Blowhard Rieber: Forget innings limits

Should the Yanks tank the season?
What would you take from the stadium?

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.

Should the Yanks tank the season?
What would you take from the stadium?
  • Boones19

    You do hit on a 12 against a dealer 2 when you are using basic strategy in blackjack.

    • Joseph P.

      You’re right. I fixed the basic analogy.

      • Boones19

        All good, there’s only one thing I hate more than bad baseball analysis, it’s bad blackjack players b/c they cost you money.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          Just play all 5 hands at once. Then you have no one to blame but yourself. Plus you look like a balla, taking all the seats on a $5 dollar table.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos

            Dealer: 19.
            Homer: Hit me!
            Dealer: 20.
            Homer: Hit me!
            Dealer: 21.
            Homer: Hit me!
            Dealer: 22.
            Homer: D’oh!

    • Capital T

      The other bad analogy is Fuel Standards. Pitchers do not have a choice regarding their innings (they would look like quiters if they self imposed a limit). Car purchasers can move the manufactures to higher fuel limits by only purchasing high MPG vehicle and do not need the government intervention. A good example is the 70s when buyers bought Japenese cars because they were so much more efficient than the US gas guzzlers.

  • Bo

    The good old days line is hilarious. Because 4 pitchers pitched and ate innings we should let every pitcher? Just because Ryan and Bob Gibson did it every pitcher should?

    Maybe if they took care of their arms back then so many pitchers would have had longer and better careers.

    I think the facts clearly support not going more than 30 over. Verducci has a couple of great articles about it on SI.

    And whats Manuel care about Pelfrey long term? hes trying to get a job for next yr.

  • Chris A

    Slow day at work Joe?

  • Mike A.


    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Dude, you couldn’t wait until I got my stupid “tick tick tick” comment in?

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick… (this should be fun)

  • Patrick T

    I hate this crap. I hate it even more because god knows how many fans will read it and take it as gospel. I don’t understand why these paid professionals can’t be arsed to do even the slightest bit of actual research that I can do at home in all of 10 minutes. Tom Verducci did a oft-quoted article on this effect in SI this spring. He named 7 at risk pitchers.

    1. IPK – Well known issues on this site.
    2. Fausto Carmona – missed 2 months with hip injury
    3. Ubaldo Jiminez – pitching about the same as last year, no injuries.
    4. Tom Gorzelanny – relatively healthy, but went completely in the tank, due largely to complete loss of control.
    5. Dustin McGowan – see above
    6. Chad gaudin – Was on DL in spring training, and has been out since 8/29 with assorted issues, this even with his innings dramatically reduced by a move to the pen.
    7. Yovani Gallardo – missed the whole year.

    You could do this any year. Only Jiminez has basically seen no issues of either health or effectiveness this year. Do I think every one of these issues has to do with innings counts? No, pitchers get hurt. But if you had the opportunity to minimize that chance, even if only by say, 20%, isn’t it negligent not to do so unless you’re looking at a WS title?

    • Tripp

      I agree with you, but didn’t Gallardo have knee surgery?

    • daneptizl

      Kennedy was wrongfully in that group. I’m pretty sure he corrected it later.

  • Yankee1010

    It really is amazing how dumb most of the baseball writers are in NY. Apparently, the game is played EXACTLY the same way it was back then and NOBODY was ever injured then.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos

      Plus, no darkies. Two great reason why baseball was way more awesomer back then.

  • pat

    You know who else is way over 30 more IP than last year? John Lester

    • pat

      excuse me… hes at it right now and will go over while pitching the rest of the season

      • Mike A.

        But he had cancer, so it’s cool.

        • jsbrendog

          yeah, chemo made him strong

          • Andy In Sunny Daytona

            John Farrel, who apparently now is the greatest pitching coach ever, is working with James Andrews on finding the cause of injuries and preventing them.
            Farrell deduced that the best program for Lester was Hodgkins. Contracting that, would limit his innings for a few years.
            The results speak for themselves.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos

              Sorry, Andy, not quite.

              As I reported earlier, Jon Lester volunteered to get injected with various life-threatening cancers so that the FDA and AMA could use him as a human guinea pig for dangerous new cancer treatments. He risked his life to help save the lives of innocent children, nuns, and the refugees displaced by wars around the globe.

              For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

              • Patrick T

                Oddly enough, Pedroia also volunteered, but he was too scrappy and hard-nosed for any of the cancers to take hold.

  • Manimal

    Is anyone else rooting for the Rays today?

    • Manimal

      and sunday. Im rooting for moose on saturday.

    • yankeemonkey

      I guarantee that the Rays will not lose today.

      • yankeemonkey

        But I will still root for the Yankees. Anything else is silly.

    • Geno

      Nope, just you. What you’re basically saying is your hatred of the Red Sox is greater than your love of the Yanks. You’re a bit of a dim bulb.

      • Manimal

        You can’t call ponson a yankee.

  • Greg Cohen

    This is why bloggers are taking over the media world. People come to bloggers for news and commentary now because bloggers know more than the “professionals.”

    These guys are morons and they do nothing but speak out of their ass.

  • Chris M.

    So what do you think of Dellin Betances’ jump in IP from last year to this one?

  • Brad Kraus

    Ever notice how anybody who writes a baseball column, or anything else for that matter, that disagrees with any opinion, idea, concept, etc put forth by RAB is a complete loser?

    I don’t completely agree with him but I’m willing to consider the argument. There is a fine line with pitchers and there are different idea’s about how best to develop them for the majors.

    Instead of calling everyone you don’t agree with “ writers” why don’t you post commentary that elicits healthy discussion and debate.

    Honestly I don’t know how the Yankees ever won championship without the insightful guidance of the RAB contributors.

    • Patrick T

      The point isn’t that he disagrees with a “RAB opinion,” the point is he doesn’t back up his opinion with any analysis or fact, just random quotes from Manuel. I have no problem with alternative theory being advanced – I have a problem with a reporter doing less work on his story than I did on my post here.

    • cv

      RAB readers should have made comments to elicit healthy discussion, like comparing pitching limits to kim kardashian and pet rocks.

      I’m ok with critizing blogs for calling opposing opinions “dumb”, but its not like there is a high ground here…tv, radio, and print sports writers do the same thing all of the time. Pot, kettle, black

    • Joseph P.

      It’s not so much his opinion as the cocky-ass manner in which he presents it. If you’re going to fire a bullet, you better have more behind it than “that’s the way they did it in the good ol’ days.” It’s an old and sad argument. It’s also not to say that teams aren’t being over-protective with innings. It’s just saying that studies suggest that certain practices lead to a greater injury risk. So it’s tough to blame execs who want to heed these warnings.

  • Jesus

    I’m sure Rieber doesn’t wear a seat belt in cars because “It’s arrogant to think that you can control things like injuries. You can’t.” No air bags are needed either. Or bumpers for that matter.