons), Tommy John (4710 innings and 26 seasons), Burt Hooton (2652 innings and 15 seasons), Rick Rhoden (2593 and 16) and Doug Rau (1261 and 9). In ’81 it was Hooton, Bob Welch (3092 and 17) Jerry Reuss (3069 and 22) and Fernando Valenzuela (2939 and 17). In ’88 they had Orel Hershiser (3130 and 18), Tim Leary, (1491 and 13), Tim Belcher (2442 and 14), Valenzuela and Sutton. So 7 innings per start and 250 innings don’t necessarily hurt the arm or shorten the career.

What about the 2016 Dodgers? It’s a perfect example of signing the injured or injury prone. Other than rookies like Maeda or Urias, and other than Kershaw, (1767 innings in 10 seasons), the ’16 Dodgers featured the likes of Scott Kazmir (1699 and 12), Brandon McCarthy (1052 and 11), Rich Hill (610 and 12) and Brett Anderson (685 and 8). So – more use isn’t linked to injury or ineffectiveness, obviously, from looking at recent Dodgers’ history. What does all of this data tell us?

As Passan and other have pointed out, the best predictor of pitcher arm injury is a prior arm injury. The Dodgers of Seasons Past (Dickensian, isn’t it?) were comprised of pitchers who took the ball every 4 or 5 days for many years. This year’s group? Not so much.

We are told that it will all be OK – that it doesn’t really matter how likely a Dodgers’ starter is to be injured, that the Dodgers have depth! Depth will make everything OK. Forget about Don Sutton and his 5000+ career innings, we’d rather have a Rich Hill type because when he gets hurt we have depth!

Face it – the Dodgers haven’t developed a workhorse-type pitcher other than Kershaw in many seasons. (The closest thing to a workhorse other than Kershaw, Chad Billingsley has thrown 1212 innings in 9 seasons.) For all of the babying of pitchers’ arms, the Dodgers have largely failed to develop pitchers for the past couple of decades. We hope that the likes of Urias and others will break this trend, but the recent history doesn’t look good.

Perhaps the failure of the Dodgers to develop starting pitchers and the failure of the recent experiment of signing the old and infirm is the reason that Dodger fans keep hoping that the team splurges on a big time free agent pitcher signing. Say what you will about Zack Greinke – he was great while he pitched for the Dodgers. Brad Penny and Derek Lowe were efforts to supplement the poor pitching that the Dodgers were bringing up from the minors. Their effectiveness was perhaps not as good as desired, but was still better than anything coming from the farm.

The plus side of all of this is that the Dodgers have been focused on developing pitching talent, and Urias is certainly promising. Interestingly, they have recently traded away 4 of their top pitching prospects, but still don’t sign blue chip starters from elsewhere. (I assume that the Braintrust has kept what it views as its best prospects and has traded from a surplus of prospects.)

The downside? The Dodgers’ staff of walking wounded is not designed to win a title. And the Dodgers still haven’t developed starting pitchers good enough to make a difference, other than Kershaw in decades.  I don’t believe that the Dodgers’ strategy of babying its homegrown pitchers and then signing the injured or injury prone is designed to win. — DodgerRick

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don’t do game recaps or such things — lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don’t think they are the “end-all-be-all.”. This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We’d like to hear your voice.

This article has 38 Comments

  1. Rick, you made your case. Now the jury will decide. The jury of course will be the scoreboard, that and which pitchers are still standing at the end of the season.
    .
    The Dodgers have used their early draft choices mostly for pitching and before FAZ, for high school pitchers. One would think that the Dodgers minor league system would have been churning out pitchers, whether those pitchers were 4 inning pitchers or 7 inning pitchers. Finally, that is happening after years, many years, of trying.
    .
    WE WOULD NOT BE TALKING ABOUT THIS if the Dodgers had gotten into the WS in each of the last 3 years and they were very close to accomplishing that. Champions wind up riding a horse into the winning circle and the Dodgers have had those horses in Kershaw, Greinke, and Hill in those last three years. Had Ramirez not been hit in the ribs, had Blanton not collapsed, had hill gotten the chance to pitch game 7 against the Cubs last year….
    .
    Most fans want to see their favorite players playing when they watch a game and for that to happen, there needs to be 8 players that get 600 plate appearances and 5 pitchers get 200 innings. But if a team has the resources to put a pitcher with a below 3.7 ERA into every inning, then does it really matter if they average 3 innings versus 6?

  2. Rick, good article. Where to start. I have seen pitchers ruined by High School coaches. My son was ruined. A coached made him pitch 7 innings in his first game as a 9th grader. Had a shoulder operation and never was good again. I know a very successful college coach in Idaho who would allow starters to throw 140 pitches in a game. The pitchers later had arm problems. In our day if you had arm problems you were finished. Coaches make a difference. In drafting a pitcher, I would research his background to see how his High School and college coaches treated him.

    I think the Dodgers are doing the right thing with Urias. Build up his innings slowly. Pitchers have different body builds. Some can handle the work load and others cannot. They break down. That is the life of a pitcher.

    1. Idahoal

      When most of us grew up, we didn’t specialize in just one sport, like kids today do, and I think that, is the difference.

      Because instead of playing different sports, that are in season, kids today, play baseball year round, and because of that, they don’t give there arms, and muscles that they use for baseball, the rest they need.

      And this leads to over use, especially for young pitchers.

  3. Nice work on your point of view DodgerRick. Everyone has an opinion but, apparently, no one has the answer. Even the multi-billion dollar baseball system with all of their modern science, training aids and stats can’t seem to precisely put their collective fingers on the correct answer.

  4. Interesting article, DodgerRick! However, I am left with more questions than when I started reading.

    1. What do you propose doing, trot the pitchers out to the mound with “7 innings or bust” signs?
    2. Injuries are facts! How best to avoid them?
    3. If prior “arm” injuries are the best indicator of future arm injuries. Never sign/develop a player with a prior arm injury?
    4. Anderson missed the 2016 season because of a back injury, not a arm injury. How does that figure in and get predicted?
    5. And the Billion Dollar questions: I don’t think you are saying less innings is detrimental. What IS causing the increase in injuries? What should an organization do to try to minimize injuries?

    My theory is, Pitchers are bigger and stronger now. When most of us were kids, there was NO 100 MPH pitchers (except maybe Koufax who burned out at 30). Now every team seems to have one, 97 MPH is the norm. I seem to remember if a pitcher threw anywhere in the 90’s years ago, he was considered fast. Now programs like “Drive Line” increase a pitchers MPH, but how? Weighted balls, etc. Something has to give!!

    I made a “prediction” on the other board: Cubs and SF starting pitching will be decimated by injury this year. Let’s revisit this subject in October and see if prior health is a good indicator of future health.

    Until someone figures out a way to get rid of injuries, I think DEPTH is all important. Get it done FAZ!!

    1. You raise several interesting issues. First, the main cause of arm injury to a major league pitcher is overuse and abuse of a kid’s arm by adults who should know better. The numbers cited by Passan in his book are astounding. The year around baseball played by kids as young as 6 or 7 is leading to serious arm injury at younger and younger age. Fixing this would probably do more for the health of major league pitchers later in their careers than anything else.

      As for trotting out the 7 inning pitcher, that was one of my points. Dodger fans are disappointed that instead of signing pitchers with a history of significant major league success and good health, they sign the Andersons, Kazmirs, Hills and McCarthys of the world. If you want to have a staff of healthy pitchers likely to pitch 7 without injury, the best way to acquire it is NOT to sign a guy with more years on the DL than the active roster.

      I have no beef with the Dodgers trying to protect a young arm like Urias’. (Although I do question why they are having him start games in OKC. An inning is an inning whether it is in LA or Oklahoma.)

      There have been guys who could throw hard in every era – close to 100. Feller, Walter Johnson, “Smoky” Joe Wood. Some, like Wood burned out early while others like Johnson kept pitching for nearly 2 decades. But ask yourself this question – look at the innings thrown by the Dodgers’ starters over their careers that I mentioned in my post – where are the 3,000 career innings pitchers now? Like I posted – other than Kershaw, who is the last guy that the Dodgers developed who had a long career? The most innings thrown by a pitcher since Hersheiser in his career (developed by the Dodgers) are the 2196 thrown by Pedro Astacio and the 1993 thrown by Chan Ho Park. Park was last a regular in the LA rotation in 2001 and Astacio in 1997 so it has been a while.

      1. I agree with this statement:

        Dodger fans are disappointed that instead of signing pitchers with a history of significant major league success and good health, they sign the Andersons, Kazmirs, Hills and McCarthys of the world. If you want to have a staff of healthy pitchers likely to pitch 7 without injury, the best way to acquire it is NOT to sign a guy with more years on the DL than the active roster.

        But, why they signed those guys and not the healthy pitchers is the question? Here’s the reason: he highest contract paid was $48 million. To get the guys who are 100% healthy you have to pay $90 to $206 million (and the $206 million dollar man may be on his way down) and execute longer deals. Those blind, crippled and crazy pitchers are the “bridge” to Urias, Buehler, Alvarez, Stewart, Oakes, White, Sheffield, May and Alexy.

        KAZ, MAC and HILL all got $48 million dollar deals. Maybe that is FAZ magic number.

        Greinke’s ($206 million) fastball now averages 90.79 MPH, his spin rate is 25% below MLB average and hitters exit velocity is up 2.5 MPH over MLB Average. NO WAY THE DODGERS SHOULD HAVE PAID HIM.

        Cueto’s ($120 Million) fastball is down too – 87.67 MPH – I predict a flame out this year for him.

        David Price’s ($200 million) arm is dangling by a tendon.

        Would you want The Shark for $90 million? No thank you!

        Buy hitters, but grow your own pitchers is the way to success in my opinion. Anderson is gone. KAZ is in limbo and McCarthy is maybe healthy.

        Urias and Stewart arrived last year. We will see them this year.

        Buehler and White are close behind.

        Alvarez is two years away, but others are on the fast track too.

        It looks to me like we will have a procession of pitchers start flowing and they won’t all pan out… but they don’t need to.

        I do not think Urias will throw many innings at OKC

  5. I’ve always thought the pitch count to be so arbitrary. It doesn’t take into account the amount of pitches a starter makes while warming up (a few dozen?) or the eight pitches made between each inning. Every arm is different and should be treated as such.

  6. It is a trend in baseball that there are definitely more arm issues and I doubt that it is any one thing. Pitchers are bigger, stronger and throwing faster than ever and they start pitching very early. Local Indiana boys who come to mind are Brandon Beachy, Drew Storen, Lance Lynn and Clayton Richard. Detect a trend?

    Another issue is: due to over farming, vegetables are devoid of most minerals. You can’t get any significant amount of minerals from drinking water and the fact is the human body needs essential and trace minerals. You can only get them all in deep sea water.
    http://www.originalquinton.com/about/history/
    Just an idea….

  7. As soon as a franchise, just say the Dodgers. base their scouting, drafting, signing and development of young talent intended to become starting pitchers upon the perceived ability to actually pitch versus the ability to ring up big numbers on the radar gun and succeed with this approach, then every other team will beat a path to hire their geniuses in order to try to replicate the success.
    Remember how we all threw baseballs every day growing up and very little time actually pitching? Seems to me that this helped strengthen the muscles of the arm, elbow and shoulder as well as train muscle memory so when we did started to pitch we were able to adapt with less strain. Making an 8 year old only a pitcher just seems like it is very counterproductive to me and likely to harm his development as a pitcher and as a baseball player in general.

    1. Denny,
      For some reason, the blog is holding your comments in moderation. I will have my IT guy look at it. It’s happened to MJ and AC too… but their’s are fixed.

  8. I don’t think the injury issue is as big a deal as you think. The real problem with pitching is that these guys aren’t good enough to get through a lineup 3 times. Not good enough. Period. I advocate to raise the mound, like McLain said a week or so ago. Starting pitching is worse across the board; that is the reason bullpens are in vogue. Not pitch count. Hitters ARE BETTER than starting pitchers. The only reason the stats might not bear this out is because of the bullpen usage. It’s time to give the pitchers more of an advantage. This will never happen because MLB and the fans love offense and because the players union won’t allow it. I thought when the steroid issue was resolved, pitchers would return to dominance, but that hasn’t happened. The bottom line is that MLB likes the game the way it is and will not reduce offense. Speaking of pitching: Hill tonight. I’m not optimistic. I’ll take him getting more than 12 outs.

    1. Well – the mound was lowered after the 1968 season. there have been tons of great starting pitchers since then – Seaver, Carlton, Sutton, Johnson, Martinez, Blyleven, Maddox, Glavine, Smoltz, Hunter, Ryan, Jenkins, Palmer and Perry are all in the Hall and there have been many other besides. I don’t think that the height of the mound is the issue.

  9. Dodger Rick

    Nice piece!

    I would prefer especially with the top three or four pitchers in the rotation, that we didn’t sign these pitchers, with long injury histories, as you know.

    I do think Hill is a little different, because he has a much higher upside, then those other two pitchers

    I don’t think the only choice we have, is these top tier pitchers, or these injury prone, pitchers.

    I think there is a middle ground of pitchers, that fall in between.

    And even if pitchers, like McCarthy, and Kazmir are cheaper, what good is that, if they don’t get out there, and pitch?

    We were really lucky that we did have our young pitchers, to go to last year, when these other pitchers, couldn’t pitch.

    Our season could have turned out, a lot different then it did, for that very reason.

    I understand if this was just a bridge, until our young pitchers are ready, but I don’t think this, should be a strategy, that the Dodgers should practice, all the time.

    I just think you need more reliable pitchers, to fill your pitching rotation.

    But it would be easier to understand this practice, for the pitchers at the bottom of the rotation, and for back up pitching, depth.

  10. I recall reading a quote last year from Dave Roberts saying that he would prefer to have a 5 man rotation consisting of pitchers that could all log 200 innings a season. But he softened that statement by saying that there are different ways to get the 90+ win total for the season – and that the Dodgers had to get creative by asking their bullpen to step up and also by having their player development program contribute. He elaborated on how it took a team and organization wide effort to win the NL West last year.
    .
    So the net of this is that, even the Dodgers would agree with Rick. However, it wasn’t feasible to do this via free agency while keeping their prospects and keeping financial flexibility. So they had to find undervalued FA pitchers that were all undervalued for a reason – they were not likely to log 200 innings a season. They decided to apply this strategy in spades since they were certain that many of these gambles would not pay out. All they wanted was for a few to work out.
    .
    I do think that we are very close to having a batch of young arms come up who can build up to the work load that Rick is advocating. The best way to get a workhorse rotation that is at lower risk of injury is to rely on younger pitchers – and there are very few shortcuts to developing that kind of pitching staff. Almost every other ball club has had to tank in order to properly rebuild. Even then, there are no guarantees you get back to a winning culture. I’m a Laker fan and the last 3 seasons have been absolute hell. I am so appreciative that the Dodgers have invested in young talent and at the same time remained competitive (to the point where they have surpassed the Giants). I may not have a reason to watch the NBA in June, but I am grateful for staying glued to MLB through October.

    1. If a pitcher is likely to be unable to pitch much, often or well due to injury, he isn’t undervalued. If he is paid $48MM, he is probably overvalued by the team paying him.

      1. I think we all agree that Kazmir was overvalued. If McCarthy doesn’t have a decent season, then he too was overvalued. For McCarthy to be considered “undervalued” what would it take? 3.95 ERA + 120 IP? Maeda’s contract is basically structured so that he is properly valued if he pitches very little or pitches a lot.

  11. Dodger rick

    I looked at that Verducci piece, and it seemed to me, it was not a big enough sample, to make an assumption on.

  12. Rick – a great piece and very thought provoking.
    We are very lucky to have so many
    of you guys writing here – this place really is taking off.

    However, has everyone forgotten that we had our arses handed to us by the “worst team in Baseball” last night.
    As encouraging as Monday afternoon was, last night was a sobering experience.
    Yes Richards pitched well, but Jeez we made him look like Kershaw.
    The “Utility Squad” that we engage against LH starting pitching needs to perform. I’m Old School – if someone hits a Homer and has 5RBIs then he plays the next day regardless. He won’t improve if he doesn’t face it!!!
    Maeda is not our #2 and never will be.

    1. Watford

      That was my first thought, and I know that was just one game.

      But I just don’t want them to continue to play that platoon team, if they are not producing enough offensively, like last year’s platoon team.

      Last year’s platoon team, were last in all of baseball, in offense, but they still continued to play them, all year long.

      And I know it is still early, but I hope they don’t do that this year, if the platoon team, is not providing enough offense, to make it worth it.

    2. Yeah, last night was “sobering”. Not fun at all!!
      .
      Let’s not forget the consensus around here, that our pitching will be what gets us to the promised land, not our hitting. If our hitting is “solid” it should be good enough. Hill and Urias are our 2’s.
      .
      I can’t blame last night on the platooning. All but two of our regulars were in last night. Gutierrez got one of the five hits. VanSlyke hit a bullet down the line, but caught. Pederson stunk against lefties not year, I’d like to see what Thompson can do in a platoon with Pederson. Grandal looked good on Monday, last night not so much and he had two homers on Monday.
      .
      I think Dave Roberts nailed it, “Clayton Richard threw the ball well, kept it down and worked ahead. Quite honestly, if he was out there against any team, I think he would’ve had a lot of success.” That has been the secret to pitching success forever. Richards was annoyingly hitting the low/outside corner with regularity all night. __it happens.

  13. Dave Roberts says the Dodgers have a completely different mindset against LH pitching this year:
    .
    http://dodgerblue.com/dave-roberts-dodgers-have-completely-different-mindset-2017-left-handed-pitching/2017/04/05/
    .
    We shall see.
    .
    Forsythe and Gutierrez look like they are difference makers. Franklin just missed hitting a HR last night. While Maeda wasn’t sharp he really wasn’t hit hard for the most part – just bloop hits and the Dodgers just hit into 2,000 double plays. I don’t conclude anything from last night, as it is also possible Clayton Richard is healthy and when he is, he can be very, very good. I need to see some more lefties.

    1. Well…I don’t know about that. Here’s David Schoenfeld from ESPN.com this morning:
      “Take back all your mean tweets about the Padres: Yes, that was left-hander Clayton Richard tossing eight scoreless innings against the Dodgers in a 4-0 victory. The “IT’S ONLY ONE GAME” caveat applies, but worth mentioning to just create panic among Dodgers fans: The Dodgers hit .214 against lefties last season, worst in the majors.”

    2. You’re correct. Forsythe had a good game. FG was 1 for 3 with a near HR. SVS hit a rope that was caught. JT had a hit and it was a momentum changer going from what was should have been 1st and 2nd after a HBP to JT rolling into another DP. Seager, Puig, and Grandal did nothing. Maeda was okay deserved better. Probably doesn’t give up a run in the 1st if Forsythe wasn’t covering 2nd on a SB attempt. The hitters need to be a bit more disciplined and not go after a sinker ballers pitch when it starts at the knees. Tip your cap to Richard. Toward the end he started using his slider. The Dodgers hitters seemed unready for that. I too would rather see Thompson platooning in CF, but I think he needs regular AB’s. I would rather see Puig in CF than Kike with Thompson or SVS at a corner spot too. It’s only one game, but I imagine Kike has a month tops to show he can hit.

      1. Hawkeye

        I think your right about Kike only having a short time, to show Roberts, what he can do.

        And if he doesn’t succeed, he won’t be platooning in centerfield.

  14. 4 Double Plays

    Only 5 Strikeouts

    It could be that the Dodgers are still real bad against lefties, or maybe Richard was good AND LUCKY!

    I won’t rush to judgement until I see more. I rarely second guess because Hindsight is 20/20, but I would have started JOC in CF!

    1. Mark, do you know if the Dodgers use both a righty and a lefty pitcher during batting practice? It couldn’t hurt.

        1. So, all we have to do is have Clayton throw them 200 pitches a day – they will figure it out.

    1. Mark

      Why did you cut off your comments early yesterday?

      I thought you stayed up, with us west coast people.

  15. Rick, good piece. Well written and a lot to think about. To be honest, at times I could go both ways on this issue, but I tend to agree with a lot of what you’re saying and more often than not I don’t to be honest with you. The one thing that I certainly agree with is that 100 pitches shouldn’t be the magic number for everyone. I watched an interview with Tom Seaver a couple of years ago and Seaver said that they had pitch counts too, but his was 120 while Koosman or Matlack’s may have been 110 or 100.

    Did Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddux have a lot of arm problems? No, and Leo Mazzoni believed in throwing more not less between outings. Just at a submaximal velocity. I do think the pitchers are babied too much. I do think Urias innings at AAA are a waste, but something has to give with the Dodgers current roster so I’m not going to bitch and moan about it.

    I know some argue that throwing harder these days is causing the injuries. Maybe, but they also radar pitchers much differently too and that is partly the cause for the bump in velocity. Also, it used to be taboo for pitchers to lift weights the way they do now. Is it helping or hurting?

    On the flip side, would Fernando, Orel, Drysdale, and Koufax lasted longer if they weren’t run into the ground. Sandy and Don certainly would have benefited from today’s procedure and modern medicine. I will also say that Belcher and Leary weren’t very good very long. I guess the question is whether those guys would trade their team and individual accomplishments for different management of their innings.

    Kids my son’s age are often overused to the point that they are no longer pitchers by the time they hit high school. The team that I coach, we tend to only let our weekend tournament pitchers throw and inning or two during the week or sometimes none at all, but some side throwing instead. My father and I were in a car accident when I was nine. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it so I didn’t have anyone to protect myself from myself. I would pitch anytime that I could, come home and lather myself up in icy hot, liquid heat, analgesic balm, ice whatever it took to throw again. Sometimes during games. No one was going to take that ball from me until my junior year in high school my arm throbbed the entire season.

    Anyways, well written piece and you make a great argument and like I said I probably disagree with you a lot, but I certainly agree there is some arbitrary numbers being used at times. The truth is either somewhere in the middle or because pitching a baseball is such an unnatural motion they really don’t have a clue so they’re babying these guys. Some guys are horses and some guys aren’t and we shouldn’t expect them all to be nor should each have the same pitch count. I’m hoping sabremetrics guys can use all their numbers to show who is and who isn’t rather than sticking 100 pitches more or less on each guy.

  16. Well stated post today Rick! I enjoyed it a lot, and have heard you make some of the points before, and you took some time to research this. I agree we have some injury prone starters who have well-gotten injured! At this point it is a sunk cost so might as well let it play out. A few seem healthy this season and while they could break down at any moment the law of averages may be coming around, at least that is what I am hoping.

    Penthouse to the basement yesterday, with all of the gloating silenced. I didn’t love the lineup but good pitching was on display. Aren’t the pitchers usually ahead of the hitters early in the season? Let’s see who steps up today on offense, they won’t need much because Hill will thrill for about 6 innings today.

    Hawkeye made a good point and I have seen firsthand the pitch limits exploited by players being on multiple LL teams in rec and club ball and pitching 2 or 3 days later and not telling their coach they just pitched for another team. I blame the parents in these cases for pushing their kids beyond what a young arm should be doing. Kids as young as 10 are working on breaking balls under the coaches watchful eye. High School coaches are under a lot of pressure to win too and over work their best arms. No wonder TJ surgery is showing up earlier and earlier in players careers.

  17. Dodgerrick,

    Very good read, I enjoyed it. I find very little to disagree with the premise. But the fact remains that as you later stated in one of your responses the young kids arms are being abused. Pitch counts are now being installed in High Schools, but not yet in College. But it starts earlier, in youth ball. I was coaching a Pony team of 13 year olds. My team was in a regional championship game and our best pitcher pitched a day earlier in an elimination game. Our #2 pitcher threw 85 pitches and I removed him as a pitcher. Our fans were all over me, for taking out our only true hope on the mound, and we ended up losing. One of the opposing players was Danny Cey, and Ron was in the scorebooth keeping the official score. He heard the parents yelling at me, walked up to me and told me how he appreciated that I put the kid’s arm before the game, and that the game will be forgotten in a week. There were four future professional ball players in that game, but none as a pitcher. A current Dodger example is AJ Alexy. He was probably a third round pick, but most teams were scared off because he threw 164 pitches in a nine inning game in May before the draft. Teams thought that Alexy was an arm injury waiting to happen. The Dodgers got him in the 11th, paid him 3rd round money and pitched him very sparingly last year. I am surprised, but he will start out in Great Lakes this year, with another pitcher they are trying to be patient with because of previous arm injury, Jordan Sheffield, and Dustin May.
    .
    I do not believe the Dodgers want 5 inning pitchers. IMO they just did not have any horses in the pipeline to assume a rotation spot. But they did believe they had several 2-4 years away, and they just needed to get there. McCarthy/Kazmir/Anderson were bridges to Urias/De Leon/Cotton and others. Urias joined the rotation one year too early. I am sure the thinking was for Urias to be called up in June 2017 (also for arbitration purposes). FAZ was willing to move Cotton and others for that #2 for a championship run. Hill did have a groin pull and blisters, but when he pitched, he was the best in the game (other than Kershaw). They felt comfortable that they would make the playoffs, and Hill was needed then. It didn’t work, but it would not have mattered had it been Price or Hamels or Grienke or Cueto, because Kershaw did not come through in Game 6. As Box stated had we got to Game 7 and Hill beat Arrieta, we would not be talking about brittle pitchers.
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    I think Urias will join Kershaw to become a 200 IP, but not until 2018. Maeda threw 175+ last year, and I see no reason that he could not increase that load to get to 200. Stripling/Stewart/Oaks are potential horses, and while Wood is not a horse, he can be effective at 175 IP (and has done so). So do the Dodgers move one or two of these plus others for Chris Archer or Jose Quintana? What 200 + IP are out there that the Dodgers can get without overpaying as Boston did for Sale. They are trying to build that 5 man rotation from within, not by paying Price or Greinke $200M to be a shadow of what they once were to get that contract. Buehler and White can be 200+ IP but not until 2019. Alveraz, and maybe Alexy/May a year behind. Who were they going to use, Chris Anderson, Chris Reed, Zach Lee, Scott Elbert, Avery Morris…? All former 1st round selections as pitchers. I think Grant Holmes may very well join that group (I hope I am wrong). Give FAZ time to build that 5 man rotation.

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