It has been well documented by Tom Verducci of SI.com (Year After Effect, which I highly recommend reading if you have not already) that a starter the age of 25 and younger will risk injury (the following season) if his workload is increased by 30 or more innings. As Verducci explains:
“I’ve been tracking innings jumps for young pitchers for more than a decade, using protocols established by Rick Peterson, the former Oakland pitching coach who oversaw the health and development of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, the real backbone of the Moneyball A’s. (They started 58 percent of Oakland’s games from 2000-04.) Peterson believed pitchers 25 and under should not exceed an innings increase of more than 30, though even he did so once with Mulder. I’ve tracked major league pitchers who exceeded the threshold, using all innings in a calendar year (postseason, minors and Arizona Fall League included, though not spring training).
The Year-After Effect, as I called the risk after a big innings jumps, is not a scientific, predictive system. It’s a rule of thumb to identify pitchers who may be at risk because of a sharp increase in workload. The older the pitcher, the bigger the body type and the closer to the 30-inning threshold is their increase, the less they seem to be at risk. Think Matt Harrison of the Rangers, who took a jump of 36 1/3 innings at age 25 in 2011 and pitched very well the next year.”
This year Tom has identified New York Mets starter Matt Harvey as a possible “red-flag” candidate — the 25-and-younger pitchers whose workload last year jumped by more than 30 innings — for the 2012 season.
The last thing Mets fans want to see is Harvey go the way of Wade Davis, or Jaime Garcia (both made trips to the DL the season in which they landed on Verducci’s list) or any of Verducci past ‘at-risk’ pitchers:
“Last year I identified 14 young pitchers coming off workload increases of 30 innings or more. Nine of them suffered injuries or significant regression: Derek Holland, Dylan Axelrod, Jaime Garcia, Liam Hendricks, Eric Surkamp, Chris Schwinden, Daniel Hudson, Zach Stewart and Michael Pineda.”
However, Tom does point out that:
“This is a rule of thumb meant simply to identify pitchers who pushed the envelope to put them more at risk than others. And keep in mind that (Felix) Hernandez, (Josh) Johnson and (Max) Scherzer proved last year, the risk is much lower for bigger-bodied pitchers who are at the older end of the age spectrum.”
Which luckily for us Mets fans age and being a “bigger-bodied pitcher” may be in Harvey’s favor as the 6’4″ 210 pound right hander will be turning 24 on March 27th.
Harvey made 30 starts between Triple-A and the majors last season. In his 10 starts with the Mets he allowed 18 ER while striking out 70 batters (10.6 K/9):
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