Innings Limit Updates – Danger Zone & Already Over

Continuing from yesterday, here are updates on key young arms facing potential innings limits in September.

Danger Zone
Player Age 2015 IP Last Yr Diff Last Yr+20% +20% Diff
Carlos Rodon* 22 129 123 0 148 -19
Robbie Ray 23 138 129 10 154 -16
Anthony DeSclafani 25 150 135 15 162 -12
Noah Syndergaard 22 152 133 19 160 -8
Luis Severino 21 128 113 15 136 -7
Michael Lorenzen 23 138 121 18 145 -7
Joe Ross 22 143 122 21 146 -3
Mike Foltynewicz 23 143 121 22 146 -2
Taijuan Walker 22 153 129 24 155 -2
Mike Montgomery 25 149 126 23 151 -2
*NCAA IP incl. in last year figures

These guys are all at or above their 2014 workload so teams could pull the plug at any time from here until the end. Some of them don’t have any fantasy relevance so I’m not really going to dive into Lorenzen, Foltynewicz, or Montgomery. The others range from star-level with the way their pitching so far to useful in only-league formats.

Carlos Rodon

The White Sox aren’t playing for anything so there isn’t a team-based incentive to keep running him out there, but they haven’t really put any kind of figure on it. This CBS Sports blurb from May 14th by Jason Butt quotes Rich Hahn saying, “There is no magic number, we’re going to remain flexible responding to what we see and hear from the player.” Rodon is in a groove right now with five straight quality starts (including one Wednesday night), all with 2 or fewer ER and three of the five going 7+ IP, and if he continues to roll, I think they will just go with it.

Outlook: Rodon is a workhorse-in-training. That doesn’t mean the Sox will run him ragged just to pile up some innings, but they won’t be afraid to exceed even the +20% level if he’s feeling good enough to do so. His rotation spot is due up five more times after last night and I think we get at least four starts but essentially make it to the finish line with some schedule massaging here and there.

Robbie Ray

Ray only pitched 129 innings last year, but he had 142 in 2013. In fact, I may have shorted him on his 2014 count because I’m seeing he had 11 in the Arizona Fall League, too, which pushes him up to 140 and likely gives him a longer leash to close out the season. I haven’t seen anything on a potential limit for Ray out of the D’Backs. He’s been alright this year, showing some positive signs in his strikeout rate as well as an interesting shift in batted ball mix in-season. The big fear when he got off to a great start was that the plentiful hard contact rate mixed with a heavy flyball skew and obscenely low HR/FB rate would make some painful regression.

There’s definitely been some as he posted a 6.00 ERA in six August starts, but it wasn’t via the home run in part because he shifted from a 36% GB rate through July to a 52% mark in August. Walks were actually a big problem for him in August (13% BB rate) and they conspired with a surging BABIP – from .255 in the first half to .368 in the second – yielding lots of traffic (1.77 WHIP) and too many runs (20 in 30 IP). He did have two quality starts and was an out away from a third so it wasn’t all bad in August.

Outlook: I think he keeps going and makes it to the finish line. They will likely give him an extra day on occasion to get into early-October, but I don’t think they have to limit him. Of course, if he doesn’t turn it around after his August, neither fantasy folks nor the Diamondbacks will want him pitching.

Noah Syndergaard

Syndergaard and his rotation mates have been the subject of innings limit talk since about February. Thor has already surpassed his 2014 total, but has a little cushion with the +20% cap. However, the Mets don’t just have to worry about getting him to the regular season finish line as they are likely headed to the playoffs where he will be a key part of any success they hope to have in the postseason.

We’ve seen the Mets use a six-man rotation at times and skip guys in other situations. In fact, Syndergaard himself is being skipped this weekend per Adam Rubin at ESPN. Matt Harvey was also recently skipped and likely will be again. The return of Steven Matz makes skipping over your studs quite a bit easier as does a 6.5-game lead in the division. There haven’t been any numbers put on Thor, while 180 has been tossed around in reference to Harvey, who is coming off of TJ surgery.

Outlook: Syndergaard will break his +20% cap in the regular season, that’s all but guaranteed at this point. My guess is that they’re eyeing 190-195 as a total for him, playoffs included. I’m not sure too much more than 20 of those will be used in the season’s final month, especially if they build on their lead.

Thor is a very scary proposition for those in H2H playoffs or Roto players in tight pitching races relying on him. The Mets don’t give a shit about that, though, which is obviously understandable. You need to start making plans to bridge the gap in your rotation. Or really, you should’ve been making plans all summer because this isn’t new.

Luis Severino

The day before Severino’s debut, Ryan Hatch of NJ.com wrote that he won’t be limited coming down the stretch. Andrew Marchand at ESPN reiterates the point today, saying the Yankees mapped it out so he would still have gas in tank in October. This is actually not too surprising considering that Severino was essentially the team’s big acquisition at the deadline. Instead of trading someone like Severino or Greg Bird for established players, they decided that those two and possibly Aaron Judge would be the pieces to add in early-August.

Severino went five innings (94 pitches) in his debut, but has gone six innings in his four starts since with pitch counts of 97, 105, 107, and 88. His spot came up in the order with two on and nobody out in Atlanta during the 88-pitch game (A-Rod was walked and the Braves actually got out of the inning) or that game almost certainly would’ve given Severino a new career-high in innings. Pitchers batting is so cool.

Outlook: Proceed with confidence. I’m taking the Yankees at their word here, he’s going to keep on trucking. Their bullpen allows them to keep Severino in the 5-6 inning range each start and their offense is explosive enough to make the move even easier at times, although the team scoring 4.9 runs per game has given their rookie 1, 1, 4, 6, and 3 runs in his five starts.

Joe Ross

After an excellent start on August 27th, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post wrote about a potential innings limit for Ross and cited a +25% cap that the Nationals consider safe for young arms. It doesn’t mean they will adhere to it entirely, but there is certainly a shutdown coming at some point. The +25% cap it bumps him up to 153, leaving him with about eight innings until reaching it, so even doubling that remaining portion doesn’t get us anywhere near the finish line.

Outlook: You’ve probably got two starts left for Ross, especially after the clunker on Tuesday in St. Louis (2.7 IP/3 ER, 6 BB). Three rough starts in his last five – all on the road, all against top teams (LAD, SF, STL) – leave him with a 3.50 ERA so it might not feel like a big loss, but he is fanning nearly a batter per inning and that 1.07 WHIP is excellent. Have a plan ready because he’s done soon.

Taijuan Walker

This Bob Dutton piece from August 10th estimates a rough 175-inning cap for Walker, although they also have him down for 139 innings last year and I could only account for 127. Either way, he’s already well over his 2014 count at 153 and a non-contending Mariners don’t need to extend him. I do think they’d like him ready for a full season in 2016, though, so getting him near that 175 would leave him in a situation where something approaching 200 next year wouldn’t be an issue.

Outlook: I think he actually makes his full complement of starts (five) even though the rough cap they’re using wouldn’t get him there. With a 175-inning cap, he has 22 innings left in the tank, good for three-plus starts given his average per start this year. Finishing the fourth and giving him the fifth would likely put him somewhere from 7-10 innings over their cap. I should mention that this is dependent upon his hip being OK, but it was said to be just a cramp so I’m not sure it’s a long-term issue.

Already Over
Player Age 2015 IP Last Yr Diff Last Yr+20% +20% Diff
Eduardo Rodriguez 22 146 120 26 144 2
Lance McCullers 21 122 97 25 116 5
Michael Wacha 23 157 109 48 131 27
Carlos Martinez 23 155 104 51 124 30
Raisel Iglesias 25 109 ? ? ? ?
Patrick Corbin 25 67 0 67 0 67

Last up are the guys who have already blown past not just their 2014 workloads, but also the +20% cap. We also have a pair of special cases who need addressing.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez was recently pushed back in late-August, giving him a seven-day breather between starts. It was that next start that pushed him over his +20% cap by two innings, but that’s just against last year’s workload. He has reached as high as 145 innings as a pro back in 2013. This piece by Jen McCaffrey of Masslive.com talks about managing both Rodriguez and Henry Owens, but doesn’t give any specific figures. The Red Sox obviously don’t need to extend either young arm as they’re going nowhere this year which definitely puts the end of Rodriguez’s season in peril.

Outlook: I think there is actually a decent shot of Rodriguez getting to the finish line even though the Red Sox are toast. First off, they haven’t set a hard number so they shouldn’t feel bound by anything, but also he does have a higher workload total in his recent past so if they’re looking at the +20% cap off of his 2013, then he can go around 175 innings.

That would leave about 30 in the tank. He’s averaging a bit under six innings per start so let’s say they give him five more with one skip thrown in to make it all the way since he has six turns left. And if he’s feeling perfectly fine, they might even just let him go all six. He feels relatively safe barring a sharp change in approach from the Red Sox or health status from Rodriguez.

Lance McCullers

The Astros already took a big step in preventing McCullers from accumulating too many innings when they sent him down for nearly three weeks in August. He had just a three-inning tune up during that time back with Double-A Corpus Christi, giving a nice reprieve during the dog days as they wanted to have him ready to start in September and hopefully October.

Brian McTaggart wrote back in July that McCullers was a willing participant in this massaging of workload and though the Astros are known for statistical and analytical savvy, they haven’t put a hard cap on McCullers… or at least not one they’re willing to share.

Outlook: Given his youth (just 21 years old) and the fact that he has just 260 minor league innings, I have a hard time seeing McCullers making every turn the rest of the way. They do have three remaining off-days including today which should help, but they have to save something in the tank for October, even if he’s only going to do the Lincecum Super Reliever role from 2012 which saw him throw about 18 IP (although that was all the way to the World Series and we don’t know how far Houston will make it, assuming they hold on and get in the postseason).

His stuff will play remarkably well out of the bullpen and the Houston organization has been doing tandem-starting in the minors for a while now so he might even get some 2-3 IP stints in the regular season backing up a Brett Oberholtzer or Dan Straily start as a way of limiting him. Be prepared for some missed time from the young righty.

Michael Wacha & Carlos Martinez

The baby birds have both been skipped recently as talk of their impending innings limits began back in April as you can see in this CBS report by Michael Hurcomb. Hard numbers have been elusive regarding the limits for the duo. The Hurcomb piece mentions 150 for Martinez, but he has already exceeded that and we’re only at September 3rd.

Back around August 11th (MLB.com doesn’t have a date on it), Jennifer Langosch has quotes from Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak that back off the notion off a hard cap or shutdown, and so maybe we see more of the massaging we saw this week with a skipped start. “The potential win supersedes anything we have in place right now,” said Matheny in the piece, virtually the opposite of the Nationals/Stephen Strasburg situation from a few years back.

Wacha, 23, is coming off of a shoulder injury in 2014 that limited him to just 107 innings with the Cardinals. He did throw 180 innings back in 2013 and 6’6, 210, he is better-suited to the rigors of pitching, though that doesn’t make him immune to injury or fatigue. Martinez, also 23, is in his first full season as a starter in the major leagues after spending most of the last two in the bullpen. At 6’0, 185, many questioned if he’d ever make it as a starter despite electric stuff. It’s easy to understand the team’s desire to protect these two aces-in-training.

Wacha Outlook: I don’t expect any sort of shutdown for him at any point, but I do expect at least one more skip (maybe two) among his six remaining turns in the rotation. Hopefully there is some advanced warning for those of you relying on him, especially in H2H where he has no doubt been instrumental to your success this year.

Martinez Outlook: His start was skipped due to a sore back so if that’s something that lingers, we could definitely see more skips or just an 8-10 day hiatus sort of thing since they wouldn’t have to DL him thanks to expanded rosters. Martinez also has six more turns in the rotation. I think we get four starts and probably a random, extended bullpen appearance.

SPECIAL CASES

Raisel Iglesias

This piece on August 30th by John Fay highlights why Iglesias is a special case with the opening lines: “There is an easy formula for figuring the innings limit for all of the Reds’ rookie starters, except Raisel Iglesias. You take last year’s total innings pitched and add 25 to 30. But in Iglesias’ case, his total was zero.” Meanwhile it goes on to mention that the Reds have a number, but it’s not being shared. In addition to the number, they have the usuals that might cause a limit: fatigue and lack of command.

Iglesias is pitching brilliantly of late, but the Reds have nothing to play for which only further complicates the situation. He is riding a streak of three straight with 10+ strikeouts, all of which were seven-inning outings. In fact, the streak of seven-inning outings goes four games back and he added three other quality starts before that giving him a run of seven straight during which he has only twice yielded the maximum three runs allowed to qualify for a quality start.

Outlook: I think keeping the number quiet allows them to go more off of the fatigue/feel test of it all as they’d like to see Iglesias reach the finish line as a starter even though they’re done as far as contention. While his total for 2014 was 0 IP, he did throw 83 IP in Cuba the year before.

The +20% would only allow for 100 this year if using the 2013 total, but the 25-30 IP bump commonly referenced by several of the managers in pieces I read researching this would be closer to 110-115 innings. If he continues to average 6 IP/start, he’s looking at 118. I’ll give him four of his five remaining starts, though I’m not sure if they’re more apt to skip one of them or just lop off the last one by moving him into the bullpen.

Patrick Corbin

Corbin is a tough case because he’s coming off of TJ surgery last year and didn’t pitch at all. That he logged 208.3 IP in a standout 2013 campaign isn’t as relevant as one of the other young guys throwing more in 2013 than they did in 2014 since Corbin is recovering from a major injury. There hasn’t been any talk of a shutdown and he’s looked mostly great save a couple of implosions, which you’d expect on the heels of TJ.

Outlook: Obviously any injury concern would be an automatic shutdown because the Diamondbacks aren’t contending, but otherwise I suspect they knew about how many innings they wanted him to go and started his season accordingly (July 4th) so I expect him to reach the finish line and make the final six starts which would give him around 86 IP for the season.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Would picking up Matz be a reasonable plan to gaard against Thor’s reduced innings?