Can Strasburg Repeat 200+ Innings?

… probably not, but anyone probably already guessed that considering Stephen Strasburg’s injury history. The answer isn’t that far off after digging through some historic comps. Only once in his 10-year career has he topped 200 innings (215 in 2014) and only over 180 one other time. He’s thrown under 160 innings six times in ten seasons. Another issue besides the limited innings is that he’s going to be on the wrong side of 30 where pitcher breakdown faster. It’s time to look a little deeper and see what innings total should be expected.

I need to start with some guidelines. First, I’m only going to examine pitchers who throw the 200 innings between their ages 28 and 32 seasons. Also, the pitcher needs to be considered a starter with at least half of their games as a starter (GS/G >= 0.5). Finally, I rode the fine line of using recent data and having enough samples. With pitchers recently throwing fewer innings, I only used pitchers from the past 10 seasons.

First, I’m going to only look to estimate the innings thrown by these pitchers over who break the 200 IP barrier in one season compared to the next. They averaged 216 IP (median = 213 IP) in the first season and then 182 IP (median = 200 IP) in the next season. Fantasy owners would love to count on 200 innings from Strasburg but here is how many innings these pitchers averaged in the previous seasons.

Year: Average IP, Median IP
Minus 3: 181, 203
Minus 2: 192, 208
Minus 1: 197, 205
200 IP season: 216, 214
Plus 1: 186, 202

Strasburg only got close to the minus 2 average with 175 IP in two seasons ago. Strasburg just doesn’t have the historic high inning totals. Not even close. Here are Strasburg’s innings over the past four seasons.

Season: IP
2016: 147
2017: 175
2018: 130
2019: 209

Changing the parameters a bit, I went with starters who threw fewer than 180 for three straight season and then jumped over 200. Only eight pitchers (*) made the cut

Year: Average IP, Median IP
Minus 3: 81, 85
Minus 2: 85, 82
Minus 1: 143, 151
200 IP season: 215, 214
Plus 1: 189, 190

The decline isn’t bad but it’s tough to go off of just eight samples. I moved the years back to 2010 and with 17 samples I get:

Year: Average IP, Median IP
Minus 3: 78, 68
Minus 2: 95, 91
Minus 1: 120, 147
200 IP season: 211, 207
Plus 1: 173, 190

A little more downward pressure on the numbers, but still close to the previous dataset. The final average values might give some owners a pause but just a couple low values dragged down the average. The median result should give owners some reprieve. It’s not the 200+ innings by just taking one season into account, but most fantasy owners would like 190 innings going forward. If they want to be on the conservative side, they can drop the innings down to 180.

Before I ran the numbers, I expected a lower innings estimate. After going over the historic values, a 190 innings next season seems extremely reachable considering his injury history.

 

* Corey Kluber, Collin McHugh, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Arrieta, C.J. Wilson, Joel Pineiro, Jake Peavy, Gio Gonzalez

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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