Jameson Taillon’s Workload is Based More on Pitch Counts Than Innings

INDIANAPOLIS – Jameson Taillon is tweeting like it’s 2009.

The biggest topic surrounding the Pirates right now is Super Two, with everyone wondering when the top pitching prospects will arrive in Pittsburgh. It covers talk radio, articles, social media, and it definitely reaches the players.

“You’d be blind if you didn’t see it,” Taillon said.

It’s gotten to the point for Taillon where he has deleted the Twitter app from his phone, making it a bit more difficult for him to see the talk.

“I’ve deleted Twitter off of my phone, so if I want to get on, I actually have to log on,” Taillon said. “We see it. The thing that’s good here, is we have a good clubhouse atmosphere. Everyone enjoys being here. We don’t get too ahead of ourselves. I think I’ll be ready whenever they do need some help.”

Pirates fans would probably say that the help is needed right now. Taillon had a bit of a different take, and didn’t seem discouraged that he was still down in Indianapolis.

“Looks to me like they’re about to start rolling,” Taillon said of the big league rotation. “Looks like guys are starting to catch their stride a little bit up there. Our job down here in Triple-A is to be as ready as possible whenever the call does come. You see guys getting called up every single day out of here. Keep honing it, and be ready whenever the call comes. I think if you ask any starting pitcher here, we’re working on stuff, but we all feel like we’d be ready if we were needed.”

The funny thing about this is that Taillon has no clue what Super Two is all about. He sees the term every time he logs in, but isn’t clear on the meaning. That said, he feels that he’s not just in Triple-A because of this rule that he knows nothing about.

“To be honest, if you asked me to explain what it meant, and what it was, I don’t know the definition and exactly what it is,” Taillon said. “I’ve kind of been reassured that it’s not all about that. There are things I need to work on and get better at. There’s pitches I need to hone in on. I need to get back in the groove of facing upper level hitters. From my part, I’ve been throwing the ball well. I do feel really confident. I’m really in no rush. I want to make sure I’m as ready as possible when I go up there. We’ve got a really competitive ball club up there in a competitive division. When guys do go up, you have to be ready to go. You have to be ready to actually contribute. You can’t develop more up there, you have to be ready to go.”

Jameson Taillon tweeting from Mobile Web like it's 2009.
Jameson Taillon tweeting from Mobile Web like it’s 2009.

Yesterday, Taillon didn’t have his best curveball. Despite this, he still looked like a guy who was ready for the majors. Taillon’s curveball isn’t really an issue, and a pitcher isn’t always going to have all of his pitches every start. The encouraging thing was Taillon’s ability to change his game plan when he didn’t have the curve, turning instead to the changeup. His ability to throw three pitches makes him look ready for the big leagues right now, if there weren’t any Super Two considerations. But there is one other thing to consider.

Taillon is coming off two years that were derailed by injuries. He had Tommy John in 2014, and spent half of 2015 returning from that. Right when it looked like he was ready to start making his way to the majors, he went down with a hernia, which shut him down for the year. Now he’s pitching with very little work the last two years, and the biggest focus for the Pirates is monitoring his workload.

An example of this took place yesterday. Taillon finished the sixth inning with 91 pitches. Rather than extending him one more inning, he was pulled. This has been common this year. Taillon has only gone past the 90 pitch area once, and that was his last outing in Syracuse. Every other start has seen him finishing with around 90 pitches, regardless of innings. As it turns out, the pitches matter more to the Pirates than the innings.

“He could have went out for that seventh inning,” Dean Treanor said after yesterday’s game. “We got him out of there. I think the basis that we’re going on is more pitches for the year, than innings. There is a system that they use, the number of stress pitches that you have. In the fifth inning, with runners all over the place, now those pitches become stressful. They have some way of figuring that out, don’t ask me.”

The Pirates aren’t about to reveal the way they figure out “stress pitches”, and how they factor that into Taillon’s workload. As for limiting him going forward, they might continue pulling him an inning early, after 90 pitches, or they might pull him after five innings. Treanor had conversations with Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington in Syracuse and in Scranton recently, and the main focus was being conservative with Taillon.

“We’re going to be conservative, and we’re going to do what’s best for him, and future-wise, what’s best for the Pirates,” Treanor said. “We’ve got to take care of this guy because of that time off. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for coming back from Tommy John. You think he’s going to be ready to go, and then he has the hernia. He’s worked his ass off. But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s what’s best for him, and for the Pirates.”

It’s not like the Pirates have this road-mapped out, though. Taillon is in a very unique situation, and you can tell that they’re playing it as they go with bringing him back. The goal has always been to make sure he can pitch in September and October, without leaving innings and pitches on the table by being too conservative early in the year.

“We’re not 100% set in stone on our plan,” Taillon said. “I’ve been told innings will play some sort of a factor, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. Pitch count, effective pitch count, the stress innings. They just kind of talk to me, check out how my body looks like, how I’m throwing in my side sessions, how I’m recovering, how crisp do I look.”

Taillon said that the Pirates might use an off-day to push him back a few days, but that there hasn’t been any talk of skipping a start, shutting him down, or even scaling back to extremely shorter outings where he’s only throwing four innings.

“Whatever they want to do, I’m on board with,” Taillon said. “They’ve got some pretty smart guys in charge of that.”

What Are Stress Pitches?

The biggest thing I took away from my conversations this week is that the Pirates are putting a big focus on “stress pitches” and “stress innings”. Again, there is no definition for this, but we do know a bit. Treanor said that Taillon’s fifth inning yesterday had some stress pitches. He threw 20 pitches total that inning.

When the Pirates are mapping out starting progressions in Spring Training, and rehab starts, they always set limits at X innings and Y amount of pitches. The amount of pitches is always an average of 15 per inning. So we might be able to assume that any pitch beyond pitch number 15 in an inning would be a “stress pitch”.

For the most part, Taillon has done a great job to avoid this. He has thrown 49.1 innings this year, and 26 of those innings have come with 15 pitches or less. He’s had 12 innings with 10 pitches or less. On the flip side, he’s had just six innings with 20 pitches or more.

Taillon has thrown nine innings with exactly 16 pitches. If we’re counting any pitch over 15 as a stress pitch, that would give him 9.

He has six innings with 17 pitches. That brings the total up to 21 stress pitches.

There are two innings with 18 pitches, and one with 19. The new total is 31.

There are four innings with 20 pitches, taking us up to 51. One inning had 22 pitches, and his worst inning had 26 pitches. That makes the grand total 69 stress pitches on the year.

One thing to consider here is that we don’t know how pickoff throws factor in to this mix. Do they count the same as pitches? If so, then Taillon’s pickoff attempts this year would add 21 more stress pitches to the total (yes, I counted his pickoff attempts), bringing us up to 90 stress pitches through eight starts.

This is where we run into another wall. Let’s stick with the non-pickoff number. We don’t know if 69 stress pitches in eight starts is good or bad. I’d assume it’s a good thing, considering how efficient and dominant Taillon has been.

I did go through Gerrit Cole’s innings in the big leagues in 2013, to see what his totals were. He ended up with 227 stress pitches in 19 starts, which is an average of 11.95 per start. Taillon is currently averaging 8.63 per start.

We also can’t assume that all stress pitches would be the same. Pitch number 16 is not going to be as bad as pitch number 20, and that’s not as bad as pitch number 30 in an inning. Taillon has done a good job of keeping his pitch count under 20, only reaching 20 or more in 12% of his innings. Cole reached 20 or more in 15% of his innings in the big leagues in 2013. He also reached 30 a few times, which Taillon hasn’t done, and has only come close to once.

I’m comparing MLB innings to Triple-A innings here, and it might be better perspective to get Cole’s Triple-A innings as a comparison to Taillon. But that would be missing the point that Taillon’s stress pitches are going to go up when he reaches the majors. So while he has been gaining innings at a rate you’d hope to see in the majors (consistently pitching 6-7 innings per start), it’s not like he’s wasting innings in Triple-A, since they are lower stress than what he’d see in the big leagues. If he ends up with the same average stress pitches as Cole above, then every three starts in the minors this year essentially cuts down one MLB start’s worth of stress pitches. That can really add up.

Let’s say he makes 12 starts in Triple-A, and 19 in Pittsburgh with the averages listed above. That would lead to about 330 stress pitches on the year. If the Pirates paid no attention to Super Two, and called him up a few starts ago after six outings, then he’d be projected for 350 stress pitches on the year. That’s like adding two additional MLB starts to his workload, even if the inning totals are the same.

Once again, all of this is based on a lot of speculation about what “stress pitches” could be, and how to interpret them. We’re probably not going to know the real story, which brings me to my final point.

Similar to Another Health System

The Pirates went with their Golden State Warriors program last year in the big leagues, with the goal of giving more rest to their position players, in order to keep them fresh. The thing was that most of those players ended up playing more than they ever had in their careers prior to that season. It wasn’t as simple as giving a day off after X amount of games played. They used metrics to track when a player needed a break, giving strategic off-days.

We don’t know the formulas behind that system, but by all player accounts, it worked. The “stress pitches” approach feels similar. We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, and there’s nothing we can point to in order to track Taillon’s progress. It’s not like an innings total, where we can count up to X amount of innings.

There’s really not a blueprint for Taillon’s situation, since his situation is so rare. Because of that, there isn’t a right or wrong answer in how to approach his workload this year. What gives me confidence here is the fact that the Pirates are very conservative with their rehabbing guys, and they’ve got a lot of smart people working on this approach, between the stats department and the trainers. Their goal is to make sure Taillon can still pitch in September and the playoffs, while not leaving innings and pitches on the table. I have a feeling they’re going to bring him up right when they feel they can meet that goal.

It might not be a coincidence that this could occur right after the Super Two deadline passes. Taillon’s stuff looks ready now, but if Super Two provides a reason to keep him down a few more starts, then this could benefit him. A few extra starts in Triple-A would reduce his stress load this year, making it even more likely that he could pitch for the Pirates late in the season.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Zach Wolfe

So next year, if healthy we’re looking at a rotation of cole, liriano, taillon, glasnow, kuhl. kingham and brault in AAA. locke and neise dumped. it seems to me like we’ll have a decent about of money to spend this offseason. wonder who/what they go after. relievers?

Scott Kliesen

I love that the Pirates are on the cutting edge of player performance. Just one more reason for players to choose the Pirates when given an opportunity.

Great piece, Tim.


I did find it a bit odd to cite the incredibly overplayed Golden State thing considering they’ve essentially abandoned the idea this year.

Luke S

I think one thing that fans assumed last year was they knew what the team meant by saying they were taking aspects of the GS thing.

As in, we all were sure that meant they would give all starters random days off for sure early in the year. I dont think its clear that was a set in stone rule, nor that they were even set in what they ideally wanted.

An intensely fluid process the entire time.


I must have missed the Golden State thing. It seems Cole skipping some starts helped him finish strong last year. Based on Locke’s history he could use extended days off.

joe s

As a team you have the choice to take a starting pitcher first in the draft because we know you need great pitching to win but then you have the risk of the pitcher getting hurt and not pitching. Do you take the chance and take the pitcher or do you pass and take a hitter that does not present such an injury issue? Glad I am not the GM making that decision. I would stock up on hitters and then go for pitchers with some upside projection with the next few picks.

Luke S

Depending on when you take the upside types, its tougher to find the “high upside” guys after the 1st and comp rounds but before the later rounds when teams take a risky sign type.

The drop off can make the job of your minor league pitching guys harder.

Luke S

Listening to Taillon talk about his mindset is just a beautiful thing.

Joe S

J-Mo is a good kid. I don’t think we have to worry about him in any way. I also believe he will be calm in the middle of any ML pitching situation he finds himself in (I predict future CY).


I’ve been thinking for a while now but after reading this article, I am sure that I would promote Taillon now…

As Tim (and Jameson) said, you have to be ready to compete in the majors and it is going to be more stressful. It is going to be more difficult to avoid the 20-30 pitch innings and yanking him after three innings would tax the bullpen. So the only way to ‘rest/protect’ Taillon after his promotion is to demote him for some starts. So …
Boscan goes back to AAA, Nicasio stabilizes the bullpen, Taillon joins the rotation, and when he needs a break (which he will) Kuhl can fill in for a few starts – all while avoiding Taillon’s Super 2!

Luke S

Id also imagine that be exactly what the MLBPA wants so they can point to PGH and go “this is why the system is just silly, PGH just ping ponged a ML ready arm for awhile because it saved them sizable money.”


My point is not really Super 2, it is saving stress on his arm in 2016. Avoiding Super 2 would just be a natural byproduct of slowly introducing a player into the majors after 2 years of inactivity – remember what happened to Strasburg a few years back?

Luke S

If they really had wanted to, they could have just skipped 1-2 starts as well. They seem to be following their own path to ensuring he can throw decent innings in the majors this year. We shall see how it works.


I agree with the routine aspect but I am predicting they won’t have a choice, so why not manage to the probable expectation?

Also, I think they meant that they try to avoid demotion because a player is failing, not as a planned event – like injury replacement, DHing in the AL, September call ups, or the plan I have posited


This definition article is the first time Ive heard an explanation for differentiating AAA from MLB innings.
It doesn’t matter what any of us think about it they believe in it, nevertheless I feel a little skeptical about it.
First there is nothing physically different between the two. Should or would you treat the player different when such an occurrence happens? The example of removing Jameson after 6/90 seems consistent with how our MLB team operates normally.
We all love the potential of the AAA staff and I’m not advocating for anything, just sniffing for truth. Is this a super 2 delay or does the team simply like their current staff?
I’m a proponent of patience, or at least value… So you either have a need or you’re waiting for an opportunity to trade someone out of the rotation to make room and still get value. Example of this is what the Mets got for Neise. Could NH be shopping SP? Assuming he keeps Neise he could shop Locke or Nicasio who probably has more value as a SP trade chip than as a reliever.


Without any glaring holes, Huntington won’t get anything to help the big club by trading Locke (who has no value at all) or Nicasio. Still unconvinced any teams would see Nicasio, who hasn’t developed the command or 3rd pitch to be a starter, as valuable in that role.

Bruce Humbert

We don’t disagree a lot – but Locke does have value for a team like Miami – right now they are without a good option at #4 or #5 – and they have a shot at the Wild Card – even the White Sox might be interested – they have Danks and Latos at 4 and 5 and that is not working. Locke is cheap – with two more years of control – that is worth something for a lot of teams.


The Jeff Locke of 2014 through the first half of last year, yes. But those teams need help now, and nobody is giving up value for what Jeff Locke is right now. How long until we start asking if Locke had list his curve ball? 4% usage at the quarter point.

Luke S

Locke wont be cheap after this year, so really any team that wants a cheap option going forward will find Locke not that appealing.

Him making 5 million or more for his production isnt really all that cheap, since his production can be really average most years.

I think the biggest problem with a contender wanting him will be the reality that they also wont want to give up ML quality for him. So, the Pirates would ask for a good relief arm and no team seems likely to create a hole in the bullpen to try and contend (since contending requires a decent bullpen). You’d be dealing Locke for a prospect.


*Especially* on the multi-inning part. The lack of this type of arm has been easily the biggest failure of the bullpen to date. Simply not enough one-inning arms to cover a rotation throwing so few innings.

While I absolutely believe the rotation *quality* will improve once any number of Niese/Locke/Nicasio are removed, the pitchers replacing them almost certainly will not be able to give workhorse-like production. Six innings, max, most nights. Hurdle needs to be able to to spread that load on the pen around to multi-inning guys or else there’s simply no way the pen can last into October.

Luke S

I could live with Cole-Liriano-Taillon-Kuhl-Niese (any order where the lefites arent back to back) with Nicasio and Locke in the pen.

You’ve got a few guys that might not eat 7 innings regularly, but also 2 guys that can throw 2 innings from the pen in non Vogelsong like ways.


Gerrit Cole is the only pitcher you listed with a reasonable expectation to go seven, whether due to competency or workload.

Also a bit laughable to have Niese and Kuhl in a rotation, and not Glasnow.

Blaine Huff

“Also a bit laughable to have Niese and Kuhl in a rotation, and not Glasnow.”


The question is…does management have the stomach* to put Niese in the BP…or release him outright…or trade him for David Whitehead II?

Fun fact…if the three-headed monster is promoted from Indy and into the rotation, and the three least effective starters are bumped to the BP…the payroll of the Pirates starters will be: $15.1M and the relievers will be at: $34.61M.

*stomach = balls + humility.

Luke S

Im not anywhere near convinced Tyler Glasnow is 2-3 starts away from being ML ready. Im convinced he’d be able to throw out better games than Niese, but im not dumb enough to assume they’ll dump Niese and his salary at this juncture.

Tyler Glasnow has things to work on, and not just in a “to be really good vs good” way. If he throws like he did his last few games against ML hitters, it would end poorly. Id bring him up in August.

I have a reasonable expectation in Liriano going 7 a reasonable number of times. Surely not every time out, but in nearly half his starts when throwing well.

Blaine Huff

I agree that Glasnow is not ready (Glas)now. If it were my decision…and Pirates fans rejoice…it is not…I’d bring Kuhl up yesterday. There’s a spot for him, I think he can pitch well…and he doesn’t project to be such a S2 risk. JT, all things being equal, comes up when the S2 date passes. TG comes up when he’s ‘ready’…I think he’s always going to have issues and lapses, but I think that arm should be up July-ish.

That’s one/month for three months.


Absolutely agreed.

Edward C

Excellent article. As much as I look forward to JT’s debut I wouldn’t be surprise to see Kuhl up and in the rotation first.


Pretty straight forward idea, but nice article. I like the idea of trying to find a proxy for stress pitches, total pitches/inning is definitely a part of it, I’d think that wind up vs stretch would matter as would leverage.


Was thinking the exact same thing. I definitely agree that pitches from stretch would seem to be a good indicator, which correlates with RISP and leverage. So, you have the double-whammy of extra physical arm exertion due to less fluid body movement in the delivery, and you also have the extra exertion that likely comes from the higher than normal need for an out.


I draw parallels with this and how when a pitcher goes to the bullpen his stuff ‘plays up’ with a few extra ticks on the radar gun in smaller outings with the reliever going all in for one inning. It seems like for a back end reliever every pitch is a stress pitch due to the total effort he’s putting into every pitch. I think a stress pitch can be defined as whenever a pitcher is putting total effort into a certain pitch. That is probably case mostly when there are runners in scoring position but it could also be whenever a key pitch is needed like when a pitcher adds a few ticks to his fastball for a strikeout.


Absolutely nailed it.

I applaud Tim for trying to find a proxy, as Andrew did below, but I can’t imagine number of pitches over a certain amount in an inning really comes close to being accurate for the exact reason you describe.

Relievers break as much, if not more, than starters despite throwing well under half the overall number of pitches. There’d almost certainly be some sort of correlation found if number of pitches in an inning accurately flagged “stress pitches”.

When medical professionals talk about stress on an arm, they seem to be in agreement that the term revolves around effort more than repetition. I think this makes perfect sense from a physics standpoint; the hard part is actually figuring out what is stressful and what isn’t. Every guy is inherently going to be different.

Blaine Huff

Yup…and this is something that, I think, will always be an issue. As I would guess those “stress pitches” are also pretty damned effective.

Purely anecdotal, so I could be totally wrong about this…but when you say ‘every guy is going to be different’, you’re probably right, but I’m thinking of those pitchers whose careers exploded due to the split-finger FB, but flamed out in their early 30s due to injuries.


I actually meant more on the physio level with that comment. Now I’m an idiot, but at least to me it would seem that stress level generated by a certain pitch or grip (splitter vs fastball vs curveball, etc) would be somewhat easier to estimate than an individual player’s bodily threshold for stress/strain. When you’re talking about pitching parts, I’m not sure there are ways to measure capacity like you could for lifting muscles.

Blaine Huff

I’m with you on that…at least if I’m reading it correctly.

Individual differences will always play a large role, very large…but I’d also wager there are data out there that would give a strong probability scale for injury.

Sticking with the splitter (and my fifteen minutes of internet research 🙂 ), it seems like pitchers are in three camps:

1. Guys who came in and threw the hell out of it.
2. Pitchers who use it but don’t rack up insane speed/movement.
3. Older power pitchers who’ve lost speed so they incorporate it.

Group One seems to be the one most at risk of injury. Though it would be so incredibly specialized, I’d love to see an injury scatter plot that included age and speed.

By the way…how’s this for reaching way, way back…?



From all the interviews I’ve ever read Taillon has always seemed like an intelligent, driven, mature person, even back when he was drafted. He’s going to prove that his selection in the draft was not a mistake. With his control and the quality of his pitches I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2 years he is the ace of the staff, not Glasnow or Cole.
By the way, and I know it’s a little early, but any idea of some notables who may start the year in Morgantown?
It’s so much more fun every evening checking out the box scores of the minor league teams when there are this many good prospects to follow. Actually watching them must be like night and day for you from when you first started this.

Joseph Cafaro

That’s an excellent article. Nothing close to this level of detail on other sites.


Great article, I just hope there’s no quiz later, It might have to be open book.

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