Should Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds Have an Innings Limit in 2013?

October 2, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman(54) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. The Reds won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With Aroldis Chapman moving to the starting rotation this spring, the absurdity that is “innings count” will no doubt be in play. As the trend has now been established it looks as though everyone is following as though they are in a cultic trance, lining up at the kool-aid dispenser.

The Washington Nationals just played that card last season with ace Stephen Strasburg. That may have actually been warranted though as he was returning from Tommy John surgery. A year or so earlier the Reds did the same thing with rookie Mike Leake. Hitting a wall, they called it.

Where was the wall when Stan Bahnsen won the American League Rookie-of-the-Year award in 1968 with the New York Yankees? The kid (he was 23) pitched 267 innings had a 2.05 ERA and recorded 17 wins.

The “old school” is just dying to crawl out of me onto the keyboard and thus into this article. For God’s sake, they count everything today. Dear God, I can’t hold back much longer. A pitcher throws 100 pitchers and the manager walks out to the mound with the hook in his hand. Here it is.

You would think these guys were little leaguers today the way they are pampered. If they want to control the pitch count, how about eliminating the 72 (per game) or so warm-up tosses the pitcher throws between innings?

If you are younger than 45 you are probably shaking your head, looking at your screen and creating an image of me as a caveman and looking up at the rainbow which happens to be black and white.

I know things are different now and rainbows are in color and TV is run by electricity and not by gas. Cool, I get it. Teams prior to the seventies had a four-man pitching rotation and therefore they received more starts, thus more innings pitched.

News flash! Innings then = innings now. Bahnsen completed 10 games in ’68 as a rookie. Roy Oswalt, former Reds killer has 20 CG in his 12 year career.

Relief pitching is a specialized talent now, duh. In days past the bullpen was fashioned with starters who weren’t good enough to start anymore.

Starting to digress…let’s get back to the point I am making. Aroldis Chapman is 24 and is in very good condition. I am told he could probably give Drew Stubbs a good race from home to first. There appears to be nothing lacking in his physical makeup.

Do you think his arm will fall off if he pitches 175 innings instead of 165? Of course it won’t. I doubt seriously if his career would be shortened by him throwing until the season ended. I am sure the Nats would loved to have had Strasburg to pitch in the playoffs.

I have taken the liberty of preparing for you a chart showing some Rookies-of-the-Year who pitched a great deal more than 165 innings in their initial campaign, with their ages attached.

ROOKIES OF THE YEAR WITH 240+ INNINGS PITCHED

YEAR AGE W GS CG SH IP SO ERA+ WHIP SO/BB
DNewcombe 1949 23 17 31 19 5 244 149 130 1.211 2.04
TSeaver 1967 22 16 34 18 2 251 170 122 1.203 2.18
SBahnsen 1968 23 17 34 10 1 267 162 140 1.062 2.38
CMorton 1970 26 18 37 10 4 284 154 114 1.426 1.23
JMatlack 1972 22 15 32 8 4 244 169 145 1.172 2.38
RSutcliffe 1979 23 17 30 5 1 242 117 105 1.298 1.21

Of course Seaver went on to grace the Hall of Fame with his portfolio. As an aside, here is a bit of a history lesson, Don Newcombe is the only player in MLB history to have won a Rookie-of-the-Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young award (not the same season) in their career. Strange he never made it to the Hall of Fame.

Here is what Strasburg had to say about the situation last season:

You don’t grow up dreaming of playing in the big leagues to get shut down when the games start to matter…

Be completely honest with me here. Do you, not the media or the doctors or the new-age managers, do you think the Cuban Missile should “fail to launch” after a certain number of innings?

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Topics: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

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  • http://blogredmachine.com/ Steve O’Red

    I’ve stated since this announcement was made that I believe the Reds should take an approach similar to the one the Braves did with Kris Medlen. Worked out pretty well for Atlanta.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      Steve -
      The difference here with Chapman is that Medlen was returning from TJ surgery and as I pointed out that is a little more understandable. I don’t even know if he should be in the rotation, but if they are going to start him, let him fire on all 8 cylinders.
      Thanks my friend.

      • http://blogredmachine.com/ Steve O’Red

        Yes, Medlen was coming back from TJ, same as Strasburg, but isn’t the goal here the health of the player? It is, and on the front, the Braves did that very thing by limiting Medlen’s innings total, but in a fashion different from “the norm”. It was genius, IMO.

        Sure, I’ll play it, the “what if” game. Done it one here more than once. What if the Nationals had Strasburg for the postseason?

        Innings then may equal innings now (and they do), but science then isn’t the same as now. Teams are more aware that pitchers need the time and resources to properly recover after outings. Teams are more aware that there is certain wear and tear placed on an arm, on an elbow. That is why you won’t see pitchers pull a Koufax and toss 300+IP in three of four seasons. Imagine if the Dodgers had been able to get another season or two from him.

        Players aren’t only players these days…they are assets (some may choose another word which begins with the same three letters) and, therefore, must be protected.

        • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

          Steve,

          Today it may be all about the health of the player – in days of yore it was about winning. As you so aptly put it – the players are assets today – I don’t think the number of innings is the crux of the problem with TJ surgery. I am no doctor and may not know what I am talking about here but hey this is the forum for it. If the pitchers are not pitching 300 innings why are so many pitchers electing to have this procedure? You can look at the legacy of the ancients and see some interesting things.

          Bob Feller averaged pitching 247 innings per 162 games and lasted 18 years. I imagine had it not been for WW2 he would have pitched longer. He threw fastballs.

          Bob Gibson played 17 years and averaged 262 with a high of 314. Another hard thrower.

          Warren Spahn pitched for 21 years and averaged 252 innings.

          I could go on and on with a list like this but hopefully you see what I am trying to say. Not only did those guys pitch those high inning seasons, they did it with a day’s less rest than they have today.

          You hit the nail on the head when you said the players had to be protected. Money is poured out to these guys like wine, and are usually financially set for life after just a few short years in MLB. Players in the 60′s and earlier all had to have another job just to eat. Al Kaline said he never played a season that he didn’t have to work another job.

          Cost of living is not the big difference in their pay either. Roger Maris $38K in 1961 would not stretch out into real big money today any way you crunch it.

          So, my point is that there are so many running to TJ surgery today, than there were pitchers whose careers were shortened by excessive innings back then.

          Thanks for the conversation my friend.

          • bjerryberg

            That really depends upon the individual.

            Koufax often got batters out early in the count.

            A lesser talent–even a very good one–throws twice as many pitches to record half as many innings pitched.

            An Edinson Volquez would need to throw 8500-9000 pitches to record 300 innings pitched. Koufax–required substantially fewer.

            And they both suffered arm injuries.

            Baseball is a very entertaining game–it is not a science.

          • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

            Koufax also struck a lot of batters out which means he probably did throw several pitches in an inning. He also led the league in IP and Batters Faced the last two years of his career. He threw some pitches now.

        • bjerryberg

          The poster asserts that
          “Innings then may equal innings now (and they do),”

          I am not so sure.

          A mile is 5280 feet and and an hour is 60 minutes. Stats that involve those definite measures can be be usefully compared.

          But an inning is what?

          3 outs on 3 pitches?

          3 outs on 33 pitches?

          Yes. Both and neither.

          It is my recollection that in Koufax day batters were much more likely to swing early in the count.

          Yes, it is both.

          • bjerryberg

            My point is that the innings pitched stat is of dubious value when it comes to making decisions about a pitcher’s health or durability.

            It depends upon the individual.

            Koufax often got batters out early in the count.

            A lesser talent–throws twice as many pitches to record half as many innings pitched.

            An Edinson Volquez would need to throw 8500-9000 pitches to record 300 innings pitched. Koufax–required substantially fewer.

            And they both suffered arm injuries.

            Baseball is very entertaining game–not a science.

  • beeker

    They will have to manage him carefully. When they tried using him more than three nights in a row for just one inning each, his command went screwy. They will have to teach him to dial it down a bit and not try to strike out every batter. The better he can do that, the longer he’ll make it.

    That said, to preordain in the off-season that he will not exceed a certain number of innings — no matter what — is silly.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      beeker -

      Yeah he threw more 100 mph pitches than anyone in baseball, starters included. He threw 242 100+ heaters and the second most was Kevin Herrera of KC with only 162.

      Thank you for your comments my friend.

    • bjerryberg

      Well said.

  • metalhead65

    they won’t have to worry about it as he set his own limit by only going 4-5 innings before he tires out. they tried him as a starter before calling him up and making him a reliever and he had control problems which limited him to that amount of innings most starts. plus if he has arm problems pitching 1 inning at a time as a closer how will he make it as a starter? dumb move by the reds. leake may have sucked last year but he is only entering his third season in the majors and you want to make him a bullpen spot starter? way to ruin his growth or trade value.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      metalhead -

      I am not in favor of making Chappy a starter, I am chronicled as saying he should have stayed at the closer’s role. However they are moving him and they are planning on imposing a limit to the amount of innings he will throw. As I pointed out in the table, all of those guys won the ROY, by pitching full time and not being afraid their arms would fall off.
      Thank you sir for the comments.

  • johnu1

    I have not heard that the Reds intend to shut AC down and I have not heard that he is a lock for the rotation either. Speculating on this is fine, but getting our balls in an uproar is premature. If AC is pitching well, fine. I think the notion of going to a “6-man rotation” with Leake as a filler is totally absurd. No team has used a 6-man for one reason: It doesn’t work. Aroldis Chapman is not Steven Strasburg. To compare them is folly.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      John,

      Couple things.
      First – I have read that he is going to be on an innings count. (http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/11/28/aroldis-chapman-will-be-on-innings-limit-in-reds-rotation/)
      Second – I didn’t say anything about a 6-man rotation. I have no clue where you got that.
      Finally – I didn’t compare Chappy to Strasburg in no way.

      As far as I can tell nobody’s “balls are in an uproar.”
      Thank you for your comments.

    • bjerryberg

      Baseball pitching norms have shifted over the years.

      Cy Young was pretty much a one-man ‘rotation.’

      For many years a four man rotation was the norm–now it is five.

      You make the paradoxical assertion that:

      “No team has used a 6-man for one reason: It doesn’t work.”

      Duh, since no team has used a 6 man rotation–we have no idea whether it might work or not.

      That said , I am perfectly happy with a 5 man rotation that includes Chapman and does not include Leake–or vice versa.

  • bjerryberg

    I concur with your old school view. An innings limit is a nebulous, arguably a ridiculous, thing. Some of the innings are apt to be 5 pitches long, some 55 pitches long– but they count equally as innings to the stats-mongers.

    Not to mention that whether the pitcher throws mostly fastballs or breaking balls or knuckle balls might matter.

    How about we allow the human element here and let the relevant coaches determine if the particular pitcher is tiring or ‘hitting the wall.’ not the inning count or pitch count–or the day on the Mayan calendar.

    If a manager wanted to get really ridiculous he could have a pitch count for the season–and bench a pitcher after he threw his 2936th pitch–including warm-up pitches…

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      A total pitch count would make more sense than an innings count, for the reasons you just offered. These are not kids but grown men who happen to also be multi-millionaires.
      Thanks for your comments.

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