Looking At The Most Innings Pitched Over The Past 5 Years: Will Heavy Workloads Lead To Struggles?

Does a pitchers workload eventually catch up to them?  There obvious is some concern that a pitcher who routinely works 220+ innings a season will breakdown.  With the rash of elbow and shoulder issues across the game, sooner or later part of you has to think it is inevitable.  It isn’t universal, obviously, but it’s something to consider.  With that in mind, here are the 10 pitchers who have worked the most innings over the past five years:

  1. CC Sabathia –  1,158.0
  2. Justin Verlander – 1,154.2
  3. Felix Hernandez – 1,154.2
  4. Roy Halladay – 1,125.2
  5. James Shields – 1,115.0
  6. Cliff Lee – 1,111.0
  7. Matt Cain – 1,099.2
  8. Dan Haren – 1,095.1
  9. Tim Lincecm – 1,067.2
  10. Cole Hamels – 1,061.0

Thoughts:

  • It’s extremely interesting that half this list is represented by the Phillies and Giants (granted, Halladay & Lee both pitched for other teams during this five year period).  Obviously, it takes a high quality of pitcher to throw this many innings, and the quality of these teams staffs speak volumes for why they are here.
  • That said, a few of the pitchers here have already started to show signs of breaking down.  While a resurgence has to be expected for Halladay, you have to be skeptical about both him and Sabathia heading into 2013.  Given their ages and workloads, they are going to remain significant risks going forward.
  • Justin Verlander has actually now thrown over 200 innings for six straight seasons and did see his velocity dip last season (94.3 mph).  He is notorious for dialing it up late in games, when he needs it, so that number shouldn’t be as big of a concern.  While it could catch up to him, it is hardly a guarantee.
  • Felix Hernandez will turn 27 in April, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be overused.  He has thrown over 230 innings for four straight seasons and in 2012 we saw his velocity fall off dramatically (92.1 mph vs. a career mark of 94.1 mph).  It ss something that needs to be closely monitored, especially after the rumblings of an issue with his recent physical (though the Mariners still signed him to a mega contract extension).
  • We all know what happened to Tim Lincecum in 2012, as he lost nearly 2 mph on his fastball (down to 90.4 mph).  Is it the workload or the unorthodox delivery?  It was interesting to see him dialing it back up out of the bullpen in the playoffs, so maybe his arm can only do it in short bursts?  This season is going to tell us a lot but there is obvious concerns here.
  • The concern regarding Dan Haren, though he has dealt with injuries, is offset a little bit by his move to the NL.  The Nationals have proven they will monitor workload and do what is necessary, so don’t be surprised if he is handled carefully in 2013.  That doesn’t mean he can’t produce, however.
  • We’re the Rays concerned about the workload of James Shields, which factored into their decision to move him?  It’s possible, but they also got one of the elite prospects in the game back and have a seemingly endless supply of high-upside starting pitcher prospects.  Don’t use the Rays willingness to move him as a reason, though that doesn’t mean he isn’t at risk.

What are your thoughts of these pitchers?  Who do you think is the biggest risk?  Who do you see as the safest?

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Make sure to check out our 2013 rankings (all of which will be updated in the next few weeks):

Draft This Not That: Pass On Nelson Cruz, Select Michael Saunders
"True Sleeper": Will The Dodgers' Alex Castellanos Be The Next Todd Frazier?

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