Well, it looks like the Astros have set an innings limit for young starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, including his minor league numbers. This is a good thing.
One of my biggest concerns with bringing Jordan Lyles up to the major leagues was the injury risk. Young pitchers are at an increased risk of debilitating injuries. Just look at major league history. Those Oakland rotations in the early '70's were decimated (not literally, because there were more than 1 in 10 hurt), as were guys like David Clyde and even Larry Dierker.
It's become a part of baseball analysis to worry about young pitchers getting injured. That's why the saying "TNSTAAPP" became famous, because "There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect." There's always a chance that prospect gets hurt before they become a big name.
There's a lot we don't know about pitching injuries. Nolan Ryan has been preaching pitchers throwing more and more in the Rangers system, and it seems to be paying dividends for him. On the other extreme, the Pirates are shutting down long toss between starts to avoid pitcher injuries by putting less stress on their arms.
Oh, and that's not even considering the theory floated by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci that pitchers under the age of 25 are more susceptible to injuries when they increase their workload by 30 innings or more. This became known as the "Verducci Effect" and was borne out more than once since coining the theory. After the jump, we'll see where Lyles sits and what it means for the rest of the minor leagues.
The last time we touched on the Verducci Effect, it was in reference to Bud Norris. Back then, Norris had a huge jump, but that was more a product of injuries derailing his season before the jump. The Astros said at the time that a pitcher of Norris' build could handle the increase in innings.
It was a puzzling comment at the time and not really supported by the data, since it doesn't seem like certain types of pitchers are immune to the Verducci Effect. Sometimes, it works, but often teams are just as burned with big, burly types.
I bring all that up simply because Houston seems to be doing the right thing by both Lyles and paying attention to the Verducci Effect. Lyles threw 158 innings last season in between two levels of the minor leagues. If he is cut off around 165-170 innings this season, that means his increase won't be that huge and hopefully save him for the future.
There's no telling whether Houston will gradually bring Lyles along in the next few years or if this new caution will be thrown out the window once the Astros are in a pennant race (ha!). But, it's a good sign for those of us statheads who worry about Lyles' tender arm.
At the same time, it's not necessarily about the innings but the innings under duress. That won't change just because Lyles is shut down prior to that inning increase, but overall, this is a good sign for the Astros down the road.
While we're at it, let's look at some other pitching prospects and see what their innings totals look like:
Dallas Keuchel - 174 innings last season, on pace for 178 innings through 28 starts
Ross Seaton - 146 innings last season, on pace for 155 innings through 28 starts
Ruben Alaniz - 57 innings last season, on pace for 120 innings through 24 starts
Tanner Bushue - 133 innings last season, on pace for 100 innings through 22 starts
Mike Foltynewicz - 44 (pro) innings last season, on pace for 150 innings through 28 starts
Jake Buchanan - 61 (pro) innings last season, on pace for 178 innings through 28 starts