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Tom Verducci of SI has posted his annual ‘Year After Effect’ post which poses that young pitchers who threw more than 30 innings last year than they had the year before as injury risks.  I had reference this theory as part of my risky pitchers tests.  For those who haven’t read this and are too lazy to click on it now…..or even now….I did find that significant pitching volume increases year-over-year does seem to have a carry-0ver effect but pitchers who threw high percentages of breaking pitches were more vulnerable (and a combination even worse).

A quick comparison of Verducci’s 10 vs. my risky pitchers shows the following:

  • 3 pitchers we agree are risks (Lester, Pelfrey, Eveland)
  • 5 pitchers that I feel can handle it because of their pitch mix (i.e., lack of breaking pitches), body type, or irrational exuberance (Hamels, Billingsley, Lincecum, Danks, Jurrjens)
  • 2 pitchers I didn’t touch on – Kershaw (didn’t have enough major league pitches to qualify) and Niese (Met pitcher who didn’t make the team out of spring training)

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  Verducci does claim a high level of success (“Of those 24 at-risk pitchers, 16 were hurt in that same season. Only one of the 24 pitchers managed to stay healthy and lower his ERA”) but does ‘healthy’ mean makes every single start?  For fantasy purposes, if Hamels misses 5 starts and pitches as effective as last year, that’s not going to disappoint drafters.  Peavy was injured in 2008 but the part that really hurt was his team wouldn’t score for him so his Wins tanked.

While on the subject of Verducci, I never voiced a POV on his book with Joe Torre – ‘The Yankee Years’.  I enjoyed it.  I think Torre was sincere in his comments (on other people) and Verducci did a good job writing and reporting around him.  The three things that still resonate are:

1) It’s surprising that Joe Torre put his name on a book like this.  He seemed the ‘keep it in the locker room” type.  This book takes swipes at several players not to Torre’s liking.  The A-Rod stuff, in particular, goes well beyond what is necessary (forgetting the A-Fraud nickname).

2) Joe Torre could’ve aimed his candor a little more at himself.  How could he not admit that he mismanaged bullpens and/or his success is completely dependent on having 1-2 rubber-armed middle relievers in his bullpen (like Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton in 1996-2000)?  Torre must fantasize about a guy like Scot Shields.

3) Mike Mussina definitely doesn’t pull punches.  See this quote on Mariano Rivera.  I remember some other pretty harsh quotes about less likable fellows like Carl Pavano.  Definitely interesting to read but makes you wonder what he was really like as a teammate.

26 Responses

  1. Joe Morgan sucks says:
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    Verducci sort-a takes credit for predicting the Yovani Gallardo injury? WHAT? Sure, he gives the caveat: “. . . not all arm-related,” but he shouldn’t even be including Gallardo in the article. If I predicted Cory Lidle’s breakdown a few years ago, should I get credit for his poor piloting skills?

    I always like tracking pitchers who throw more than 3400 pitches in their early 20s. Guys like Mark Prior, Barry Zito, Ryan Dempster (twice!), and Dontrelle Willis never seem to recover.

  2. Frank Rizzo says:
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    I understand the 40 more innings pitched for C-Bills but the guy is an absolute horse at 6’1″, 245 pounds. A big barrel chested freak. And at 24 years old, there is still not that much wear and tear on that arm. Concerned about it….sure….but the potential reward outweighs the risk by far for me.

  3. Griff says:
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    @ Rudy I’m surprised Torre came out with this, as well. I would pass it off as the old “he just wants to stir up controversy to sell more books” ploy. But the guy has been making millions as a manager for years. Why would he burn bridges just to make some marginal cash?

    @ Frank Rizzo I agree that Billingsley is a stud, physcially. He’s anchoring my staff in one of my two money leagues, so I hope we’re right.

  4. @Joe Morgan sucks: Well…the knee injury perhaps saved him from an arm injury later in the year. So you almost want to pull it out of the study completely. I’m not completely sold on 3400+ pitches as a driver – more concerned if they are babied through the minors and then 1) stretched too quickly in the majors or 2) throw a lot of breaking pitches….

  5. arthur says:
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    Rudy, here is something I saw on Yahoo today about EVERYONE just buying into the Verducci Effect:

    “And why not? It sure feels like it should be true. But so did Pitcher Abuse Points (based on the number of times a pitcher exceeded a pitch-count threshold). But like PAP has proven to be after it was very unscientifically foisted upon, the Verducci Effect (named for its founder, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci) is likely hokum.
    The main problem is that proponents have never studied it. David Gassko of the Hardball Times has done the best research to date and showed that it very definitely was not true in 2006.”

    http://sports.yahoo.com/fantasy/mlb/news?slug=ms-bythenumbers_040109

  6. @arthur: Thanks for linking. Yeah, I tested several approaches but I’m not going to pretend it’s as extensive as BP or Hardball Times can do. I did use my findings this year to mark down pitchers who I felt were bigger risks. I didn’t care about ‘regression risks’ since those already are acccounted for in any of the responsible projection providers. I’m shocked, though, that Will Carroll paid full value for Nolasco given his over-reliance on breaking pitches. He throws more than any other pitcher I in the past 5 years….guess we’ll see if he can handle it….

  7. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    Verducci is a pionneer in this area for sure, but his system is flawed. What possible evidence does he have that Gallardo’s ACL tear last season was due to his excess of innings?

    He should look at more data.

  8. sean says:
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    IACubs is correct: Verducci’s method leaves us with an awful lot of false positives based on injuries/external factors not related to the previous year’s IP totals. In order for this study to hold any water, it would have to be able to predict the likelihood of suffering a repetitive use/motion injury — tendinitis, tendon and ligament tears, etc — instead of any subjective drop off in performance…

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    yeah rudy,i let nolasco slide in latin league but for 5 bucks got him in auction league,got some good closers struggling out of the gate this year,any predictions on a few that will falter

  10. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:
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    @IowaCubs: Gallardo’s injury last year was a freak thing — got tangled up with a baserunner at first.

  11. Nolasco for $5 is worth the risk. But I think he’ll come back to haunt anyone who drafted him as an ace. I also think people overrated guys like Gallardo and Liriano coming into this year – in a perfect world, they’d be my ‘dark horses’ but I’m not going to christen both as aces when neither has shown they can be successful for a full season at the major league level. Too much risk. Part of the reason why I think Berry’s team in AL Tout Wars has almost no chance of succeeding (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pO0IbKkxiVgsL6J5gGr_2eA – Price, Liriano, AND Chamberlain?)

  12. bostonaccent says:
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    @Rudy Gamble: Sure, but when the Duke comes back for four starts before the season ending shutdown… Okay, nevermind.

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story?

  13. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:
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    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Bullshit. Gallardo’s aching arm was thrusting forward when he ran into D.Lee. I blame it on the increased innings.

  14. Chip says:
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    Speaking of studies, I was wondering….does anyone ever go back and do a postseason review of the accuracy of preseason forecasts by CHONE and others? For example, do we know who best predicted the results of individual players for the 2008 season?

  15. cubbies299 says:
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    Great line from Franklin Morales in Coors today. I think the Diamondbacks did him a few favors with their free-swinging, but still. Guy is filthy. Throws a 93 mph fastball and follows it with a 67 mph lollypop cure. Didn’t see a third pitch, so I wonder if he isn’t better served as a reliever…

  16. Steve says:
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    @Rudy Gamble: What’s your feeling on a $5 Ervin Santana? I have Peavy, Beckett and Cain too…

  17. Paulie Allnuts

    Paulie Allnuts says:
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    @Baron Von Vulturewins: You, Rudy and Verducci are correct, at least for an inning. Pelfrey had a quasi-razztastic inning, giving up 4 runs ( at least three of them earned) in the 1st inning, and your boy Votto hit a dinger. Pelf threw over 40 pitches. Hopefully, he will prove you all incorrect by the end of the season.

    Hopefully, for my fantasy teams, at any rate. And for the Mets.

  18. Paulie Allnuts

    Paulie Allnuts says:
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    Sorry that should be Grey, not Rudy; I don’t know what Rudy thinks about Pelfrey, but Grey has him on his Razztastic Team.

  19. Luke says:
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    @Chip: There was a study done for the 2007 season but I never saw one for the 2008 season. I remember ZiPs being the best predictor for hitting in 2007 but I don’t remember much else… I’ll see if I can track down a link.

  20. Luke says:
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    I found it. Actually, it was a study done at Baseball Prospectus and, perhaps not surprisingly, they found PECOTA to be the best predictor of both pitchers and hitters. ZIPS was a close second for hitters and CHONE was a close second for pitchers.

    http://tinyurl.com/d6ahxr
    http://tinyurl.com/ctgr2j

    But, yeah, like I said… that was 2007. I never saw one for 2008 (maybe PECOTA didn’t do as hot so they kept it under wraps).

  21. Thanks for the mention.

    Patrick

  22. The jury is still out on Lester; I’m going to give him some time before I make a move with him, but I agree he is a risk, and didn’t do much for me today against TB. I need another RP in a 10 team 5×5 roto. I’ve decided to drop Chase Headley, as I’m off the charts on all but one category (SB) in batting, and don’t need him on the bench. My question is should I pick up H. Street, Ziegler, or Fernando Rodney to help me out with saves? Thanks!

  23. Predicting injuries is obviously far from an exact science, but there is something to the VE. Obviously he shouldn’t take credit for guys like Gallardo, but I can’t fully blame the guy for tooting his own horn. At least he didn’t figure out a way to talk about the Torre book in his article. Dude should also get a better photo for SI.

    Anyways, if I randomly select 10 pitchers that pitched over say 120 innings last yera, it’s likely that a few of them will get hurt or do worse just by the nature of pitching. 6 of them could have career years this year, but if 4 get hurt, even for a little or do just a little worse, I make out pretty well.

  24. @Steve: Worth the gamble I guess. Hopefully he pitches 120 good innings for you.

    @Paulie Allnuts: I had Pelfrey on my 20 risky pitcher list so I’ll share credit with Grey and Mr. Verducci.

    @Luke: I think ZiPS won the comparison for hitting in 2008. But they compare on non-fantasy stats like OPS. The biggest issue w/ all the preseason projections is they don’t take playing time into account. That was the biggest adjustment I had to make when using them for the Point Shares projections (under 2009 Fantasy Baesball Rankings up top).

    @Patrick: No problem.

    @Chris Gaubatz: Yeah, I wouldn’t bail on Lester. Lot of talent. I just think he had too much risk to draft him as a top of the fantasy rotation starter. I’d pick up Street out of that bunch. He’s the best pitcher. Ziegler would be #2.

    @bpasinko: Good point. When I did my analysis and I used the criteria of: Year 1: 2700+ pitches, Year 2: < 2000 pitches or increased their FIP (ERA variation) by +0.50, I think the baseline was 40%.

  25. Chip says:
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    @Luke: Thanks for the links. Very interesting. Am I the only one to find it surprising that, despite all of the attention given to projections, we know very little about their real fantasy worth? I like to trade stocks, and enjoy fantasy baseball for many of the same reasons. I would never believe in a projection system that claimed the ability to foresee that, say, GE will be at $15.21 on October 1.

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