What Happens When Cardinals Young Pitchers “Hit the Wall’?
What will the Cardinals do to replace Chris Carpenter? By all accounts, the management has stated they will turn to their young pitchers. Most of them are rookies and a few with a season under their belt. What about the concern of “hitting the brick wall”? That is where a pitcher begins having diminishing success due to an overload of innings pitched.
The “brick wall” is arbitrarily set at 150 innings and none of the corps of young pitchers have every reached it. Last season Shelby Miller came the closest with 149 combined innings in the minor leagues and his call-up to the majors in September. Other pitchers were Dickson (141), Gast (109), Rosenthal (131) and Maness at 123 innings. In fact Jamie Garcia, on the major league roster, got 121 innings pitched in 2012.
It was about 25 years ago that major league baseball began paying attention to pitch counts and innings pitched. STATS INC, was not the official statistician but they kept them and people paid attention. Innings limits became important to the front office types and it began a dialogue on pitcher overuse. With the rising contracts began a concern for losing precious commodities in young arms and teams began the process of nurturing the youngsters much slowly and carefully.
Let’s refresh ourselves on some possible pitcher abuse or too many innings that may have caused some pitchers to flame out early. In 2007, Edinson Volquez threw 162 innings as a young phenom. The next season he underwent should surgery. Mark Prior, a 21 year old, threw 116 innings in 2003 and followed that with 211 innings and hasn’t pitched again since 2006.
Back in history a bit we find Mark “The Bird” Fidrych toss 250.1 rookie innings and was out of baseball in four years. An article written by Tom Verducci talks about pitcher abuse and people began to take notice of the” Verducci Effect”. Teams are paying attention to this theory. Look at Tommy Hanson who had his innings limited to 127 innings and Stephen Strasburg, who was dominating hitters was shut down at 161 innings. Fans are repulsed by this but teams have a big investment in the young arms and don’t want to blow them out. It has become ingrained in baseball to monitor pitch counts and innings pitched.
Not all buy into this theory. Nolan Ryan, from the Rangers front office, has been quoted as against it. Look at what Ryan did when he pitched. Ryan averaged 200 innings a year and even thrrw 332 innings in one season.
For those who have clamored for the Cardinals to be more active (and I was one of them) this offseason, we find it a blessing now that GM John Mozeliak held onto all of the young arms that other teams coveted.
Now the Cardinals have to dip into that pitching potential to attempt to replace Chris Carpenter. How will they handle it?