Prior to the season I took a look at the workloads of several Cardinals prospects in relation to the Verducci Rule. The basic premise of the Verducci Rule is that pitchers who increase their workload by more than 30 innings from one season to the next have a heightened risk of injury. Will Carroll has found that the Verducci Rule does not exactly translate for minor league innings, but I used it as a conservative baseline for the number of innings I thought would be appropriate for the Cardinals prospects. After the jump I’ll take a look back at the workloads for those same pitchers and how it compared to the numbers discussed prior to the season.
Obviously, Garcia is the elephant in the room in this discussion. There is no silver bullet when it comes to injuries with pitchers – we can’t point to a violation of the Verducci Rule by a young pitcher and say with certainty that he would not have been injured if his innings had been limited. Some pitchers are destined to get injured no matter how much you baby them. So don’t jump on me if what I’m about to tell you looks like a causality argument:
- Jaime Garcia, 2005: Unknown high school innings, 8 instructional league innings
- Jaime Garcia, 2006: 155 combined innings between A and A+
- Jaime Garcia, 2007: 103.1 innings in AA – season truncated due to elbow discomfort
- Jaime Garcia, 2008: 122 combined innings in AA, AAA, and MLB – season truncated for TJ Surgery
155 innings seems like an awful lot for a guy coming out of high school and pitching in his first full professional season. I took a random sampling of eleven pitchers drafted out of high school (CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Ryan Anderson, Matt White, Boof Bonser, Adam Eaton, Mike Stodolka, Sean Burnett, Jon Garland, Jake Westbrook and Adam Wainwright – obviously this is somewhat tilted towards guys that ended up in the big leagues and/or guys that were drafted early in the draft) and only three had more innings than Garcia in their first full professional season and all of those three had more substantial partial seasons than Garcia after getting drafted (also, one, Sean Burnett, had TJ surgery when he was in the minors and another, Jake Westbrook, has battled elbow problems his whole career). Ok, fine – small sample size, I know. The point is that the 20/20 vision of hindsight makes that 155 innings look bad (lesson learned? it will be interesting to see how many innings Anthony Ferrara gets next year).
All that being said, having TJ surgery at this point in his career isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. Better now than when he is in the majors earning time towards free agency. I had hoped that Garcia would be able to compete for a job in the big league rotation next year, but I wouldn’t expect to see Garcia in the majors again until late 2010 (he’ll still only be 24).
Adam was one of my true disappointments on the year (I had picked him to be the organizational pitcher of the year). He did not take the step forward that I had hoped to see. Here is his workload history:
- Adam Ottavino, 2004: 63.2 innings at Northeastern University
- Adam Ottavino, 2005: 96 innings at Northeastern University
- Adam Ottavino, 2006: 159.2 combined innings at Northeastern University, A- and A
- Adam Ottavino, 2007: 143.1 innings at A+
- Adam Ottavino, 2008: 115.1 innings at AA
Adam’s innings were limited somewhat by time off during the season due to injury. He finished the year healthy, but some worried that he continued to struggle as a result of the injury. The statistics don’t really seem to bear that out, though. He stuggled mightily in April and the one start he made in May, but when he came back in June he pitched well and his peripheral stats held up for the rest of the season. It seems to me that if you add back in the twenty or so innings that he missed to injury, Ottavino was probably on pace to throw close to the same number of innings as he had in 2007, which is a conservative pace that I don’t mind. Let’s hope that the injury was an anomaly and Adam can stay healthy and build on the second half of 2008.
Tyler lived up to his standing as one of the Cardinals top prospects during his first stop of the season at Palm Beach, but he struggled once he was moved up to Springfield. Of course, a lot of 21 year old pitchers struggle in their first exposure to the Texas League. Here is Tyler’s workload history:
- Tyler Herron, 2005: Unknown high school innings, 49.2 innings in the Rookie League
- Tyler Herron, 2006: 76 combined innings between the Rookie League and A-
- Tyler Herron, 2007: 137.1 innings in A
- Tyler Herron, 2008: 138 combined innings between A+ and AA
Note that Herron was drafted out of high school the same year as Garcia, yet still has not thrown as many innings in a season as Garcia did in his first full season of professional baseball. Granted, the comparison doesn’t mean a lot, as comparing any two young pitchers is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but it is interesting to see how differently they have been treated. Before the season I advocated for a conservative approach to Herron’s workload, hoping for no more than 150 in 2008. The Cardinals were even more conservative than I had hoped, giving him an almost identical workload to the previous year. Part of that can probably be attributed to his struggles at Springfield, as he only averaged a little more than 5.1 innings per start. His workload seems appropriate, given his age and the increase in level.
No pitcher has moved through the Cardinals system quicker than Mortensen. Drafted in 2007, he spent more than half of 2008 at triple A, getting promoted to that level with just 120 professional innings under his belt. He hadn’t exactly dominated at Springfield prior to his promotion, but his solid pitching combined with a need at Memphis and Dave Duncan’s man crush on him during Spring Training resulted in his rise. He hit a speed bump once he got to Memphis, which is completely expected given his rapid ascent.
- Clayton Mortensen, 2004: 58.1 innings at Treasure Valley JuCo
- Clayton Mortensen, 2005: 88.1 innings at Treasure Valley JuCo
- Clayton Mortensen, 2006: 81 innings at Gonzaga
- Clayton Mortensen, 2007: 180 combined innings between Gonzaga, A- and A
- Clayton Mortensen, 2008: 139.2 combined innings between AA and AAA
I hit this one right on the head, asking for about 140 innings for Mortensen this year. Prior to the season I expressed concern over the 180 innings he threw in 2007, but he doesn’t appear any worse for the wear. I appreciate the workload he was given, though, and I would expect better results from him at AAA in 2009 to also include a slow increase in innings.
Boggs was one of the young pitchers to get his shot starting at the big league level in 2008. He pitched very well at AAA, but did not find the same success against big league hitters. Here is his workload history:
- Mitchell Boggs, 2003: 11 innings at Georgia
- Mitchell Boggs, 2004: Did not pitch – tried football
- Mitchell Boggs, 2005: 119 combined innings between Georgia and A-
- Mitchell Boggs, 2006: 145 innings at A+
- Mitchell Boggs, 2007: 152.1 innings at AA
- Mitchell Boggs, 2008: 159.1 combined innings between AAA and MLB
Before the season I thought that the Cardinals had handled Boggs very well in his career, giving him a slow and steady increase in innings as he moved up the ladder. I wrote that I hoped he received somewhere in the neighborhood of 175-180 innings in 2008, but his shuttling between AAA and MLB probably stopped that from happening. He was still able to get a small increase in innings while increasing his level, so I’d say that he is still on a good track. Let’s hope he can build on his 2008 experience and have more success at the next level in 2009.