Feb 11, 2008

The 200 Inning Club - Who's In, Who's Out?

The 200 inning club, a one-year membership isn't terribly exclusive - just look at the membership numbers over the past five seasons:

2007: 38
2006: 42
2005: 50
2004: 39
2003: 42

The tougher part is staying in the club year in and year out.

Staying in the 200 inning club for three straight seasons or more is somewhat of a benchmark of durability. For the 2007 season, of the 38 pitchers who threw 200+ innings, just 16 of them were doing it for at least the third straight season - how many can you name? The answer will appear at the end of the post!

I'll give you a little help. There were four pitchers who were in the 3+ straight 200 innings club in 2006 who fell out of the club in 2007:
  • Barry Zito (coming off six straight 200+ inning seasons)
  • Freddy Garcia (6)
  • Derek Lowe (4)
  • Jake Westbrook (3)

Here's a bit more help - three pitchers were not in the club in 2005, but were in 2006 and 2007. All three of these guys are good bets to rejoin the 3+ straight 200 innings club after the 2008 season:

  • Roy Halladay
  • Tim Hudson
  • Josh Beckett

OK, there are seven names you know aren't part of the answer. I'm going to give you a few names that are on the list. These are the guys most likely to end their run of 200+ inning seasons - ranked in the order of likelihood they won't reach 200 innings:

  1. Livan Hernandez (coming off eight straight 200+ inning seasons) - Hernandez is still a Free Agent with pitchers and catchers reporting this week. Two questions: Is he putting in the work to stay in at least his version of 'being in shape'? How long into spring training will Livan go unsigned? The longer he remains unsigned, the more likely it is he won't start the season in a starting rotation.

  2. Mark Buehrle (7) - Buehrle has been incredibly resilient, but with the big four year deal he signed this past July it's unlikely he'll be pitching through any minor injuries as surely the White Sox will want to protect their investment.

  3. Andy Pettitte (3) - Pettitte will turn 36 during the 2008 season and one has to wonder if his preparation and mental toughness will be up to par given the distractions he's dealing with, plus the loss of his workout partner.

  4. Jon Garland (4) - Lingering shoulder issue from 2007 could flare up again causing him to be shutdown for at least a few starts at some point during the season.

  5. Bronson Arroyo (3) - See the Feb 8th post regarding Dusty Baker's potential impact on Arroyo. If Baker rides him hard early in the season, it's not hard to see him also needing at least a brief shutdown during the latter half of the season.

  6. Dontrelle Willis (3) - Willis was pretty awful in 2007. It's hard to imagine that there isn't some health issue rumbling under the surface. Combine that possibility with the fact that his intense delivery style is likely to become even moreso now that he's playing for a real contender and Willis is a decent bet to miss some starts at some point in 2008.

  7. Carlos Zambrano (5) - Zambrano is just too stubborn for his own good when it comes to gutting it out. Pitching through minor ailments can't last forever before it leads to an inevitable breakdown. Combine that with the new contract and the Cubs desire to protect that investment and Zambrano could be facing some downtime in 2008.

  8. Roy Oswalt (4) - Oswalt suffered a minor oblique strain in 2007 which only minimally impacted his workload. Oblique strains have a high recurrence pattern. If he doesn't reach 200 innings in 2008, my money is on the oblique recurring as the cause.

There you have it - that's all the help you're going to get. Of the 16 pitchers in the 3+ straight 200 innings club, I've just given you half the list - the half most likely to fall off the list in 2008.

That leaves the other eight - those most likely to continue building on their string of 200 inning seasons. Here they are - the rest of the answer to the trivia question:

  • Brandon Webb (coming off four straight 200+ inning seasons)
  • Johan Santana (4)
  • Aaron Harang (3)
  • John Lackey (3)
  • Jake Peavy (3)
  • Dan Haren (3)
  • Javier Vazquez (3)
  • John Smoltz (3)

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