Work load. Its an ugly word if you’re a pitcher, and a potentially devastating word if you’re a fan. The thought of your teams ace, who mowed down the competition in the regular season, being burnt out in the post season is enough to give a die hard fans nightmares. So naturally when Phillies All Star Cole Hamels recently admitted he is experiencing “dead arm” panic spread through the city. Talk of the Phillies resting their starters for the post season popped up, and even talk of the Phillies moving to a six man rotation were suggested. But are the Phillies pitchers really being overworked?
Yes its true, the innings for the Phillies big 3 (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels) are starting to reach 200. As of August 16th Halladay has thrown 175.2 IP, Lee has thrown 172 IP, Hamels has thrown 172 IP, and Roy Oswalt, in an injury plagued year, has thrown 84.1 IP. To look at the stats you would think the pitchers will surely be gassed in October, but I’m here to tell you that should not be the case.
The problem with this theory, the one that says the Phillies current staff is racking up too many innings, and is being overworked, is that it’s a myth. Innings pitched is not what wears the arm down, yet we always look at how many innings a pitcher has thrown and attach it to work load. Pitches, and not innings pitched, is the real test of a pitchers work load, and is a much more accurate way to judge if a pitcher is truly being overworked.
All pitchers are different, you don’t need to be an expert to know that. A Roy Halladay inning is much more different that a Joe Blanton inning. A typical Blanton inning would see him throw around 15-25 pitches, where as Halladay routinely throws innings where he will throw less than 10 pitches. At the end of the year, Halladay will have more innings pitched, while Blanton would likely have more pitches thrown. So after crunching the numbers I’ve come to the realization that the Philadelphia Phillies pitchers aren’t being overworked, but are actually right on track from where they were a year ago.
Both the 2010, and 2011 Roy Halladay, as of August 16th, had pitched in 24 games. The 2010 Halladay pitched 193 innings last year, an astronomical amount. This season however Halladay has pitched in 175.2 innings. Looking at the innings you would think Halladay’s work load has decreased substantially, but than you look at the amount of pitches he has thrown. At this point one year ago Halladay had thrown 2,628 pitches. This season Halladay has thrown 2,646 pitches. Even though Halladay has thrown less innings this season, he’s actually thrown more pitches than he did in 2010. This really should come as no surprise to fans. Halladay was new to the National League last season and hitters were unfamiliar with him. This season however they have seen him a few times, and are making him work a lot more to defend that NL Cy Young.
The biggest difference from last season, than this season, would be Cole Hamels innings differential. Last season at this time Hamels had 154 innings pitched but this season that number has jumped to 172 innings. The 18 inning difference would be a good theory as to Hamels shoulder inflammation…..until you look at the amount of pitches he has actually thrown. In 2010 Hamels had pitched in 24 games by August 16th and thrown 2,502 pitches. This season he has taken the hill 25 times while throwing just 2,519 pitches.
Hamels has pitched in one more game, and has only thrown 19 more pitches than he did in 2010. A year ago Hamels was averaging 104.25 pitches per game, that number however has been lowered to 100.76 this season. Hamels has managed to lower the amount of pitches he is throwing each game, and raise his innings pitched. Simply put; the 2011 Cole Hamels is pitching much more effectively than the 2010 Cole Hamels.
Cliff Lee is a similar story. Lee however did start out the 2010 campaign on the disabled list and was a work horse for both the Mariners and the Rangers. In 2010 he had pitched in 21 games, pitching 2,267 pitches. This season Lee has started 2 games, throwing 2,543 pitches for an average of 105.96 pitches per game. Since a year ago, Lee had started 3 less games, the number of pitches is off by a bit. But when you take the average amount of pitches from 2010 (107.95) and multiply it by three you get a new total for Cliff Lee; 2,591 Pitches. Lee was on pace to throw more pitches in 2010, than he is in 2011.
Oswalt is a similar case as Lee as this season he too has seen his injury problems. In 2010 Oswalt threw in 23 games, for a total of 2,265 pitches. This season however Oswalt has started in 15 games for a total of 1,299 pitches. Oswalt has thrown less innings than last year (84.1 innings in 2011 to 148 innings in 2010) but he is also averaging less pitches thrown this season than last season (86.6 in 2011 to 98.48 in 2010).
When you actually look at the stats you will see that Charlie Manuel isn’t overworking his pitchers, but is using them less than they were used last season. Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt are averaging less pitches thrown per game than they were a year ago. Only Roy Halladay is throwing more, as he is averaging 110.25 pitches per game this season compared to his 2010 campaign where he averaged 109.50 pitches per game.
While both Hamels, and Lee have more innings pitched this season than they did a year ago, both are averaging less pitches thrown by a decent margin. Roy Oswalt is being coddled this season, and rightfully so, as he is averaging 11.88 less pitches per game this season than last.
The next time you read the paper, turn on your television, or listen to sports talk radio and they are discussing the pitchers work load, and how the big four is being overworked this season, just remember that they aren’t. This is purely a myth. There is nothing wrong with racking up innings if you are doing it effectively and the 2011 Phillies rotation is pitching more effectively than the 2010. Plain and simple.