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Weighing Innings & Pitch Counts Against Optimal Development



By Chuck Johnson ~ July 10th, 2011. Filed under: Digest Contributors, Yanks Minors.

This article isn’t meant to be a comparison between two or three specifc players, but as an exercise in how certain organizations go about the process of developing their top prospects to become major leaguers.

Much has been said and written over the past few years regarding the Yankees’ philosophy (or lack thereof) on how they handle young pitchers. The two examples which stand out above the rest are the “Joba Rules” situation and the handling of 18 game winner Phil Hughes during the second half of last season. Even as recently as two weeks ago, the Yanks’ bypassed AAA hurlers Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell and went outside the organization to pick up a thirty-two year old journeyman for two emergency starts.

Another team known for developing young players, the Atlanta Braves, have used top prospects Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran for twenty starts to date, and a fourth, Craig Kimbrel, is their regular closer.

On the other side of the coin are the Yankees Eastern Division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays. Pundits wil say it’s easy to develop young talent when you have the first pick in the draft every year, although I think Andrew Brackman might not agree.

The thing is, though, is you can’t build a successful team just on first rounders. Since their first draft in 1996 (and not counting this year) the Rays have selected sixteen players in the first or supplemental round and have drafted five pitchers with only one, Wade Townsend, failing to reach the major leagues.

By contrast, the Yankees have had twenty-two picks in the same timeframe and selected twelve pitchers, four of whom haven’t made the major leagues. (Gerrit Cole is not counted as he didn’t sign).

The most successful of these selections in terms of what he’s done for the Yankees is Chamberlain; three others have had more success, Mark Prior, Eric Milton and Ian Kennedy, unfortunately they were wearing another team’s uniform while doing so.

Which brings us to the career paths so far of Manny Banuelos and Matt Moore.

The selection of Banuelos was obviously intentional, the choice of Moore is due to the number of surprising commonalities he has with Manny.

They are similar in ages (Moore is nineteen months older). Both are lefthanded. Banuelos was a cheap free agent signee, Moore was a cheap ($115K) eighth round pick.

Moore came from the 2007 draft and despite 20 Rookie League innings, his first full season as a pro was 2008. Banuelos signed in March, 2008, making it his first full pro season as well.

Both are currently in their fouth full seasons as professional baseball players.

To date, Moore has made 89 appearances with 84 starts and has pitched 439 innings, an average of five innings per appearance. Over his last year and a half though, as he’s maturing and progressing into a potential major leaguer, he’s averaged almost six innings per appearance.

In the same timeframe, Banuelos has made 70 appearances with 54 starts and 294.2 innings. an average of four and two thirds per. He’s made more relief appearances than Moore, so just counting his starts his average should be close to what Moore has done.

Over the last year and a half Banuelos has made 32 starts and pitched 143.2 innings, an average of four and a half innings per start.

So, while Moore’s innings per appearance has gone up by almost an inning, Banuelos’ average has actually gone DOWN.

Isn’t the point to develop young pitchers by increasing their innings and pitch counts?

To see this maybe through a different pair of eyes one should consider the progression of Dodger’s lefthander Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw was a higher pick and received a higher bonus than either Moore or Banuelos, but he also made his Major League debut at the age of 20. If you look at their career minor league progression at the same point in their careers, Kershaw’s numbers were almost indentical to Manny’s. Kershaw’s numbers are a bit better all-round, but like Moore, as he progressed his innings per appearance went up, which is how things are supposed to work.

(Numbers through the 2010 season)

Adding insult to injury for Yankee fans; on June 16th, Moore pitched a complete game no-hitter against Mobile, throwing 116 pitches and striking out eleven.

In the Yankees system, he gets pulled after five due to pitch count.

Pitchers get hurt because they don’t throw enough. Enforcing pitch counts or innings limits hinders their development.

I don’t like Banuelos; I don’t like his stuff or his consistency or his size. If he reaches his ceiling, he’s a number three starter. If he hits the floor, he’s a LOOGY. Best case scenario for him is as a possible replacement for Mo as the Yankees closer.

At some point over the next couple of years or so, Moore will compete for the number two spot in the rotation with Jeremy Hellickson behind David Price.

The reason why is he will have been prepared as a minor leaguer; he will be stretched out as he progresses through the system, he will be given the opportunity to develop his stuff and learn how to pitch instead of just throw.

Anyone can pitch out of a first and third jam in the fourth inning, what makes a major leaguer is being able to do it in seventh or eighth inning.

How can you learn if you never see the seventh?

Brian Cashman called Dellin Betances the Yankees’ best pitching prospect since he’s been in the organization. Even if you discount his elbow injury, Betances is in his fifth season as a pro, and is averaging five innings per start as a twenty three year old in Double A.

It’s not right.

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A life-long Yankee fan who counts among his fondest memories seeing “The Mick” play in person, Chuck is a long time member of SABR and the Minor League Alumni Association. A staff researcher for Retrosheet, and a former part-time scout with the Mariners, Chuck now works for the Milwaukee Brewers in their Spring Training Operations Office and holds a similar role in the offseason for the Arizona Fall League. Chuck's newest venture is as a staff writer for MLB.com's new minor league blog http://thefuturists.mlblogs.com, led by Senior Writer Jonathan Mayo. You can check him out there under user cjohns56 (same as Twitter), and on his soon to be launched personal website, www.mlbprospectpulse.com.

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8 Responses to Weighing Innings & Pitch Counts Against Optimal Development

  1. Chakrabs

    “Pitchers get hurt because they don’t throw enough. Enforcing pitch counts or innings limits hinders their development.”

    Want to cite a source, Chuck, or is this just conjecture? I’m especially interested to see how you can back up that first sentence.

  2. Mike Silva

    Mike Marshall – the former Cy Young- studied kinisceology and has told me the arm atrophies from underuse – it makes sense if u don’t work out a muscle how will it get strong

    My 2 cent but I am not an expert in any of this

  3. Brien Jackson

    Moore is 2 years older than Banuelos, which in the scheme of being 22 and 20 year old pitchers is kind of a big deal, so the comparison is without merit. Also, Banuelos missed a lot of time with an appendix issue, and had shorter starts at the beginning of this year due to not being fully stretched out yet, because he stuck round big league camp in the spring and was pitching short outings when he would have been getting stretched out in minor league camp.

    So yeah, you’re certainly fitting in well around these parts Chuck.

  4. Chuck Johnson

    Brien,

    You clearly fall into the group of “blind defenders” I am referring to.

    You’re defending a player who you’ve never seen based on reading and/or seeing information written by people who have also never seen him.

    Stats don’t lie.

    You are free to interpret them as you see fit, but if I’m a GM and I invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to sign and develop a kid, damn straight he won’t be on a pitch count in Double A his third year in the system.

  5. Brien Jackson

    Well, you’re not a GM. And you’re not a real scout either, apparently, which is hardly surprising. You’re the guy slinging BS at the WFAN/ESPN NY wannabe site.

    And you’re knowledge of “stats” is actually surpassed by your knowledge of the ins-and-outs of the Yankees’ system so far as I can tell. And no, that’s not a compliment.

  6. Chuck Johnson

    Mr. Jackson.

    First of all, this is probably the most “anti WFAN’ site around, a fact you would have easily determined if you actually READ the published articles.

    Last year at this time, I convinced my good friend Joe DelGrippo, who is an NYBD contributor and South Atlantic League scout, to come out and watch the Arizona Fall League.

    Joe spent a week out here with me and still talks about what a pleasure it was to see guys like Brandon Belt and Manny Banuelos and Eric Hosmer and Bryce Harper play up close and in person.

    Indirectly and separately, I think we both have convinced Mike to come out to Arizona this year and see the league.

    Here is the link to the league site.

    http://www.mlbfallball,com

    Don’t listen to me.

    Look at the league’s history.

    Joe stayed at a nice hotel across the street from the Peoria Sports Complex, which is the spring training home of the Mariners and Padres.

    There is an AFL game there everyday, although there is a strong rumor one of the teams will move to the new Glendale facility, where the Dodgers and White Sox train.

    I live about a mile from the Surprise Recreation Campus, which is the spring training home of the Royals and Rangers and the AFL base for the Surprise Rafters.

    There are two hotels located in the campus, a Holiday Inn Express and a Marriott Residence Inn.

    Here are the links:

    Surprise Residence Inn

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phxsz-residence-inn-phoenix-nw-surprise/

    Holiday Inn Express

    http://www.hiexpress.com/hotels/us/en/surprise/phxbp/hoteldetail

    The hotel Joe stayed in Peoria.

    This is a great location not only because there is a game every day within walking distance, but there is also a mall across the street, two movie theaters, and countless restaurants. If you work overtime at McDonalds you could easily swing the airport shuttle and not rent a car, and if money gets tight, probably pick up a shift at the Mickey Dee’s down the street.

    Here’s the Holiday Inn Express in Peoria

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1024&bih=475&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=surprise+az+hotels&fb=1&gl=us&hq=hotels&hnear=0x872b50449c4f72a3:0x3d108204ce52db2,Surprise,+AZ&ei=DE8vTsz3HYXl0QHd8_GsAQ&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=image&ved=0CAQQtgM&iwloc=cids:11732316944926596701

    Obviously, your flight and hotel would be on your own nickel.

    I personally will reimburse you for your transportation to and from the airport to your hotel.

    Between the three of us, a pass will be left for you at each game you choose to attend.

    I would assume your meal expenses to be a minimum, between your McDonald’s employee discount and the free press box luncheons, so, in reality, it’s a pretty cheap vacation.

    If you decide to come out, then you will see what and who I know; if you don’t, then you’re just another wannabe internet troll.

    What do you say, Brien?

  7. Brien Jackson

    I’d be happy to take you up on that. Although I’d point out that for all of that you still didn’t know that Banuelos got a slow start in being stretched out this spring, and don’t seem to have realized that his exploding walk rate would explain why he’s throwing fewer innings per starts in AA. Nor that comparing two players at the same level of the minors with an age difference of two years in their early 20′s is a rather big statistical fallacy.

    But I love the AzFL, so if you want to get me passes to the games I’m certainly not going to turn it down.

  8. Brien Jackson

    Also too, how exactly does one become a “wannabe internet troll?” It seems to me that you are either a troll on the internet or you are not. Wouldn’t a “wannabe internet troll” be someone who desires to be a troll on the internet but doesn’t have internet access or something?

    It’s always a good sign of strong logic and security in your positions when you respond to criticism by stringing together generic insults that don’t make sense when put together.

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