We often get questions about whether pitchers who have low innings totals from the previous season, will be limited the following season. This year we are seeing it with West Virginia starter Oddy Nunez, who was a reliever in the GCL last season. The players usually do get limited, but their innings are based more on their pitching during the entire previous season and not just what you see on paper.
In the lower levels it’s a little different than in Triple-A and what we saw with Jameson Taillon last year. It’s more than just innings at the upper levels, it’s also pitch counts and strenuous pitches, meaning innings with a lot of pitches will count more than an easy 1-2-3 inning. The lower levels have lower pitch caps, so you’re not seeing some guy go seven innings and throw 100 pitches in a game. The higher totals at the lower levels are saved for the experienced college pitchers.
This year the Pirates will have some prep pitchers from their 2016 draft class starting for Bristol, if all goes well in Spring Training. The average pitcher is going to make 13-14 starts there and see about 60 innings, since they won’t always get through five frames under their pitch count. Using that 60 innings total as a standard, they say young pitchers shouldn’t add more than 30-40 innings to their previous season total. Some people believe that it means if a short-season pitcher goes to West Virginia the following year, they have 90-100 innings to work with maximum. That’s actually where the work in Extended Spring Training (EST) comes into the equation though.
If a starter is throwing five innings in his first start of the season, he clearly had to build up to that point first. The question is, how many innings do they throw down at Pirate City before the season starts?
I talked to two players to figure out Extended Spring Training innings. I did that because of a situation like Oddy Nunez popping up, with a player who goes from a reliever to a starter. I also wanted to get a base for a pitcher coming up in the system as a starter.
I’ll point out that EST innings are capped around 20-25 pitches. They include “innings” in which they may not record a single out, or you could see a pitcher throw 10-15 pitches and get five outs. It basically evens out in the end, but obviously not every inning is created the same. You won’t get any 5-6 pitch innings, which is where the extra outs can come into play. Getting out of an inning on five pitches is great during the season, but it doesn’t allow a pitcher to build up his pitch count.
For the starting pitcher, I got the innings/workload from Max Kranick, who was the 11th round draft pick last year and currently ranks as our 14th best prospect in the system. He was one of the early players in camp, reporting at the end of February. Kranick pitched his first inning around March 15th. For approximately the first month after that, he was throwing 1-2 innings each time. He then worked his way up to three innings and did that 4-5 times, followed by four innings the last time out. The plan is to keep him around four innings until the short-season teams start playing a month from now. He’s on a five-day schedule like a normal starter, going six days between games if there is a Sunday in the middle. That’s the off-day down at Pirate City.
For relievers, I talked to Chris McDonald, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent after the draft last year. He worked as a reliever in the GCL last year, throwing 25.1 innings. He also started early and threw his first game around the same time as Kranick, meaning that both of them have been pitching in games for about ten weeks. As a reliever, McDonald is pitching 1-2 innings per game, two times a week, with most outings consisting of the two inning variety where he’s capped off at 45 pitches. He also throws a bullpen each week, which would be similar to throwing one inning. His pitching plan for the next month should remain the same, so he’s able to go extended innings if necessary.
So for a starter like Kranick, who might put in 60 innings during the regular season this year, the plan is to get him about 45-50 innings total before you ever see his name in the boxscore. That means that if he (or any other short-season starter with the same schedule) goes to full-season ball next year, their base total to add on to could be as high as 110 innings. That’s how a pitcher like Mitch Keller can make six starts for Bristol in 2015, and still pitch regularly until the end of the 2016 season into the playoffs. The fact that he was having a lot of easy innings in 2016, also helped him pitch longer.
For a reliever, McDonald believes he has thrown 25-30 innings this spring already, and if you figure in four per week for four more weeks before short-season ball starts, he will be up near 40 innings total. A reliever like Oddy Nunez would have been on the same schedule last year, so when he all of a sudden develops into a better pitcher worthy of a starting spot, he isn’t just adding on to the 34.2 innings he put in on paper, he has also put in just as many innings that you don’t see on paper. That has him going from approximately 70 innings of work as a base from last year, with the ability to add 30-40 more this season.
Again, it’s also based on the difficulty of the innings and pitch counts, not just the innings themselves. By including the EST innings though, you see where they get the extra innings for players, without them actually crossing that 30-40 added innings barrier that you hear about for young pitchers.
Bradenton leads their division by 2.5 games with 25 games remaining in the first half.
West Virginia trails their division leader by 4.5 games, with 27 games left in the first half. They are in fifth place.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 5-2 to the Atlanta Braves on Monday night. The Pirates will go with Tyler Glasnow tonight making his ninth start. He has a 9.45 ERA in three road starts. The Braves will counter with the 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who has a 4.13 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in eight starts.
In the minors, Nick Kingham makes his second start for Indianapolis today. After five shutout innings in his season debut with Bradenton, Kingham moved up to Indianapolis, where he allowed two runs over 5.2 innings in his start last week. Dario Agrazal starts for Bradenton tonight, coming off a career-high eight strikeouts. West Virginia was rained out yesterday and has a doubleheader today with James Marvel making his return from the disabled list and Luis Escobar scheduled to start the second game. That could change, since teams don’t usually use two regular starters on the same day (AM UPDATE: It now says Oddy Nunez and Marvel pitching today). Cole Tucker currently has a 28-game on base streak.
MLB: Pittsburgh (20-25) @ Braves (19-23) 7:35 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (7.34 ERA, 24:37 BB/SO, 34.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (24-18) @ Lehigh Valley (29-14) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (3.18 ERA, 3:4 BB/SO, 5.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (24-17) vs Akron (18-21) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (4.88 ERA, 14:29 BB/SO, 27.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (27-18) vs St Lucie (21-24) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (2.49 ERA, 4:35 BB/SO, 50.2 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (21-21) @ Augusta (13-28) 5:35 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: James Marvel (3.68 ERA, 6:26 BB/SO, 29.1 IP) and Luis Escobar (ERA, BB/SO, IP)
Here is the at-bat from Steven Brault’s fourth strikeout on Sunday.
5/22: James Marvel activated from West Virginia disabled list. Chris Harvey assigned to Morgantown.
5/20: Jhan Marinez added to Pirates roster. Josh Lindblom placed on disabled list.
5/19: Pirates claim Jhan Marinez off waivers.
5/19: Stephen Alemais placed on disabled list. Cam Vieaux activated from West Virginia disabled list.
5/19: Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster. Zane Chavez placed on disabled list.
5/17: Gregory Polanco placed on disabled list. Danny Ortiz recalled from Indianapolis.
5/16: Pirates sign Haicheng Gong.
5/16: JT Brubaker activated from Altoona disabled list. Chris Diaz assigned to Morgantown.
5/15: Nick Kingham promoted to Indianapolis.
5/15: Casey Sadler and Pedro Vasquez assigned to Bradenton. Sam Street assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/15: James Marvel placed on West Virginia disabled list. Chris Harvey assigned to West Virginia.
5/14: Cam Vieaux placed on West Virginia disabled list. Adrian Valerio added to West Virginia roster.
5/14: Barrett Barnes added to Indianapolis roster. Anderson Feliz assigned to Morgantown.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one of the best pitchers in team history. First the other players born on May 23rd, we start with Mike Gonzalez, who was a reliever/closer for the Pirates from 2003 until 2006. Infielder Nelson Norman from the 1982 team and right fielder Bill Miller, who played his only MLB game on August 23, 1902. He has a very interesting story that falls under the “sign of the times” category, which can be read in the link above.
On to the star player from this date, pitcher Deacon Phillippe. He won 168 games for the Pirates between 1900 and 1911, helping them two four NL titles and two World Series appearances. In 12 Major League seasons, he never had a losing record, finishing 189-109, which makes him a fringe Hall of Fame candidate. During the 1903 season when Pittsburgh played in the first World Series, Phillippe won 25 games and he started five games during the WS, winning three times. You can read a lot more on him here, which is an article that breaks down how he fared against the best/worst teams during his day and the best pitchers of his time.
One trade of note on this date in 1963. The Pirates dealt outfielder Bob Skinner to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Jerry Lynch. It seemed like the Pirates were getting slightly worse in the deal, but Lynch ended up being the better player, while Skinner struggled early in 1964 and was dealt away to the St Louis Cardinals.