We all know about Mike Pelfrey and his ever-increasing innings count. The 24-year-old has already entered the deep end. Every inning he throws extends his career high IP. Theoretically, it also brings him closer to suffering potential arm troubles, at least if you believe in research done the last few years by the stat guys.
This week I asked Pelfrey what he knows about that research this week and he had a couple reasons for why he’s may not be in the same danger as you think. Here’s the story.
I also contacted Baseball Prospectus for the story, and BP’s Will Carroll helped outline what history has told us about young pitchers’ risk. Carroll said pitchers 25-and-under are at risk if they throw 30 or more innings than they did the year before. Here are the variables: 1. Age, 2. minor-league IP aren’t as stressful as those in the majors.
I asked about size (Pelfrey being a big boy at 6-foot-7) and he said it wasn’t currently a consideration. I also asked if Pelfrey would be safer if the Mets dialed back his IP late in the season but he still exceeded his IP limit in October…Carroll said he’d still be at risk.
What didn’t make the story but is certainly interesting was Pelfrey’s thoughts on this year compared to his final year at Wichita State. As a junior he made 19 starts and threw 139.2 IP â€” doing so in basically three monhs of work. He started on three-days rest. He threw pitch-counts that were barely considered.
“In college I threw about 145 innings in three months,” Pelfrey said. “The workload there was a lot more. There were times I came back on three days rest.”
If you remember, Pelfrey didn’t pitch in pro ball that year after he was drafted. The Mets were rumored to be pleased, out of fear he’d hurt his arm on the heels of a busy college season.
Clearly, the guy’s been busy before.
There are examples of injuries who derailed guys’ careers (Prior and Wood, Fausto Carmona this year), but there are others who were fine. One is comparable to Pelfrey â€” Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ 6-foot-7 RHP. The 23-year-old (at the time) Verlander tossed 186 IP in 2006, a 56-inning increase from the year before. How’d he make out in ’07? 18-6, 3.66 ERA, good for fifth in the AL Cy Young voting.