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About Pitch Counts

As we speculated, and Marc Lancaster confirmed yesterday the young pitchers on the team, namely Scott Kazmir and James Shields are on a form of restriction; not a pitch count per say, but more of an innings count. The team would rather not allow their pitchers to exceed last year's innings amount by too much, otherwise risking injury.

The user Joe Dobrowski started a diary yesterday about Kazmir being pulled, this obviously explains a big part of why, but we had some fun in that conversation, so we figured why not do a post about pitch counts?

We'll begin by pointing out Baseball Prospectus' pitcher abuse points which assign a total to the amount of pitches thrown and how detrimental that start will be to the next start and in the long run using the formula:
PAP = (no. of pitches -100)^3 for no. of pitches > 100
PAP = 0 for no. of pitches < / = 100

The chart is something like this:

# of Pitches        PAP
95            0
100            0
105            125
110            1,000
115            3,375
120            8,000
125            15,625
130            27,000
140            64,000

In the book `Baseball Between the Numbers' BP goes on to show the risk factors, the percent in change in runs allowed and in batters face per pitch count, we won't use their table since really the book is worth a purchase if you care about this kinda thing, but we will use their estimation for pitcher VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) and what large pitch counts or innings increase can mean to a pitcher.

The formula is simple (6.50 - Run Average) multiplied by IP/9 results in the estimated pitcher VORP.

(6.50 - 4.50) x (240/9) = 2.00 x 26.67 = 53.3 VORP
(6.50 - 4.00) x (210/9) = 2.50 x. 23.33 = 58.3 VORP

30 less innings, team gains five runs, and half a win. We must note that Run Average is ERA, only with the runs allowed (via errors and such) added in, so basically all runs allowed multiplied by nine, divided by innings pitched.

What does this all mean for the young pitchers? Let's look specifically at the three headed monster of Kazmir - Shields - Sonnanstine, their innings total in 2006 and their totals thus far this year, estimating that they throw nearly 100 pitches per outing.

Last Year / This Year IP
Kaz        144 / 132
Shields        185 (Durham and Tampa) / 151
Sonny        185/ 136 (Durham and Tampa)

That with about ten starts each remaining, estimating that each goes their average, how many innings would each receive?

    Avg. IP/GS / Estimated innings total
Kaz        6 / 192
Shields        7 / 221
Sonny        6.5 / 201

Three pitchers nearing the 200 innings mark is absolutely fantastic, but the increases are quite horrific:

    Net IP Gained
Kaz    60
Shields    70
Sonny    65

That's quite a workload increase, and asking for injury. So what does the DRO decide to do? Limit Kaz and company to slightly less than their average? Seemingly it would cut back on overthrowing their youngsters, and now with Dan Wheeler, Juan Salas, and company at the back of the bullpen, hope that if the team is in contention for a victory they'll be enough to shut the door. This season is a progression year, some may say a loss cause, it's the former for these young pitchers, but without restrictions their arms could quickly turn against them.