Pirates Discussion: Starters Reaching New Highs

As noted in Thursday’s discussion the Pittsburgh Pirates have seen a rather clean bill of health when it comes to their starters this season.

The question will become whether they will seek to limit any of their pitcher’s innings as the rest of the season unfolds. It’s open knowledge that the Pirates are specifically limiting Roansy Contreras this season, after only throwing 61 total innings between MLB and MiLB in 2021.

So while the MLB pitching staff has largely remained intact, there aren’t many starters with a recent track record of logging innings. Here are the current inning totals for the current presumed starting five:

  • JT Brubaker – 113.1 IP
  • Mitch Keller – 112.1 IP
  • Bryse Wilson – 102.1 IP (66 IP in MLB and 36.1 IP in Triple-A)
  • Zach Thompson – 90.1 IP
  • Tyler Beede – 45.1 IP

Of these five pitchers only Keller, Brubaker, and Wilson eclipsed 100 IP in 2021 while none of those three threw more than 130 IP last year. Thompson threw 90 IP last year and Beede only threw 49.2 IP. The innings aren’t foreign for these pitchers, as all but Thompson have thrown 140-150 innings as recent as 2019. You’d have to go back to 2016 for the last time Thompson cracked 100, throwing a total of 140.2 innings between two levels.

With roughly 50 games to go, that would average out to ten more starts per starter, which could lead to all but Beede reaching career highs of innings pitched in an entire season. JT Brubaker was having a solid season in 2021, but seemed to run out of steam as the season progressed. He had a 3.82 ERA at the end of June in 2021 but a 7.91 ERA in his final 10 starts after the calendar flipped to July.

So the first question would be do you think the Pirates begin limiting more than just prospects to “maintain health” going into the off-season?

I think this fits well with our recent discussion’s in the comments about if limiting pitchers is truly beneficial. If you believe they should or might seek to, the bigger question would be if the Pirates have the depth available.

When you look at the Indianapolis Indians roster you’ll see the obvious answer in Roansy Contreras but he’s already being limited. There is Miguel Yajure — who has battled injury woes — but he hasn’t been very effective in Indy when healthy. Cody Bolton has been on a rather strict innings limit since mid-June.  The Indians innings leader is Jerad Eickhoff, but I think we all remember how that went last time. Next in line would be Osvaldo Bido, but has begun to be limited as his effectiveness generally plummets as a game goes on. The bigger ticket name that needs added to the 40 man roster and has 82.1 IP across two levels is Mike Burrows. He very well could get a start or two, much like when the Pirates gave Roansy an abbreviated start in 2021.

One starter that I think may have a shot at pulling a start by season’s end is Luis Ortiz. He himself is Rule 5 eligible this off-season and is currently second only to Jared Jones in total innings pitched in the minors. He’s a big kid with big stuff and given the lack of depth ahead of him I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates gave him a go at some point.

Pirates @ Giants

Time: 9:05 PM EST

Pirates Starter: Tyler Beede (1-1, 3.57)

Giants Starter: Logan Webb (10-5, 3.17)

Beede Notes: Since coming to the Pirates, Tyler Beede is carrying a 3.28 ERA through 19 appearances. This will be his third start as it appears for the time being they are looking to give Beede a chance to build up into a spot in the rotation. His last time out he threw 3.2 scoreless innings on 57 pitches. He’ll get to face the only organization he’s known prior to the Pirates as the San Francisco Giants drafted him in 2014 with their #14 overall pick in the first round.

LINEUPS:

Pirates

Giants

1. LaMonte Wade Jr. (L) DH
2. Joc Pederson (L) LF
3. J.D. Davis (R) 3B
4. Mike Yastrzemski (L) CF
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Thairo Estrada (R) 2B
7. Tommy La Stella (L) 1B
8. Luis Gonzalez (L) RF
9. Austin Wynns (R) C

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skliesen

The best scoring opportunity for Pirates was top 8. Webb clearly tiring, had walked 2 of previous 3 hitters to load bases. Up comes veteran clean up hitter, 1-1 count, and Webb throws a slider that’s at least a foot inside and Gamel swings at it! Whole AB changes to favor Webb because our most veteran hitter can’t lay off a horrible pitch.

No wonder this team has least runs scored in league.

TNBucs

Absolutely the most frustrating AB of the night. I may be too hard on Gamel, but I’m just not seeing value there.

OTOH, Castro had some very good ABs including that last one. It was nice seeing coaches and teammates coming up to him in the dugout to compliment him. Probably the best AB of the night and it came in the most stressful situation. I’m close to all-in on Castro 🙂 (I hope this doesn’t jinx him.)

skliesen

Yeah Castro looks locked in since coming back up. Which makes the decision to have him bunt the other night all the more perplexing. Taking the bat out of the hands of a guy who had already hit a HR and a Triple earlier in the game isn’t a winning move by a MLB Manager.

TNBucs

With this team’s track record of hitting with RISP and hitting in general, I don’t think we should give up outs and especially not when one of our better hitters is up.

1979andCounting

Well, Derrick at his press conference will again have to tip his cap to an opposing pitcher, something he said he is getting tired of doing.

TNBucs

I found that quote interesting the other day–shouldn’t the mindset that we’re tired of that and need to stop making excuses been there since day one?

1979andCounting

Not really. There’s a proven axiom that good pitching beats good hitting and there are games where he’s correct to acknowledge that. I think a journalist should speak to that with Shelton and ask him if he really thinks this team has “good hitters”. I also found his quote interesting, thinking that he may be getting frustrated with the quality of our ABs and with Haines………let’s hope so.

TNBucs

Right, good pitching beats good hitting. But I took the quote to mean that there were too many times when it may not have been good pitching as much as poor hitting. I also took it as an indication that he may be frustrated with Haines, though I hope he owns that Haines was his hire.

Last edited 1 month ago by TNBucs
chappy

Wow are we putrid.

Is this the worst offense of the last.30 years for the Pirates? I know we have had some bad lineups in some of the worst years, but this might be the very worst.

Wilbur Miller

According to Stumpf, this team is the sixth worst w/RISP since 1901. The historically horrible situational hitting would get an actual major league team concerned about its hitting coach.

TNBucs

And in the context that Shelton and Cherington fired Eckstein to hire Haines to get everyone on the same page, it has to call into question bigger issues.

chappy

Yes! Even with the poor roster and the young players, how do you not take a serious look at the hitting coach?

TNBucs

Clearly Vogelsong has more loyalty to the Giants, but he seems like he’d be a great pitching coach, or even manager, for us someday. I can’t recall when I’ve been as impressed with a visitor to the Bucs’ booth.

TNBucs

WRT the recent conversations about pitch counts and keeping pitchers healthy, 74 pitches in 3 innings would seem to put more strain on an arm than, say, 110 pitches in 7 innings. I’m sure most (all?) teams consider this, but it still seems like 100 is the magic number regardless of how many innings those pitches cover.

1979andCounting

I think I heard Vogelsong say that Nippon Baseball didn’t mind their pitchers throwing 150 or 200 pitches. Would be an interesting study to compare arm injuries over there.

TNBucs

It would be interesting to look at the differences but of course it would need to factor in how pitchers are developed from little league to the majors. Maybe our stricter pitch limits are unavoidable given how players develop here, or maybe there is potential to increase counts.

Many of us would hate seeing the end of starters going 7 with the rare complete game but I’ve wondered if pitchers could pitch more innings while staying healthier by, say, pitching with two days rest but only throwing ~60 pitches each outing (i.e., 3-4 innings per start where you have would be starters piggy backing). There are some signs from our minors that we’re moving in that direction, though I did get to see Priester pitch 7 a couple of weeks ago.

1979andCounting

That sounds right. They don’t have many pitchers who throw mid 90’s IIRC so maybe less stress from high velocity…….Ohtani being an exception.

1979andCounting

Beede nibbling way too much. Would like to see more FBs, change the eye level from his sinker. Just doesn’t have much command tonite.

1979andCounting

This is Beede’s home field, where he never had great success. Hoping this is not like a Keller home pitching effort.

chappy

As Greg Brown attests: “One of Bryan Reynold’s worst at-bats of the year.” Something is not right with him.

skliesen

Boy oh boy haven’t the Harvard nerds who gave us analytics and sports science added so much to the sports world. It’s no wonder so few Pitchers can go through a lineup a 3rd time.

docdon385

As an old school devotee, I believe all this limiting and coddling does is weaken rather than protect. “Use it or lose it” used to be the thing but now it seems to be “don’t work too hard or you might get hurt.”

Sports are, or at least were, somewhere to push yourself and find out how far you could go. That not only built stamina but also character and determination. Why should a pitcher be any different unless they actually have an injury? Technique and mechanics are certainly important and have to be right, but doesn’t working a muscle group make it stronger or has that changed too?

One of my old coaches used to say: “If you’re injured don’t do it, but if you’re not push through it.” Maybe that just took the heat off him and put it on you to decide how far to go, but it seemed to work at least at the amateur level. Pro sports are probably different because of the money involved.

Maybe the Pirates could find out and emulate the way a team like the Dodgers handles pitchers. The have a long record of high level pitching both through their own development and managing high priced and even moderately priced free agents. Of course if one gets hurt they can just go buy another one I suppose.

leefieux

Again, I ask…have there been any studies done that show that limiting innings and limiting pitches in a game (the magical 100) actually PREVENTS injuries? I have never seen anything. Verducci did something years and years ago on innings, but it sounded inconclusive.

Wilbur Miller

Limiting innings does not, but then I don’t think most teams focus on innings, exactly. This is from a University of Waterloo (that’s in Canada) study:

“Injury is the result of workload exceeding the capacity of the body’s tissues, so while counting innings is a tempting way to measure workload, it’s actually a very flawed method,” said Karakolis. “If coaches are looking for ways to prevent injury, simply limiting the number of innings is not the answer. They have to look at how hard a pitcher’s body is working during each inning, each pitch.”

The study suggests that teams need to invest in biomechanical assessments for each pitcher to more effectively prevent injuries. Alternatively, coaches and trainers can develop strength and conditioning programs that build soft tissue capacity during the offseason and promote recovery during the season. Young pitchers have greater ability for tissue adaption than their older counterparts.

I remember the Pirates saying, when NH was there, that they actually looked at the number of pitches under stress (not exactly sure how that’s defined, but pitches/inning plays a role), as opposed to total pitches, and definitely not total innings. I have to think the current guys are following the same ideas, but I don’t recall them talking about it. I also don’t know how Shelton’s dubious practice of “scheduling” pitchers well in advance plays into it.

Anthony

You would think with all of the technology available today, there would be a way to measure the effective strain or stress on the arm after each appearance. Establish a baseline at the beginning of the year, then monitor the player relative to the baseline and prior appearances. Additionally, there has to be a fairly substantial list of symptoms for arm injuries at this point. I would think that the regular evaluation of these potential symptoms would be commonplace.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony
emjayinTN

Thanks for the reference. The fact is that each pitcher is different, so very difficult to adopt a hard and fast approach. Value is in the Pitching Coach who can juggle all of the nuances and be able to find what might work for each individual pitcher.

The Pirates are actually well positioned to break out in 2023 with a solid Rotation, and with an exceptionally deep Bullpen. Marin has done an excellent job overall with the Pitchers, and we now have two solid pitcher’s Catchers behind the plate.

john_fluharty

Sure hope you’re right on this.

MB21

I love this discussion. This is a defining issue for pitching right now. The lack of depth for the Pirates is a big deal. Even if Priester, Burrows and Bolton (or even Oviedo), for example, were to become legitimate options, this still isn’t enough for most seasons. But if the main starters are healthy and effective, is it really beneficial to limit their innings? After all, we want them to be strong enough to handle more innings if they are healthy and effective in a pennant race. Experience in more innings in the seasons prior to contention is a good teacher, right?

MD78

I agree. It used to be that pitching more supposedly strengthened the arm.

Also, even if such studies exist they are generalities. History says all pitchers and arms are different. Some guys pitch forever. Other guys get constantly injured.

The answer may be in trying to teach guys to actually learn the art of pitching rather than throwing every fastball for maximum velocity and trying to be Steve Carlton with every slider. When EVERY pitch places maximum stress on the arm then pitch counts and innings limits come into play. We need Greg Maddux models not Sid Finches.

ArkyWags

It feels like it was done as a reaction to young HS pitchers flaming out quickly. They’d go from throwing 50-75 innings in their HS season to 150-175. That can’t be a good idea, but they seemed to have gone too far in the other direction.

ironmike56

Ortiz is worth a look. When I’ve seen him in Altoona he has been dominant through 4 or 5. Big body and very clean, efficient mechanics who recently had his best start. We’ve all heard that he’s pitched the two “immaculate” innings this year. I would love to see how he handles a chance in the majors…..because I’ve also seen him not deal with bad breaks or men on very well.

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