Posted by: Peter Houston | February 18, 2010

Thoughts on pitching, young and old

First of all, apologies to our loyal readers for the brief hiatus. I’m sure you most of you were more than happily distracted by the Olympics and didn’t even notice. That’s sorta why there has been a lack of posts. But here I am, and here you are, so lets get this show on the road.

The oldest pitcher in the Jays predicted rotation this year will be, well, not very old. 28 to be exact. Suffice to say, it’s going to be a crew of young guns. The likely candidates for the rotation shape up like this (opening day age in brackets):

-Shaun Marcum, 28

-Ricky Romero, 26

-Brandon Morrow, 25

-Marck Rzepczynski, 24

-Brett Cecil, 23

-Dustin McGowan, 28

The reason why I mention their ages isn’t to point out the obvious lack of experience. That speaks for itself. The reason I mention it is the Year After Effect, or the Verducci Effect as it is sometimes known.

Basically, every year Tom Verducci from Sports Illustrated tracks pitchers 25 years old and younger who have increased their innings pitched by 30 or more from the previous year. These players are “at risk” of getting injured or having a worse season statistically. But in this case, “at risk” means “it’ll be a surprise if you don’t”. Of the 34 players Verducci labeled at risk in the last four years, only four got through the season without getting injured and with a lower ERA.

So, if you’re 25 of younger, and have increased your innings by 30 or more, you have an 88% chance of either getting injured or inflating your ERA.

Now, no Blue Jays pitchers were stamped with the “at risk” tab this year. Marcum’s too old for it to apply, and didn’t pitch last year. Romero only increased his workload by 14 innings. Morrow pitched mostly in relief the last two years, so he was only +5. R-zep was close but no cigar at +28. Cecil was +24. McGowan didn’t pitch last year (but was a previous victim of the effect).

The good thing is Jays management understands and respects the Verducci Effect. I seem to remember them making a conscious effort in September to limit the young starters. While the numbers (25 or younger, 30 IP or more) are by no means firm, they are definitely good guidelines.

Going into this year, there is one starter in particular who’s going to be watched closely: Brandon Morrow. The Jays will try to use him as a starter for as long as they can, but since he was mostly a reliever last year, he’s a prime candidate for Verducci Effect 2011. If he throws more than 100 innings this year (he threw 69.2 last year) he still won’t technically make Verducci’s list (because he’ll be 26 next year), but you’ve got to figure he’d still be at risk in 2011. It’s unclear at this point what the Jays will do, but needless to say, 100 innings over the course of a full season is not nearly enough for a starter.

. . .

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, some pictures of Doc grinning ear to ear in his Phillies red have emerged. My first thought was huh, that looks weird, but it doesn’t really bother me. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. The image didn’t really make sense in my mind. But as a toiled over the ages of our starters a second thought came to my head: One guy who wouldn’t be at risk of the Verducci effect is Roy Halladay. That was followed quickly by a third thought: Wow, it sucks that Doc is gone.

Ya, it sunk it pretty quick. When I looked at the picture again, I couldn’t help but wonder what conversation led to that smile. I imagine it went a little something like this:

Whatever no-name, middle-reliever that is in the picture with Doc: “Hi Leroy, I’m one of your biggest fans.  How are you today? Can I get you a coffee or anything?”

Doc: “No, I’m good. I’m just happy that Toronto nightmare is over, EH?”

(They both laugh hysterically).

Who am I kidding. Doc still loves Toronto, and Canada still loves him.

Go Phillies.



  1. Reading about Doc’s spring training debut with the Phillies really made it sink in for me. I miss him.

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