I just got through reading this column by Newsday’s Anthony Rieber. And I have to ask: who made you the expert on innings limits? He opens up with the typical anti-innings-limit rhetoric of “they didn’t do that in the good ol’ days.” Yeah, well, no one had found a pattern and conducted a study about the usage of young pitchers in the old days. That’s like saying we never used to have fuel economy standards in the old days, so why have them now?
Here’s Rieber using Jerry Manuel as the “voice of reason” in the innings limit debate, referring to Mike Pelfrey:
“Where we are in this pennant race, I can ill-afford to be concerned with that at this point. Unless I hear something from him or the pitching coach or the medical people or I see a tremendous dip in stuff or velocity, I won’t be concerned with this at that point.”
It’s not about what he’s feeling this year, though. It’s about what the pitcher will feel next year. And the year after. After all, these are young guys we expect to help the team for years to come.
For an example, take Dustin McGowan. In 2006, he threw 111.1 innings between the majors and minors. In 2007, when he started to break out, he tossed 191.2 IP between the majors and minors. That’s quite the jump there, and most would consider it unsafe. What happened in 2007? he tossed 111.1 innings before going down with a season-ending rotator cuff injury.
That’s not to say that anyone making a large innings jump will face arm problems. Evidence, however, suggests that a pitcher is at a greater risk of injury when they make a large jump — over 30, 35 innings per year.
Rieber goes on to say: “It’s arrogant to think that you can control things like injuries. You can’t.” Of course you can’t control injuries. Those who advocate innings limits don’t think they’re controlling anything. What they’re doing is avoiding exposure to a known risk. It’s like in Blackjack, when you’ve got 12 and the dealer is showing five or six. You don’t hit. There are decent odds that the dealer will bust. So you stand pat with your 12 and hope for the best. You don’t know what the dealer is holding, just like you don’t know what’s in store for the pitcher. But you play the odds as best you can, hoping it works out. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But you don’t want to expose yourself to undue risk.
Pelfrey is right around that 30-inning jump at this point. He pitched 152.2 IP last year, and is at 181.2 this year. I can understand the Mets not wanting to shut him down. I hope they realize, though, that they’re hitting on 12 when the dealer is showing five.