Innings Per Start Analysis: Intro and Suspect Arms

I’m annoyed hearing and reading about how all pitchers will throw just as many innings as the aces in a shortened season. I could see the starts possibly being the same since the younger pitchers won’t wear down and need a phantom IL stint or start skipped. The deal is, if Justin Verlander and Julio Urias make the same number of starts, Verlander is going to throw a ton more innings, accumulating more Wins, and his elite rate stats will be better.

In 101 starts over the past three seasons, Verlander has thrown over 101 pitches 72 times and made it to 5 IP for to be eligible for a Win 95% of the time. Urias has never thrown over 100 pitches and in his starts and only reaches 5 IP in only 46% of them. The extra innings are going to be huge and help boost Verlander’s chance for a Win and boost the impact of his elite rate stats. I’m going to highlight the starters who can be counted on for a few more innings for an advantage in this shortened season.

I’ve backed off guessing what type of season is going to be attempted. Each week there seems to be a new plan that gets “leaked”. I don’t want my valuations to be influenced by some Florida-Arizona rankings but teams end up playing in their home parks. There is one known item, the season will be condensed and some pitchers won’t be on season-long innings limits. Also, a short second Spring Training may have some pitchers building up their arms into the season. For these reasons, I’m planning on targeting pitchers who have historically gone deep into games.

The following information is far from clean. The first reason is because of the opener so not all starts are created equally. Just because a pitcher starts a game, it doesn’t mean they’re going more than one inning. Besides just looking at innings per start, I included innings per game and pitches per game to help analyze some of the follower/second starters. Even those numbers are suspect as some arms were relievers at one point then became a starter.

The second issue is that some teams don’t let their starters go deep into games and/or piggyback starters. Owners should assume teams who limited the innings per start will just continue to do so. Enough background, onto the list. Everyone loves a list to comment on.

The following information, unless noted, are from the past three MLB seasons. This year will likely not be the season teams just start pushing starters deep into games. Instead, I believe most teams will pull out all the stops to try to win. As the Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson stated:

“I think [schedule length] could be really interesting,” Johnson said. “I think there’s all sorts of different combinations that you could look at here and they can all make some sort of sense.

“Being a former college coach, I look at that 56-game schedule and say it’s not really a marathon, it is a sprint. We look at Major League Baseball and it’s the complete opposite. We look at it like it’s a marathon and there’s this long period of time where we’re kind of grinding through things. This thing may look like a really short spring.”

If there ever was a season to try out a unique pitching strategy, this is the one with its short, compact schedule.

When given the opportunity to roster similar players, I likely to take the pitcher with a history of going deeper into games. Finally, here are all the starters going into the top-300 at NFBC and how long they go per start.

Start Length
Name G GS IP IP/G Threw 90 Pitches 100 Pitches Reached 5 IP 5 IP/G 5 IP/GS 6 IP/GS Reached 6 IP ADP
Gerrit Cole 98 98 616 6.3 93 63 95 97% 97% 79% 77 6
Jacob deGrom 95 95 622 6.6 86 70 88 93% 93% 83% 79 7
Walker Buehler 62 53 329 5.3 41 16 48 77% 91% 60% 32 12
Max Scherzer 91 91 594 6.5 84 68 86 95% 95% 85% 77 16
Justin Verlander 101 101 643 6.4 95 72 96 95% 95% 81% 82 20
Jack Flaherty 67 66 369 5.5 41 23 53 79% 80% 48% 32 22
Shane Bieber 54 52 329 6.1 40 28 48 89% 92% 71% 37 26
Mike Clevinger 80 74 448 5.6 62 41 64 80% 86% 66% 49 27
Stephen Strasburg 83 83 514 6.2 75 52 75 90% 90% 76% 63 28
Chris Sale 84 84 520 6.2 73 54 73 87% 87% 70% 59 35
Clayton Kershaw 82 81 515 6.3 59 25 75 91% 93% 86% 70 37
Luis Castillo 78 78 450 5.8 54 35 68 87% 87% 56% 44 40
Blake Snell 78 78 417 5.3 50 34 60 77% 77% 50% 39 44
Patrick Corbin 99 98 592 6.0 81 41 88 89% 90% 70% 69 45
Chris Paddack 26 26 141 5.4 11 0 20 77% 77% 38% 10 49
Lucas Giolito 68 68 395 5.8 54 35 58 85% 85% 65% 44 50
Yu Darvish 70 70 405 5.8 49 24 57 81% 81% 59% 41 53
Charlie Morton 88 88 508 5.8 63 33 78 89% 89% 60% 53 54
Aaron Nola 94 94 583 6.2 78 47 87 93% 93% 71% 67 57
Zack Greinke 98 98 619 6.3 83 39 91 93% 93% 78% 76 61
Tyler Glasnow 72 36 234 3.3 13 4 23 32% 64% 36% 13 61
Jose Berrios 90 89 538 6.0 71 36 75 83% 84% 63% 56 75
Brandon Woodruff 49 34 207 4.2 24 6 24 49% 71% 44% 15 78
Trevor Bauer 94 92 565 6.0 82 75 78 83% 85% 68% 63 80
Sonny Gray 88 81 468 5.3 51 29 64 73% 79% 56% 45 95
Frankie Montas 52 27 193 3.7 16 4 23 44% 85% 67% 18 100
Corey Kluber 69 69 454 6.6 55 36 62 90% 90% 80% 55 101
Mike Soroka 34 34 200 5.9 16 5 28 82% 82% 65% 22 104
James Paxton 81 81 447 5.5 59 39 61 75% 75% 54% 44 119
Zack Wheeler 77 77 464 6.0 64 41 67 87% 87% 69% 53 120
Lance Lynn 97 95 551 5.7 80 58 83 86% 87% 58% 55 121
Dinelson Lamet 35 35 187 5.4 17 6 29 83% 83% 40% 14 122
Zac Gallen 15 15 80 5.3 12 5 13 87% 87% 33% 5 123
Julio Urias 45 13 107 2.4 3 0 6 13% 46% 15% 2 126
Madison Bumgarner 72 72 448 6.2 59 34 69 96% 96% 79% 57 130
Max Fried 56 39 225 4.0 16 4 31 55% 79% 38% 15 135
Eduardo Rodriguez 86 81 470 5.5 69 49 71 83% 88% 53% 43 137
Carlos Carrasco 87 74 472 5.4 55 33 63 72% 85% 66% 49 139
David Price 68 63 358 5.3 45 21 52 76% 83% 59% 37 139
Hyun-Jin Ryu 69 68 392 5.7 36 14 52 75% 76% 57% 39 146
Kyle Hendricks 87 87 516 5.9 56 22 75 86% 86% 57% 50 153
Robbie Ray 85 85 460 5.4 71 41 69 81% 81% 46% 39 158
Matthew Boyd 89 88 491 5.5 67 30 69 78% 78% 59% 52 158
Kenta Maeda 105 71 413 3.9 26 9 51 49% 72% 32% 23 162
Carlos Martinez 113 50 372 3.3 41 20 44 39% 88% 64% 32 167
Lance McCullers Jr. 47 44 247 5.3 34 10 32 68% 73% 50% 22 172
German Marquez 90 90 532 5.9 65 26 76 84% 84% 64% 58 176
Mike Minor 125 60 443 3.5 50 28 54 43% 90% 62% 37 177
Ian Kennedy 115 52 337 2.9 35 17 38 33% 73% 46% 24 182
Sean Manaea 61 61 349 5.7 34 13 52 85% 85% 57% 35 183
Jake Odorizzi 90 90 467 5.2 70 36 66 73% 73% 37% 33 185
Luis Severino 66 66 397 6.0 52 34 58 88% 88% 61% 40 194
Jose Urquidy 9 7 41 4.6 1 0 4 44% 57% 43% 3 195
Luke Weaver 55 47 261 4.7 30 10 33 60% 70% 38% 18 197
Andrew Heaney 53 53 297 5.6 35 14 43 81% 81% 51% 27 202
Mike Foltynewicz 81 80 454 5.6 57 36 64 79% 80% 51% 41 204
Marcus Stroman 84 84 488 5.8 64 29 66 79% 79% 57% 48 207
Masahiro Tanaka 89 88 516 5.8 47 23 71 80% 81% 63% 55 207
Dylan Bundy 89 89 503 5.7 70 30 73 82% 82% 54% 48 213
Joe Musgrove 89 65 395 4.4 28 9 51 57% 78% 55% 36 216
Joshua James 55 4 84 1.5 1 0 3 5% 75% 0% 0 221
Mitch Keller 11 11 48 4.4 8 0 6 55% 55% 9% 1 228
Adrian Houser 42 18 125 3.0 4 0 9 21% 50% 17% 3 229
Ryan Yarbrough 66 20 289 4.4 18 4 30 45% 80% 55% 16 234
Caleb Smith 53 46 249 4.7 27 17 34 64% 74% 39% 18 234
Anthony DeSclafani 52 52 282 5.4 19 5 39 75% 75% 38% 20 247
Joey Lucchesi 56 56 294 5.2 22 7 43 77% 77% 32% 18 248
Jon Gray 77 76 433 5.6 52 21 61 79% 80% 55% 42 248
Garrett Richards 25 25 113 4.5 8 4 14 56% 56% 20% 5 248
Chris Archer 84 84 469 5.6 67 40 70 83% 83% 58% 49 251
Aaron Civale 10 10 58 5.8 4 0 9 90% 90% 60% 6 252
Alex Wood 67 59 340 5.1 27 5 49 73% 83% 56% 33 252
Sandy Alcantara 46 38 240 5.2 32 10 34 74% 89% 58% 22 266
Michael Kopech 4 4 14 3.6 0 0 1 25% 25% 25% 1 270
Yonny Chirinos 44 25 223 5.1 12 5 30 68% 80% 44% 14 274
Rich Hill 63 62 327 5.2 33 7 49 78% 79% 45% 28 277
Dylan Cease 14 14 73 5.2 12 7 12 86% 86% 43% 6 278
Steven Matz 75 73 381 5.1 45 25 54 72% 74% 47% 34 283
Dallas Keuchel 76 76 463 6.1 62 33 70 92% 92% 70% 53 286
Miles Mikolas 64 64 385 6.0 44 13 58 91% 91% 66% 42 287
Dustin May 14 4 35 2.5 2 0 4 29% 100% 0% 0 295
Jordan Montgomery 37 36 187 5.0 17 5 25 68% 69% 39% 14 296
Cole Hamels 83 83 480 5.8 66 29 69 83% 83% 60% 50 297

There is a lot to take in so I’ll start examining the data and dive in deeper in a future article. First, here is a look at some of the top arms who could disappoint. My main focus will be reaching five innings in order to qualify for a Win but innings per game also matter.

  • Walker Beuhler’s innings per game might seem to be on the low side (under 80%) but looking at just when he’s started a game, he’s gone 5 IP over 90% of the time and is in line with the pitchers taken around him.
  • Jack Flaherty falls quite a bit for me with the 80% 5IP rate over the last three seasons. I know he broke out last season, but the rate “jumped” to just 82%. I just see too many flaws in this pitching tier and will likely stay out of it.
  • I’m completely out on Blake Snell and Chris Paddack at their prices. Snell doesn’t go deep into games while Paddack never reached 100 pitches in a game last season.
  • Tyler Glasnow is a roulette spin and I never came close to owning before seeing these numbers. Instead, I’ll roster a stable hitter with my 4th or 5th round pick instead of hoping on Glasnow pulling it all together for the first time.
  • With Brandon Woodruff, he just transitioned to starting and his 2019 numbers mirror Snell and Paddack. He reached 5 IP at 77% clip and threw 5.5 IP/GS. If an owner is interested in the first two, why not grab Woodruff a couple of rounds later.
  • Some of Frankie Montas’s numbers aren’t the best because he spent some time in the bullpen, but his 85% clip of reaching the 5th IP when starting is respectable. I find myself gravitating to him more and more.
  • Historically, Sonny Gray had issues reaching the 5th inning, but just looking at 2019, the rate jumped to 87%. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep it going or revert back to his historical norm.
  • A trio of 2019 Dodgers – Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, and Julio Urias – have not been workhorses. I expect Urias to continue to have his workload limited. Ryu and Maeda are no longer with the Dodgers and could see their innings increase.
  • While Joshua James and Jose Urquidy have the talent to be productive, they might be limited in the innings they throw. Neither reached 100 pitches in the 11 starts between them. In the season’s sprint, they could definitely be slow off the start.
  • A couple of late-round picks I liked were Mitch Keller and Adrian Houser, but they reached the 5th inning in about half their starts. I’m going to need to consider several other options at this point in the draft.

We hoped you liked reading Innings Per Start Analysis: Intro and Suspect Arms by Jeff Zimmerman!

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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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darrylhumpsgophers
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darrylhumpsgophers

Possible to insert the column for 6 IP/GS for QS leagues? Thanks for the analysis!