Sunday, August 29, 2010

End of the season for young pitchers

The news surrounding the baseball world over the weekend was the injury to Nationals' phenom rookie pitcher Stephen Strausburg. Strausburg has an injury in his elbow and will have to undergo Tommy John surgery which has a 12-18 month recovery time. Using Francisco Liriano as an example, it is easy to see that it takes even longer than 12-18 months for the pitcher to get back to the right form. Strausburg was getting close to his inning limit for the season so it is interesting to think about what would have happened if the Nats had decided to shut him down a start or two early. Now it will be at least two years until Strausburg will be back to his dominate form, if at all.

In the Twins organization their number one pitching prospect, Kyle Gibson, is from the same draft class as Stephen Strausburg. Strausburg was the number one pick in 2009 and Gibson was the 22nd pick that year. Luckily for Gibson and the Twins there are no similarities in the injiry department to end their 2010 campaigns.

The Twins have shut Gibson down for the year. His ankle was tweaked but he was also nearing the end of his innings limit for the season. Gibson made quite the progression this season. Moving all the way from A to AAA. He was a combined 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA and 126 Ks in 152 innings pitched. At the AAA level in had 3 starts and finished with a 1.72 ERA by only allowing 3 earned runs.

The problems that teams always encounter at this point in the season is when is it time to shut a young pitcher down. There are a variety of reasons to do this. The main reason being that most of these younger pitchers have not pitched this much in one season before this year. They are coming from college where the season and work loads are much less. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN most clubs increase a young pitchers work load by 20 percent each season. Some teams follow the formula of increasing a pitchers total innings by 25-30 innings.

The Nationals were in a tough spot. Do you keep sending your star out there or is it time to shut him down? The team was getting huge crowds at home to watch Strausburg pitch. He is the face of the franchise and he has only played a portion of one season. He continued to pitch and it is going to cost the Nationals two years of Strausburg's services. Would this have happened anyway? There is that possibility but if Strausburg would have been resting and not pitching this might have been avoided.

The Twins made the right choice in shutting Gibson down. He wasn't going to be making an impact on the club this season. He had pitched 152 innings between all three levels this year. He was ready to give his arm a rest. The Twins don't need another situation like the one that they had with Liriano. Gibson is on pace to be a staple in the Twins rotation for the next decade and I'm glad the Twins franchise is keeping an eye on his arm.

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