April 28, 2003

The day after

Yesterday's entry about A.J. Burnett's injury resulted in one of the highest visitor-counts this blog has seen so far. I also got a ton of really good emails from readers, the entry got linked to from a bunch of really good websites and basically a lot of people were interested in the Burnett-situation.

Today being the next day, I feel like I should have some brilliant follow-up of some kind. Unfortunately, I don't. I'm still just as angry, I still think Jeff Torborg is just as big of an idiot, I still feel incredibly bad for A.J. Burnett and I am still very frustrated by the entire thing.

There is, however, some news on the situation...

According to ESPN.com:

"Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett will undergo elbow surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament, and it's not yet known how long he'll be sidelined."

This is obviously just about as bad as the news could have been, although I did say yesterday that surgery and a very long stint on the DL were both what I expected to happen. Still, the reality of it stinks just the same.

I got a lot of emails, including one from "Mr. Injury" himself, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, wondering how it felt to correctly predict a serious physical injury for someone.

Will has experience in this area because he correctly predicted a serious injury for Phil Nevin before the season started. Actually, it's more impressive than that. On March 4th Will wrote the "Team Health Report" for the Padres, just as he did for the other 29 teams.

In it, he said the following:

"I'll either look like a genius or moron with this, but I expect Nevin to have some sort of season-ending injury in the early stages of the season."

Just 3 days later (yes, 3 days!), Phil Nevin dove for a fly ball during a spring training game and separated his shoulder. He is out for the entire 2003 season.

My prediction isn't that dramatic or impressive as Will's. I first mentioned being worried about Burnett's future in August and the two most recent entries about him, in which I predicted bad things for his right arm, came on March 31st and April 15th. Burnett was officially "injured" on April 26th, I believe.

Still, in a weird way, I feel somewhat proud that I "got it right." As Will Carroll puts it, you feel "kinda good, kinda sick inside."

I have said quite a few times that A.J. Burnett has been abused by Jeff Torborg and the Marlins and I got quite a few emails yesterday from people wondering where exactly I draw the line for a pitcher being abused. In other words, let's assume A.J. Burnett was abused, but someone like Barry Zito has not been. What is the line that Burnett has crossed that Zito hasn't?

To be honest, I really don't know, and that's what makes this entire thing so frustrating. If someone knew the line and could show evidence to prove it, I bet even Jeff Torborg would pay attention. That's a big statement, but if someone had evidence that showed that when a 24 year old pitcher throws 120+ pitches in more than 20% of his starts he suffers a major injury 52% of the time, don't you think even Torborg would pay attention?

Unfortunately, such evidence doesn't exist yet, and may never. That said, I am confident that a rational person can figure out a point to draw the line with pitch-counts for young pitchers.

Personally, I would rarely, if ever, allow a young pitcher under the age of 25 or 26 to throw more than about 115 pitches in a game. I would also never allow them to throw over 110 pitches in back-to-back appearances.

My general feeling on pitch-counts and pitcher injuries is that it is not the "average" number that hurts a pitcher and it is not the amount of innings that hurts a pitcher.

I talked yesterday about how the average number of pitches is misleading and useless and, with reagrd to the innings, I would have no problem with a young pitcher being used (correctly) in a 4-man rotation, so obviously throwing 200+ innings doesn't bother me.

No, I think it all comes down to how often a pitcher throws what I would consider a dangerous amount of pitches.

A guy who averages 105 pitches per game, but rarely goes over 110 and almost never goes over 120 is at a much lower risk (in my opinion) than a guy that frequently throws 120+ pitches in a game and often goes multiple starts in a row with 120 or 125 pitches thrown in each game.

Take Barry Zito, for example. Last year Zito won the Cy Young Award, pitched 229 innings and averaged 105.4 pitches per game. Meanwhile, Burnett averaged 109.5 pitches per game. So, looking at just averages, is 4.1 pitches per game really that big of a deal? No, but how they got to those averages is.

Burnett threw 110+ pitches in 63.0% of his starts.

Zito threw 110+ pitches in 37.1% of his starts.

Burnett threw 120+ pitches in 37.0% of his starts.

Zito threw 120+ pitches in 2.8% of his starts.

Burnett threw 125+ pitches in 25.9% of his starts.

Zito threw 125+ pitches in 0.0% of his starts.

One averaged 105.4 and one averaged 109.5. The huge difference comes from the fact that Burnett was constantly (63% of the time) throwing at least 110 pitches in a start, while Zito reached that number about once every 3 starts or so. The more telling fact is that Burnett reached 120+ pitches in 37.0% of his starts, which is the same percentage of starts that Zito reached 110 pitches in.

Meanwhile, Zito reached the 120 pitch mark exactly 1 time in 35 starts and never got to 125 or above, while Burnett was at 37.0% and 25.9% for both those numbers.

Like I said, there is no formula for keeping pitchers healthy and there isn't a set line that will keep them healthy if they don't cross it. That said, I will continue to believe that a pitcher throwing 120-135 pitches in 35-40% of his starts is at a serious risk for injury and I will continue to think and say that a manager that allows that to happen is a complete idiot.

Okay, enough with Burnett for a while. Talking about it is just making me angrier and angrier!

"The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog," Johan Santana, finally proved to be human over the weekend, allowing 2 runs off of a homer to Magglio Ordonez in the 8th inning of the Twins' 7-4 loss to the White Sox on Saturday. Johan's ERA is now 1.08 and he has struck out 23 batters in 16 2/3 innings (or 12.4/9 IP), which is even higher than his K rate from last year!

While Johan is still trapped in the bullpen, it appears as though "The Official Hitter of Aaron's Baseball Blog," Bobby Kielty, has finally been freed. Bobby has now started 11 straight games. He is hitting .339/.431/.613, so I think it is probably safe to say he is in the starting lineup for good now, which pleases me a great deal. As soon as he reaches 15 consecutive starts I think I'll take down the "Bobby Kielty Liberation Watch," at which point Johan will be the only Twins prisoner worth tracking.


As many of you know, Rob Neyer is one of the biggest reasons why I am such a baseball nut and I admire him a great deal and love his writing. Along with his work for ESPN.com, Rob has been maintaining RobNeyer.com for quite a while now, although lately it hasn't had very much as far as new content goes.

Rob recently completely remodeled the website, updating the whole design and adding a lot of new content. In addition to that, he is coming out with a new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups."

This is Rob's third book and I really enjoyed the first two ("Baseball Dynasties" and "Feeding the Green Monster")

As long as Rob keeps writing books, I will keep buying them. And I would strongly suggest everyone else does too. He's one of the best baseball writers out there and, although I haven't seen the new book yet, I am very confident that we will all enjoy it.

I just bought my copy from Amazon.com yesterday. The book is a real bargain. It's only $11.20 if you get it from Amazon (30% off the cover-price) and you should have it within a couple days of ordering.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, click on the following link:


Amazon.com - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups"

The cool thing about clicking on the above link is that you can not only buy Rob's book for only $11 and get it by next week, you can also send a little cash my way! I have an "account" set up with Amazon, so that I get a 5% commission on any referrals I send them via this blog.

Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. Amazon just gives me 5% whenever you click on a link provided here and buy something from them.

So, if you go buy Rob's book for $11.20, I get a massive $0.56! That might not sound like a whole lot, but if I can get 20 of you to click on the link I provided and buy the book, I would get enough commission for me to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.

No pressure though, I am not asking for handouts (although I will certainly accept them!). If you think you are going to buy Rob's book at some point and you wouldn't be completely opposed to me getting 56 cents, click on the link above and you'll get a great book and I'l get enough money to buy half a taco at Taco John's. It's really a win-win situation.

Today's picks:

Florida (Redman) +150 over Arizona (Kim)

Philadelphia (Wolf) +130 over Los Angeles (Brown)

Chicago (Wood) -110 over San Francisco (Rueter)

Boston (Wakefield) -155 over Kansas City (George)

Tampa Bay (Sosa) +210 over Minnesota (Rogers)

Total to date: + $995

W/L record: 49-47 (I didn't make any picks yesterday, I am still 2 games above .500 and up a total of $995 on the season)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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