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Nova, Hughes, and Gee At Risk in 2011



By Mike Silva ~ January 12th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva.

Tom Verducci did his annual “Pitcher Abuse Analysis” yesterday, and three pitchers from the local teams showed up: Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Dillon Gee. With starting pitching depth issues for both teams this can’t be good news.

Verducci calls it the “year after affect.” What is it? It states that “pitchers 25 and younger should not increase their workload by more than 30 innings.” If they do, it often leads to performance regression or injury the following year. Last year Nova, Hughes, and Gee increased their workloads by 46, 38, and 40 innings respectively.

Many teams have decided to incorporate a “step up program,” if you will, when it comes to innings with young pitchers. In Verducci’s piece, his research goes back to 1969 where 27 pitchers that were “25 years of age and under” pitched 200 innings. That total was just 8 a year ago. As you can see, very few pitchers come into the league today and throw 251 innings at the age of 22, like Tom Seaver did in 1967.

Last year Joba Chamberlain was one of the pitchers “flagged” by Verducci, and he didn’t seem too worse for the wear. Yes, his performance was spotty, but I believe this is more due to Joba failing to master the mental part of the game, versus physical issues. The “year after effect” has nothing to do with his poise on the mound with runners on base. I also think his transition from starter to reliever negates this rule, as it’s a completely different role. With that said, four of the 10 pitcher Verducci flagged at the beginning of last year did have regression or injury in 2010. Where there is “smoke” there is “fire.”

Obviously, body type and mechanics have a lot to do with this. As a matter of fact, I believe mechanics has as much, if not more, to do with injuries than innings jump. Hughes is bigger bodied and already has 699 pro innings under his belt, and was able to get through 2010, despite a huge innings jump, without injury. Good build and mechanics has something to do with it.

Gee is going to be 25 in April, and pitched a combined 173 innings in 2007 between his NCAA appearances and Brooklyn, as well as 154 innings for St. Lucie and Binghamton in 2008. Of course, 2009 was an injury plagued year (torn labrum) which limited him to 48 innings. There is very little doubt that heavy usage at age 22 contributed to that injury. In other words, the innings issue should have been addressed by the Mets when they drafted him in 2007 before he got hurt. With his heavy workload history I don’t see 200 innings in 2011 as a big deal for Gee, who relies on command, smarts, and guile more than pure stuff. It may just be my perception, but individuals who know how to pitch seem to battle through these types of scenarios. They know their body and limitations, and manage it properly.

Nova is the one individual that could be a concern. Before his combined MILB/MLB innings last year (187) his previous high was 148 for High A Tampa in 2008. Of course, Hughes made a similar jump last year and won 18 games. Remember, there was a down period for Hughes as he was very inconsistent in the second half. Some point not to innings, but how the Yankees shut him down midseason, for his struggles.

The Yankees, as of now, are relying on Nova as their fifth starter, and will need to get about 30 starts and 175 innings from him. Forget injury, but if there is any regression the Yankees could be very short in the rotation.

Nothing is absolute with Verducci’s rule, but the fact that over a third of the pitchers from last year’s list saw injury/regression make it something that must be respected. With both teams’ staffs very short on quality pitchers, the news that three of the ten “at risk” starting pitchers in baseball reside in New York should not be good news on this snowy winter morning.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Nova, Hughes, and Gee At Risk in 2011

  1. Mister D

    From my POV, the fact that four of ten “Verducci” pitchers suffered regression or injury just increases the chances that the “Verducci effect” is nonsense – and I say this as someone who has generally supported the idea previously. I mean, 6 in 10 pitchers than did better AND missed serious injury despite violating the Verducci guidelines. So by that (admittedly small) measure, increasing the workload dramatically gives you better than coin-flip odds of getting a better pitcher the following year. And I suspect that if you do a random grab bag of any ten pitchers in baseball, no one would be shocked to find that 4 in ten either pitched worse than the previous year or suffered an injury. Hell, looking at the Yankees 2010 pitching staff we had Andy Pettite, AJ Burnett, Javy Vasquez, Alfredo Aceves, Damasco Marte, Sergio Mitre and Chan Ho Park all suffer “regression” or injury. That’s 7 of 12 pitchers on the opening day roster, far worse than Verducci’s 4 in 10.

    Again, I’ve generally supported the idea of gradually increasing workloads, so I’m not simply abandoning it now, but I would say I am more skeptical of it today than I was yestereday.

  2. Stu B

    The Year After Effect seems rather simplistic with the 30-inning workload increase rule. So Gee increased his workload by 10 innings too many (40-30). But there are innings and there are innings. How many pitches did he throw in each one? IMO, this is too much like 3rd-down conversion percentage in football – no differentiation between a 3rd-and-1 and a 3rd-and 9.

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