The motivation for this FanPost is this article from Jayson Stark, which he has just posted. I highly recommend the entire piece. The fascinating parts of it involve the studies now building about pitcher injuries. I had not heard of any of this previously.
There are generally two schools of thought out there about developing starting pitching (I'm gonna summarize liberally hear; clearly there are multiple variations on these themes):
- The Old School Method, espoused by guys like Leo Mazzone and Nolan Ryan. Continue to build up the arm strength of young pitchers, lengthening their outings and improving their durability consistently. The goal is to have pitchers go as long as possible.
- The Modern Method, which seems to be taking hold at all levels: limit pitch counts and innings of the youngsters until they have fully matured physically (maybe until around 25).
This Stark piece is fairly shocking in terms of the evidence that is apparently building to advocate rest - both for young arms and for recovering arms. I mention this specifically because of the Braves' recent cases of surgery: Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. In context, you could also probably apply this to Ben Sheets, though his is a special case due to the work-outs he has already put himself through in preparation for pitching this year. However, he's also had more extensive surgery, so you can draw your own conclusions about how his arm could hold up.
Beachy had surgery on June 21st. Given normal recovery times, he might be ready to pitch again after the 2013 All-Star Break. That's interesting, as he might only be able to get 100-120 innings in over the remainder of next year. All other factors notwithstanding, that schedule could be important for his long-term outlook, if you buy the sources Stark cites.
Medlen has been "slow-rolled" into innings this year. He's now at 64.2 innings, and could project to anywhere from 100 to 125 innings, depending on how he's used down the stretch. Once again, this workload would be consistent with the article's research.
There are pitchers who are "horses" and can log 230+ innings per year, everything. The problem is how to tell which guys are the stalwart Clydesdales and which are the delicate racehorses. One could also look at this data and say "gee, a six-man rotation might be a real good idea to protect these guys." Also possible.
With that, I yield the floor: what do you think about what Stark wrote and how would you advocate handling our prized pitching prospects?