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When you add his 22 minor league innings to his 137.3 major league innings, one realizes that Dustin McGowan has pitched 159.3 innings this season. His career high is 153 in 2003. Since then he’s thrown 31 (2004), 101.3 (2005) and 111.3 (2006). The Jays management team currently is weighing the risk of overworking his arm and a potential injury against preparing McGowan for a full season in the rotation next year and, hopefully, a September pennant race.

Bauxites, how do you handle this talented young arm? Do you keep him in the rotation the rest of the season? Shut him down immediately? Is there an innings pitched threshold he’d need to reach after which point you’d remove him from the rotation?

Also, Shaun Marcum’s situation isn’t as alarming, as he’s thrown 146.7 innings, compared to 131.3 in 2006 and 157 in 2005. However, while we’re talking about McGowan, how do you handle Marcum? Is there any cause for caution there?

Handling the Young Starters | 21 comments | Create New Account
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Ryan Day - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 12:29 PM EDT (#173960) #
I don't think I'd shut either pitcher down entirely. But there are plenty of reliever around now, and a couple more could be added (Gronk hasn't been called back up, has he?). So definitely treat them with kid gloves, 80-90 pitches per game.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#173961) #
Green's rules of thumb for post-TJ power pitchers (such as McGowan and Burnett) are as follows.  The first choice is to move them to the pen to maximize the leverage associated with the limited number of innings that you can expect to get from them.  If this is not possible, stick them on a firm 100 pitch per game, 180 inning per season limit. 

With Marcum, the issue is completely different.  His strikeout rate has fallen precipitously over the last 3 starts particularly (6 strikeouts in 16 innings), so there would be little harm in giving him some rest.  I would advise skipping him in the rotation once, and letting Josh Banks perhaps have a spot start.

FisherCat - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#173962) #
I never really put much thought into that, until hearing the Red Sox doing it with Clay Bucholz.  But it entered my mind after seeing Marcum last night.  He just looked winded and, if my memory serves me right, isn't his line from last night's start similar to his last start?  I'm just starting to think that the load is catching up with him, considering he was being groomed as a reliever in the spring.  So he probably didn't train for a starter's workload.  So I would say let's see where both of them stand innings wise after the next Yankee series, and then maybe think about Banks as the replacement.  (Unless his inning threshold is nearing?!)
Flex - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#173963) #
With Marcum, the issue is completely different.  His strikeout rate has fallen precipitously over the last 3 starts particularly (6 strikeouts in 16 innings), so there would be little harm in giving him some rest

I wonder if this explains why Marcum was taken out after five innings last night. I didn't see the game. Was there any other reason he would have been removed?
timpinder - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 01:02 PM EDT (#173964) #
If I were the manager, I'd put Janssen into the rotation to see what we had for 2008 and I'd go with a six-man rotation for the remainder of they year.  That would give my young starters some extra rest and with nine guys in the pen, I'd go with a strict 100 pitch count for all of my starters, including Marcum and McGowan, for the remainder of the year as well. 
Chuck - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 01:27 PM EDT (#173965) #

McGowan is 25. Does that still qualify him as a young pitcher? Is he as vulnerable as a pitcher in his early 20's?

I'm all for erring on the side of caution in another .500 season. There are lots of alternatives over the next 3 weeks if guys like McGowan and Marcum needed to miss a turn. And were Halladay to forego his run at the consecutive complete game record, that would be fine with me as well.

MatO - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 01:30 PM EDT (#173967) #
I wouldn't change a thing because we'll be making the same points a year from now.  Let them learn how to deal with fatigue because if the team is in a race in September in the future they'll have had that experience.  You can never guarantee a pitcher's health.  Nobody babies their minor league pitchers more than the Blue Jays and pitchers still get hurt.
Ryan Day - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 01:54 PM EDT (#173968) #
I was president of the Janssen for Rotation club early on, but there's really no point in making him a starter for September after five months of one-inning appearances. That said, I would try and bump up his outings to 2-3 innings at a time, maybe teaming him with Marcum. (That's assuming he recovers clearnly from the ankle injury)
Mike Green - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#173969) #
If I were to bet on one pitcher who can give the Jays 220 innings in each of 2009 and 2010, it would be Casey Janssen, because of his arm health and his delivery.
R Billie - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 02:55 PM EDT (#173971) #

I'm not so sure about Janssen as a starter.  Because his delivery has so much effort as a drop and drive guy (his legs and trunk are really worked hard), I'm not sure he can sustain that for 100+ pitches per outing.  I think a major reason for his success this year has been his ability to stay within that delivery for short outings.

That said, I think he's a better bet as a starter long term than say Jessie Litsch, Gustavo Chacin, or Josh Towers.  Janssen as a 5th starter wouldn't be bad at all.

Marcum has a short armed delivery so you definately have to be aware of fatigue and faltering mechanics with him.  Might be a good idea to keep Fasano around in case he has to work with Shaun on his mechanics some more.  I think if they limit him to 80-90 pitches the rest of the year it wouldn't be the worst thing.

Same with McGowan who tends to struggle with his pitch count at times.  If you can keep him under 90 pitches that would probably be best for him in his first full year as a starter off the surgery.

It would also be nice if the team had realistic expectations about Burnett's ability to handle a heavy workload on his repaired elbow and kept his outings on a stricter 100 pitch count.  For them to send him out for a whole lot of 110+ pitch outings this year, many times on consecutive occasions, and then act frustrated when he's hurt, is really puzzling.

ayjackson - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 03:07 PM EDT (#173972) #

As it stands now, McGowan, Burnett and Litsch are slated for five more starts and Doc and Marcum slated for four each.

McGowan is at 157 innings and if allowed to average 6.2 the rest of the way, would accumulate about 200 innings on the year.  I think this is a dangerous amount given his history.  I would be inclined to shut him down after three more starts or have him split his starts with Banks or Janssen.  And though he's pitching strong right now and maintaining his velocity and movement through 100 pitches, I would limit his pitches to the 95-100 range.

Litsch is at 157 as well and threw about 160 last year.  Five starts at 6 innings per should leave him around 190.  He's not a power arm so I think he should be comfortable with the progression to 190 innings this year.  I would protect him from high pitch outings though (105-110 limit).

Marcum is only at 147, but has shown some signs of tiredness.  I'd keep him on a pitch count and let him finish the year in the rotation, but monitor his status.  If he continues to look tired I'd give him an extra day, and failing that, skip a turn.

Burnett doesn't need to be shut down.  He needs his pitches limited though.  Never over 110 and for every 110, throw in a 95-100 pitch outing.  Of course, this won't happen.  They seem hell-bent on wearing him down.

While Janssen is recovering, Wolfe should get the setup role to test him in higher leverage situations (along with Frasor).

Janssen should come back as a high-leverage long reliever.  Let him come into close games where pitch counts have come into play (or extra innings or high scoring games) to get some extended work.

Banks and Towers can take McGowan's turn in the rotation after being shut down or spot start for Marcum, if necessary.

R Billie - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 03:09 PM EDT (#173973) #

I wouldn't change a thing because we'll be making the same points a year from now.  Let them learn how to deal with fatigue because if the team is in a race in September in the future they'll have had that experience.  You can never guarantee a pitcher's health.  Nobody babies their minor league pitchers more than the Blue Jays and pitchers still get hurt.

I would disagree that no-one babies their minor league pitchers more.  Plenty of clubs monitor inning workloads very heavily and almost all of them now believe that workload, especially for younger pitchers, plays a major part in keeping them healthy.

Workload isn't everything, it's just a risk factor.  The more pitches you throw, the higher the risk that you throw a pitch slightly wrong and the unusual motion puts undue strain on you.  The more fatigue comes in, that risk goes even higher...pitching tired more than high pitch/inning counts is quite high risk in terms of causing significant injury.

And many times, fatigue isn't something you can really deal with once it's set in.  Someone lifting weights can't just keep going once their muscles begin to exhaust.  You get tired, you start to cheat in your mechanics, and if you really push the matter you can hurt yourself and can no longer exercise at full strength or at all.

Now improving your endurance and strength and general fitness can allow you to last longer and handle bigger workloads.  But like anything it has to be ramped up slowly and conscientiously.  You don't go from running ten laps to a hundred over the course of a few months.  It takes a while to build up endurance.

Even Doc feels strain and he's probably one of the strongest and most fit players the Jays have ever had combined with being very pitch count efficient for the most part.

MatO - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 03:52 PM EDT (#173975) #

I didn't say no one else babies their pitchers.

A lot of the recent starts by Jays pitchers have been with five days rest because of days off.

I think there needs to be a more critical look at today's accepted norms.  Where does the 110 pitch count come from?  Why not 105 or 115.  Are all pitchers the same?  Should Halladay have the same pitch count as Marcum?  In Japan apparently the pitchers throw every day.   Atlanta had their pitchers throw more often between starts.  BP had an article a few years ago concerning the use of 4 man rotations in the past and found no increased injury risk.  There was even debate in Da Box about whether Halladay couldn't be used in a 3 day off rotation  to use him more often.  The point I'm making is there is far more about pitching and injuries that we don't know than what we do know.

Jim - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 04:19 PM EDT (#173976) #
6.5 back.  7 left with the team leading the wild card and the Tigers and Mariners sinking like stones you've got to ride them until you are out.  Ask me again next Friday, take 3 out of 4 this weekend and Monday then 2 out of three from the Yankees and you might be 4 back and in second place.
Nigel - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 05:21 PM EDT (#173980) #
This is one of those questions where the answer from the real manager and arm-chair managers is likely to be vastly different. I fear that the real manager may feel that it is important to get to 85-86 wins so that he and management can put the blame on the injuries being the difference between making the playoffs and not. Only getting to .500 on the year makes it a hard sell to keep the manager and the team exactly in tact for next year. I think Gibbons may feel the need to ride his starters to keep his job (and he may be right).

This arm char manager would alternate skipping Marcum and McGowan all the way down the stretch and pitch Banks a few times. No starter would go past 110 pitches and Litsch, Marcum and McGowan would top out at 90 pitches - but hey I'm just a fan.
trent77 - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 05:49 PM EDT (#173981) #
at what point in time did the magic numbers become 200 innings a season and 100 pitches a game for a starting pitcher?  i'm sure there is some extensive study out there somewhere, i've just never quite understood why some people work up such a fuss about these two magic numbers and assume an injury is just waiting to happen when they are passed.  You'd think with improvements in medicine, nutrition and training that these numbers will eventually become less scary.
Geoff - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 09:22 PM EDT (#173987) #
Where have you gone, Gustavo Chacin?
parrot11 - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 11:15 PM EDT (#173991) #
I would shut him down around the 180IP mark. I want our starters (in this case Marcum and McGowan) to be able to throw 200-225IP next season.
Jimbag - Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 11:42 PM EDT (#173995) #
You can't really apply a strict IP or pitch count limit to any pitchers....things just aren't that cut and dried.

Innings pitched is really misleading, because you don't know how much each inning took out of the pitchers' arms. Sometimes you get out of an inning having thrown fewer than 10 pitches, and sometimes you have to work hard to get your outs...the stats don't reflect that. Same thing goes with pitch count - you can be up over 100 pitches and still be hitting your spots with good velocity, just having trouble getting the outs (ie.: a lot of good pitches fouled off, greasy base hits that should have been outs, errors, etc.)

This is where baseball gets truly subjective. You have to be able to evaluate how each pitcher is performing in each individual game situation. Add that to what you've observed in their previous start(s), and make a judgment call. If you saw Marcum (for example) start to sail fastballs high after 75 pitches in 2 straight ballgames, you might be inclined to watch for fatigue a little more closely in his next start.when he got up over the 60 pitch can't just cap him at 74, rather you pay closer attention to him then to see if this is going to be a recurring problem (which would indicate fatigue).

All of this requires keen powers of observation, a trust in your coaching staff to be able to keep you informed of any trends that they've noticed that may have eluded you, and a bit of intuition....which in my opinion means Gibbons may not be the best manager to be entrusted with what has the makings of a fine young staff.

ayjackson - Friday, September 07 2007 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#174027) #
Here's a quote from Rick Litsch off Blue Jay Way regarding shutting down Jesse:   I believe he threw around 250 innings between college and the minors in 2005. Trust me, he's not even close to tired. He always had a rubber arm.  
BigTimeRoyalsFan - Friday, September 07 2007 @ 11:40 PM EDT (#174086) #
Clearly we can discuss this all we want, but it doesn't matter. Look at what happened tonight. The Jays were fresh off a day off and have an expanded roster and still decided to send out McGowan with a 5 run lead in the 8th at 94 pitches. While I have no problem with that, I do when you hear from the manager's own mouth the discussion of limiting the workload of his young pitchers. Gibbons has absolutely no idea how to handle a pitching staff.
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