Estimating 2011 Innings Limits

If the Twins make Francisco Liriano available…
2011 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
Photo evidence that Phil threw at least one changeup in 2006. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Innings limits and pitch counts and all that stuff have become a part of baseball whether you like it or not. Young pitchers are becoming more and more important in the game today, and teams are doing their best to protect those players, nevermind financial investments that often climb into the eight-figures. Yankees fans are sick of the Joba Rules by now and it’s no fun to watch Sergio Mitre make a start in place of Phil Hughes in the middle of the season, but it’s part of life.

The Yanks are going to have to rely on their young arms more than they’ve had to at any point in the last 10, 15, maybe even 20 years in 2011, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be cognizant of workload limitations. Let’s take a look at some of the young hurlers that will/might see big league time next season and figure out how many innings the team can get out of them. I did my best to include everything, from regular season to playoffs to winter ball, but it’s easier said than done.

Phil Hughes
St. Phil threw a total of 192 innings last season, regular season and playoffs, 46 more than his previous career high of 146, which came way back in 2006. It’s probably more like an increase of 30-36 innings since Hughes did make a few starts in the playoffs for Double-A Trenton that year. The problem is that he threw just 111.2 IP in 2009 and 69.2 IP in 2008, so it was a huge jump when you look year-to-year. If Hughes threw that many innings last year, there’s really no reason he can’t throw 200-210 innings this summer, but the real question is how will all those extra innings in 2010 effect him in 2011.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Ivan Nova
Like Hughes, Nova threw a career high number of innings last season, 187 in all. His innings total has climbed rather methodically over the last few seasons, going from 148.2 IP in 2008 to 165 IP in 2009 (regular season plus winter ball) and then to 187 IP last year. For all intents and purposes, Nova has no innings limit during the upcoming season. Two hundred innings should be no problem if needed.

David Phelps
He’s only been in the system for two full years, but Phelps has already proven himself to be a bonafide horse. He led the organization with 164.2 IP in 2010, which came a year after he threw 158.2 IP and two years after he threw 151 IP (college and pro). There are no concerns here whatsoever, Phelps is good for 180 innings next year at the very least.

Hector Noesi
Noesi’s gone from an injury prone guy to a workhorse starter over the last few seasons, finishing right behind Phelps with 163.2 IP last year. That comes after throwing 124 total innings in 2009, so it was a significant jump (39.2 IP). He did tire a bit late last season, putting 31 men on base and allowing 19 runs in his final 22 IP (four starts). He’s good for 175 IP next year, easy, maybe even as much as 190.

D.J. Mitchell
The Yankees had four minor leaguers throw at least 150 regular season innings last year, just the second time that’s happened since 2003. All four of them were actual prospects too, no filler. Mitchell was the low man on the totem pole at 155.2 IP, trailing Phelps, Noesi, and the since departed Lance Pendleton. That was a jump of just seven innings from his previous career high of 147.2 IP, set in 2009. He’s good for 175 innings next year, no problemo.

Lots of innings that year. (AP Photo/Eric Francis)

Adam Warren
As a four-year player at a major college program, Warren’s thrown plenty of innings in recent years. Last season he managed 146.1 between the regular season and playoffs, but that wasn’t even his career high. He set that the year before, when he threw 168 IP between the college regular season, the College World Series, and his pro debut. His 2008 season featured 122 total innings, so Warren is primed for a jump into the 160-170 range in 2011, if not more.

Andrew Brackman
The Brackmonster started his professional career my missing a full season due to Tommy John surgery, but he’s been healthy since (save for a cut on his hand in April 2010) and has thrown plenty of innings. He threw 106.2 IP in 2009 before jumping all the way up to 145.2 IP last season. Brackman’s (really) big and strong, he should be able to handle 160+ innings next year without an issue.

* * *

That pretty much sums it up, I’d be surprised if any other young hurlers from the system threw a significant amount of innings for the big league team next season. Heck, I’d be surprised if anyone above not named Phil or Ivan threw a significant amount of innings for the Yankees next season. Maybe Noesi, he’s the logical next-in-line since he’s on the 40-man and has Triple-A experience.

In case you’re wondering, both Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are probably targeted for 120-140 innings next season after their injury-shorted campaigns in 2010. Their real coming out party is set for 2012. Luckily there are plenty of guys capable of throwing a ton of innings ahead of them, so the Yankees will have no reason to rush them.

If the Twins make Francisco Liriano available…
2011 Preseason Not Top 30 Prospects
  • Short Porch aka Master of the Obvious

    Nick Swisher? — 2 innings, max.

    • Thomas

      I think he could go more he only threw one inning in 2009 plus it was low stress (he didn’t throw all out he said). He has to be good for at least 3.

  • CountryClub

    Good post, Mike. It seems like you’re being pretty conservative, though. It appears the yanks are comfortable increasing innings by at least 30 from yr to yr. But if most of the pitchers you listed hit the numbers you quoted, it’ll be another very good yr for the farm.

    • Mike Axisa

      Yep, definitely being conservative. I figure it’s better to do that and be surprised than project high and be disappointed.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Phil needs to throw more changeups wearing a white pinstripe or gray Yankee shirt. The navy doesn’t count.

  • Jeff

    The good old days when Phil was actually in shape…

    • pat


    • Mike Axisa


    • CU Tiger

      I think he meant when Phil’s hair was still in shape.

      • Accent Shallow


    • Mike

      You may have gotten him confused with Joba.

  • Esteban

    I think I remember that in his last chat KLaw, said that the 30 inning jump-limit is mostly made up or without evidence that it works. On the other hand, it seems like the Yankees are pretty protective with their young starters, so they might have their own theory.

    • Johnny O

      There are articles out there that disprove “Verducci effect”. not saying which is right or wrong, but here they are:

      It makes sense to me that you shouldn’t go from 60 IP one year to 200 IP the next year, so I agree with a staggered increase in IP for young pitchers. Just not sure the cause and effect is as quantifiable as a 30 IP cap like Verducci proposed.

      • Ted Nelson

        As a team that’s investing millions (both bonus money/ML salary and in terms of their own revenue being based on winning) in these arms I think it’s better to just take a conservative approach. Maybe it’s just outright wrong or only applies in certain cases, but how much do you lose by limiting a young pitchers innings (especially if you can re-sign them once they hit free agency like the Yankees)? Obviously not all amateurs have equal upside or probability, but why not just protect them all so that you at least reach the low success rate you expect with acquiring young amateurs/prospects through trades?

        Also, purely subjective, teams known for pushing their young arms like the As and Cubs have had a lot of high profile flame outs… Prior, Wood, Mulder, Zito… All those guys sky-rocketed through the minors and were pitching 200-ish innings mostly in the majors by 21, 22. Along with Hudson, only 1 in 5 of those high profile guys who had success so young has really survived… I don’t know how that compares to average, but seems quite low for kids who become front-end starters before they’re 23.

        • Esteban

          I don’t think it’s fair to name Zito as an injury flameout.

          • Mike Axisa

            Considering that he’s never once been on the DL, I agree.

            • JGS

              Forget the DL, I’m pretty sure Zito has never missed a start.

          • Ted Nelson

            I just said “flame-out,” not “injury flame-out.” “As and Cubs have had a lot of high profile flame outs”

            He went from a guy who threw 87 in his early 20s to a guy who threw 84 in his late 20s. He went from a 3-4 WAR, high 3/4s FIP, ERA in the 3s, 1 time Cy Young, 3 time All-Star young pitcher in the AL to a 1.4-2 WAR, high 4s and 5s FIP/ERA, barely hanging on in the rotation guy in the NL.

            I admitted right up front that I’m not saying there’s necessarily causation, just correlation. At some point you get enough correlation with something where there may be too many variables to definitively prove causation, and you might have to buy that the correlation implies causation. I was only looking at a small sample there, so I don’t think 5 pitchers means we’re at that point. I haven’t done any study whatsoever to see what point we are at.

            • Ted Nelson

              He says he’s regained the velocity with a new/old long-toss regiment, but perhaps there were deeper problems with his shoulder that even he may not have been aware of. Again, total speculation, just throwing it out there that the As and Cubs both pushed their young studs hard and 4 of the 5 young starters flamed out for one reason or another after being very good starters in their young 20s.

              Could just be bad luck combined with a small sample. Wood was hurt at 22 and maybe his arm just couldn’t handle that velocity. Zito is sort of a stoner-type who got a fat payday and says that changing his off-season routine may have hurt his velocity… Some pitchers just blow out their arms like Prior and Mulder. Tim Hudson and plenty of other guys (CC for example) pitched a lot of innings young and stayed both healthy and effective. I certainly don’t think it’s a rule, I just think that even a slight trend (if one even exists, which I don’t know) would lead me to protect my young arms and air on the conservative side.

  • Accent Shallow

    the since departed Lance Pendleton.

    I sure hope you mean “to another team”

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    From Mike’s report it appears the Yanks have a plan. It may sound conservative but struggling to find starting pitching since much is protected contractually by the other clubs or past its prime. The costs of acquiring and developing of pitching are kept in check with watchful eye development and not having to pay high for a FA when your farm system has been barren.

    Question: Does Brian Cashman feel confident with the above stable of young pitchers available to pitch if needed?