Weighing Innings and Pitch Counts Against Optimal Development
Authors Note: This article was published originally at NYBaseballDigest.
This article isn’t meant to be a comparison between two or three specifc players, but as an exercise in how certain organizations go about the process of developing their top prospects to become major leaguers.
Much has been said and written over the past few years regarding the Yankees’ philosophy (or lack thereof) on how they handle young pitchers. The two examples which stand out above the rest are the “Joba Rules” situation and the handling of 18 game winner Phil Hughes during the second half of last season. Even as recently as two weeks ago, the Yanks’ bypassed AAA hurlers Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell and went outside the organization to pick up a thirty-two year old journeyman for two emergency starts.
Another team known for developing young players, the Atlanta Braves, have used top prospects Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran for twenty starts to date, and a fourth, Craig Kimbrel, is their regular closer.
On the other side of the coin are the Yankees Eastern Division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays. Pundits wil say it’s easy to develop young talent when you have the first pick in the draft every year, although I think Andrew Brackman might not agree.
The thing is, though, is you can’t build a successful team just on first rounders. Since their first draft in 1996 (and not counting this year) the Rays have selected sixteen players in the first or supplemental round and have drafted five pitchers with only one, Wade Townsend, failing to reach the major leagues.
By contrast, the Yankees have had twenty-two picks in the same timeframe and selected twelve pitchers, four of whom haven’t made the major leagues. (Gerrit Cole is not counted as he didn’t sign).
The most successful of these selections in terms of what he’s done for the Yankees is Chamberlain; three others have had more success, Mark Prior, Eric Milton and Ian Kennedy, unfortunately they were wearing another team’s uniform while doing so.
The selection of Banuelos was obviously intentional, the choice of Moore is due to the number of surprising commonalities he has with Manny.
They are similar in ages (Moore is nineteen months older). Both are lefthanded. Banuelos was a cheap free agent signee, Moore was a cheap ($115K) eighth round pick.
Moore came from the 2007 draft and despite 20 Rookie League innings, his first full season as a pro was 2008. Banuelos signed in March, 2008, making it his first full pro season as well.
Both are currently in their fouth full seasons as professional baseball players.
To date, Moore has made 89 appearances with 84 starts and has pitched 439 innings, an average of five innings per appearance. Over his last year and a half though, as he’s maturing and progressing into a potential major leaguer, he’s averaged almost six innings per appearance.
In the same timeframe, Banuelos has made 70 appearances with 54 starts and 294.2 innings. an average of four and two thirds per. He’s made more relief appearances than Moore, so just counting his starts his average should be close to what Moore has done.
Over the last year and a half Banuelos has made 32 starts and pitched 143.2 innings, an average of four and a half innings per start.
So, while Moore’s innings per appearance has gone up by almost an inning, Banuelos’ average has actually gone DOWN.
Isn’t the point to develop young pitchers by increasing their innings and pitch counts?
To see this maybe through a different pair of eyes one should consider the progression of Dodger’s lefthander Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw was a higher pick and received a higher bonus than either Moore or Banuelos, but he also made his Major League debut at the age of 20. If you look at their career minor league progression at the same point in their careers, Kershaw’s numbers were almost indentical to Manny’s. Kershaw’s numbers are a bit better all-round, but like Moore, as he progressed his innings per appearance went up, which is how things are supposed to work.
Adding insult to injury for Yankee fans; on June 16th, Moore pitched a complete game no-hitter against Mobile, throwing 116 pitches and striking out eleven.
In the Yankees system, he gets pulled after five due to pitch count.
Pitchers get hurt because they don’t throw enough. Enforcing pitch counts or innings limits hinders their development.
I don’t like Banuelos; I don’t like his stuff or his consistency or his size. If he reaches his ceiling, he’s a number three starter. If he hits the floor, he’s a LOOGY. Best case scenario for him is as a possible replacement for Mo as the Yankees closer.
The reason why is he will have been prepared as a minor leaguer; he will be stretched out as he progresses through the system, he will be given the opportunity to develop his stuff and learn how to pitch instead of just throw.
Anyone can pitch out of a first and third jam in the fourth inning, what makes a major leaguer is being able to do it in seventh or eighth inning.
How can you learn if you never see the seventh?
Brian Cashman called Dellin Betances the Yankees’ best pitching prospect since he’s been in the organization. Even if you discount his elbow injury, Betances is in his fifth season as a pro, and is averaging five innings per start as a twenty three year old in Double A.
It’s not right.