Sports Outside the Beltway

Girardi and Pitchers, A Second Look

Girardi is in as the new skipper of the Yankees. He has a reputation of putting winning ahead of organizational aims. The mediots who chortle and say that won’t be a problem in New York misunderestimate the effort Brian Cashman has made to develop the pinstriped pitching troika of Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

One of my esteemed co-bloggers posted an interesting study of Girardi’s one year of managerial experience, in particular the way he handled the young Marlin pitchers.

I disagree a little with Travis’, but you can judge for yourself, down below or by clicking here. I come down on the side of the argument that any overuse of a young pitcher puts him a a disproportionately greater risk of developing serious arm trouble than similar abuse of a pitcher between 26 and 34 years old.

Here’s a highlight of Travis analysis:

I looked at Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) in 2006 (for starters over 100 ip) – Florida’s starters accumulated a total of over 147,000 abuse points, whereas Yankee starters reached just under 48,000. This appears to be a huge difference until you realize Florida had six pitchers qualify while the Yanks had just four. A better way to equalize the measuring stick is to take the average PAP per pitcher: for Florida it was about 25,000 while the Yanks had about 12,000. So the gap isn’t quite as big as it seemed but there’s still a gap.

PAP per pitcher is not an especially good way to look at individual abuse. To get a good gauge of how a manager uses his staff overall it works just fine, but individual pitchers, and in particular younger or older pitchers, deserve individual scrutiny.

By looking at individual efforts, things come more into focus.

Sanchez 2006 PAP^3 4,651
Nolasco 2006 PAP^3 4,300
Johnson 2006 PAP^3 13,211
Olsen 2006 PAP^3 13,256
Willis 2006 PAP^3 108,656

I omitted Brian Moehler – the sixth pitcher Travis references – from my tabulations, as he was the only starter over 25 in the 2006 Marlins rotation. This alone shows the tendency to send young arms well past 100 pitches far too frequently. But it is not the only way that these pitchers were mismanaged by Girardi in his effort to win now.

Bringing young arms along following the so-called “Rule of 30″ is a prudent strategy. Expecting a young pitcher to jump from 120 college innings pitched to 180 innings pitched without suffering fatigue or injury is foolhardy. So is expecting a pitcher to jump from 140 minor league IP to 200 major league IP, without consequence. The “Rule of 30″ offers a conservative strategy of ramping up a young pitcher’s inning tally by 30 inning increments from year to year. Let’s compare inning totals for those five Marlin starters both at the major and minor league level for 2005-2007. The middle column is when Girardi was manager and these totals include both major and minor league innings for all three years.

Sanchez 136, 200.3, 30
Nolasco 161.7, 140, 55
Johnson 152, 169.3, 36.3
Olsen 100.7, 186.7, 176.7
Willis 236.3, 223.3, 205.3

Sanchez was definitely over extended in 2006, and with the concerns about injury with his arm to begin with, that abuse may be the difference between him being a valuable pitcher for the next ten years and him being a flame out. You hope that is not the case.

Nolasco’s overuse was not from the Marlins, at least not in 2006, but more likely from the Cubs, whose track record of developing young arms is spotty at best (negligent at worst). His injury last year is more than likely the result of consistent overuse, rather than a burst of abuse.

Johnson’s injury this past season may not be the result of the number of PAP^3 he took in 2006 as a 22 year old. But it is hard to argue with a young arm breaking down after having stretches like this one in 06: 101, 109, 105, 94, 110, 103, 116, 109, 112, 105 over ten starts. Interestingly, he had an average of 5 days of rest between those starts. So even though he was effectively getting extra rest, that did not mitigate the strain of 100+ pitch outings. He gave up 14 earned runs (20 runs overall) in that ten game stretch, but his last 12 starts allowed 33 earned runs and 34 overall runs. His ERA climbed from 2.21 to 3.10. Got tired? Yep. And when a young arm is tired, that’s when it is most likely to strain or tear from overuse.

Those 108,656 PAP^3 for Willis, combined with his participation in the World Baseball Classic, go a long way to explaining the Willis’ decline of the last two seasons. Girardi leaned on Willis, because as the lone survivor of the purge, he was the de facto ace. A caveat, McKeon had abused Willis the previous year as well, so Girardi was following team precedent. Regardless, Dontrelle was still a young pitcher whose arm was nearing critical usage at a young age. How much he comes back is anyone’s guess. An statistically minded observer of baseball suggested Livan Hernandez when I posed the question to him.

Olsen’s 2007 inconsistency seems likely the result of injury due to double abuse, exceeding the normal rule of thirty increase of innings, and the second most PAP^3 among the 25 and under crowd. It seems unlikely to me that he does not make it through the 2008 season without a serious breakdown.

Five young pitchers, each showing marked decline or serious injury after Girardi’s tenure at the helm. For the sake of the franchise, Brian Cashman, needs to ensure that Girardi manages the young arms of Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy better than he did the young arms of the Marlins. I think he will. Girardi knew he was a sacrificial lamb in Florida. And so the only way to salvage his reputation as a budding managerial star was to win at all costs in his lone season in Miami. Now with a three year deal, from New York, it seems to me, he will play the good organizational soldier and follow the orders from on high about not wearing out the long term investments.

Still, the results of his last managerial job should strike fear into the hearts of Yankee fans.

For more information on PAP^3, click here.

Related Stories:
Recent Stories:

I think the biggest difference will be that Girardi gets along with the GM – not the case in Florida. I have enough faith in Cashman and Nardi Contreras to impose the ‘rule of 30′ on the Trio. After all, they did it with future HOFer Joe Torre.

Instead of feeling ‘fear’ with Girardi, I feel rejuvenated and excited about 2008. Especially with Dave Eiland becoming pitching coach.

Posted by Travis G. | October 31, 2007 | 11:50 pm | Permalink

RSS feed for these comments.

Comments are Closed


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.