Friday, May 28, 2010

Response to Fangraphs Comments about Rick Porcello

In my post about Dusty Baker and Pitch Counts that was posted on the fangraphs community research blog, I noted that Tigers starters threw more than 110 pitches more often than any other team in 2009.  Then, without looking it up, I suggested,
"Maybe Rick Porcello isn’t striking anyone out because his arm is about to fall off.  :-)"
I stated this because (1) I had just read something (I don't recall where, but apparently it wasn't on fangraphs) that explained why Porcello's strikeouts were so low this year and (2) there's greater concern with overworking young pitchers, and Porcello was the prominent young Tiger pitcher who came to mind.

A couple of commenters called me out on this, and rightly so.  It turns out, Porcello has been handled quite well.  Here is the same chart that was used in the original post, but it is limited to the Tigers and gives each starting pitcher on the 2009 Tigers team given their own series.

The blue boxes are the series for the 2009 Tigers team as a whole.  There are some really interesting features in this chart.  For one, Rick Porcello is the series of pink boxes.  As the commenters pointed out, he almost never exceeded 100 pitches and was frequently limited to 80-90 pitches.  The second thing that jumps out at me is how heavy the workload was on Edwin Jackson and, especially, Justin Verlander.  Verlander threw more than 110 pitches an amazing 65% of his outings.  With Jackson struggling in Arizona, it makes me wonder if his heavy workload last year might be at least part of the cause.

How does 2010 look for the Tigers?  Here is the chart.

Obviously the points are a bit more sparse with only a quarter of the season in the books, but we're seeing a similar pattern to 2009.  Porcello is not being overused.  Verlander has thrown more than 115 pitches in all but three starts.  With no Edwin Jackson in the rotation, the Tigers' team profile is more in line with other teams.

My takeaways from this are two: (1) Research it before you type it (even if it isn't the point of your post) and (2) Looking at the general team profile to compare teams may not be sufficient, as some players on the same team may well be handled significantly differently.  (I guess I would also add that Justin Verlander is either an amazing workhorse in this day and age or he's probably overdue for a big injury.)  :-)

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