Friday, September 21, 2007

Lince-Shutdown

After 146.1 IP in the majors and 31.0 IP in the minors - for a total of 177.1 IP - Tim Lincecum has been shut down by the Giants, with Bochy noting, "We just added it all up and said, 'There's just not enough to gain by throwing him out there the next couple of starts. The guy's too valuable to us. He's our future, and we'll just go ahead and rest him up and get him ready for next year." He emphasized that there's nothing wrong with Lincecum physically that led to this decision.

Mike Krukow, on his regular morning spot on KNBR today, assured the hosts that Lincecum is not injured, that this is just a precaution when dealing with young arms, particularly one who only last year was throwing in college and the minors. The college and minor leagues are not as long as a major league season, he noted, and he felt that to be safe, you shouldn't increase the pitcher's IP load more than 25 or so IP over the previous year.

In 2006, Lincecum had 156.0 IP in college plus his professional starts, so the increase in IP was only 21.1 IP from 2006 to 2007. However, from 2005 to 2006, he went from 104.1 IP to 156.0 IP, a huge jump. So by Krukow's standards, he probably shouldn't have pitched much, if at all, as a pro last season, as Lincecum jumped up in IP solely from college was from 104.1 IP to 125.1 IP, leaving at most one start or a series of relief appearances in the pros if this limit was followed.

Cain is Able

At least his jump is not as bad as what Cain did a couple of years ago while coming up our system. Cain didn't jump too much from his signing to year to the next - I assume he pitched at least 40-50 IP in high school, though I'm not too familar with the normal IP load for high schoolers - but from 2003 to 2004, he jumped from 74.0 IP to a combined 158.2 IP (started in San Jose and ended in Norwich). He then jumped again to 192.0 IP in 2005, when he pitched mainly in AAA before a sterling beginning to his major league career, and he really hasn't looked back since.

Since then he has been pretty much around the same. After the 192.0 IP in 2005, he had 190.1 IP in 2006 and 193.0 IP thus far in 2007, with just one more start to go this season (only 9 games left and he just pitched yesterday, means that he pitches the 5th of 9 games then the season ends). He was hoping to reach 200 IP, but it would take a very well-pitched game to reach that.

More critical, to me, is his total pitch count. After yesterday's 113 pitch game, he has a total of 3,241 pitches thrown this season. With one start to go, he will end up around 3,350. I'll admit this is unscientific but I went through a stat book that listed each pitcher's pitch count by season and it seemed like anytime a pitcher would exceed 3,500 pitches in a season, within a season or two after that, his key pitching metrics dipped downward, whether by injury or a significant drop in production. The only pitchers I can remember who were able to beat the odds on that was Randy Johnson , and we'll never know whether it was wear and tear or just plain old age that is causing his recent problems with injuries, and, of course, Roger Clemens.

Lincecum Pitch Count

Lincecum is at 2,399 pitches in the majors this year, which averaged out to 16.4 pitches per inning. With 31.0 IP in the minors (and probably much easier innings than in the majors), assuming 16.4 pitches for the minors (conservatively high), that's 508 pitches. Together, he has thrown approximately 3,000 pitches this season. He would have had two more starts so he would have ended up at above 3,200 pitches had he not been shut down.

Given the high and hard usage that his arm received in college - his PAP abuse score was off the charts in college, among the worse each year - I can see why the Giants are being cautious with their wunderkind. That he is still not icing down his arm, though, speaks to how little actual abuse he has received the past couple of years.

Not that I'm campaigning for Lincecum to stay in the rotation. I think this is the right, conservative move. Lefty Malo was pushing for this one start ago, when his ERA was under 4.00; I could go either way, but I think if Lincecum had his druthers, he would rather start the games.

Opportunity for Others

In particular, at least before the injury to Sanchez took him out of the rotation, one reason I would have shut down Lincecum sooner than later, was that I wanted to see Pat Misch put back in the rotation. I don't know if he'll be a good starter, some relievers can't translate their success to starting (see Ryan Madsen of the Phillies, great reliever, but his experiment as a starter last season was an unmitigated disaster), but Misch was so dominating in AAA that I think the Giants owe it to themselves to see if he can do it as a starter, which he had been for his whole career until very recently.

Now with the injuries and this shutdown, our rotation is reduced to Zito, Cain, Misch, and Correia. There is talk about starting Atchison, but why not throw a bone to Hennessey and let him start? He, like Correia, has been a good soldier and did the relief thing, but at heart they are still starters. Plus, he has been horrible as a reliever recently. Maybe as a starter, he'll get an adrenaline rush that gets him back on track. Just a thought, particularly since it looks like Walker and Wilson at the end of the game right now, there's only middle and long relief plus mop-up work left to do.

It won't hurt to have another starting option, particularly if the Giants do trade a starter from the rotation. Plus if he does well in his starts, he could become a tradeable commodity as well, he has pitched nicely the past two seasons as a reliever and then would also has appeal as a starter. And if he stinks, then clearly his arm is tired and we shut him down too. Seems like a win-win to start him.

Which is unlike starting Atchison. He's a long time AAAA pitcher, getting up there in years, being 31. Of course he should dominate AAA, he's so much older and experienced. I don't see much win in starting him, other than giving him a big thrill. And even if he did well, it would not enhance his trade value, as he has no trade value.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos should go out to the Giants for making the right decision re shutting down Lincecum. They should absolutely do the same thing with Cain. They need to protect these arms. Conservatism is a good strategy with these 2 pitchers.

    ReplyDelete

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