MASH Report: Starting Pitcher DL Chances

One item is always hanging over my head once the season ends, is the final clean disabled list report in which I have published every year since 2010. This morning, I completed finalizing the list and it is now time to run some queries. Most of the general information will be available in my annual article at The Hardball Times later this month or early next month.

For today’s MASH Report, I am going to publish my yearly starting pitcher disabled list chances. For this report, I have always incorporate the following factors.

• Age: The older the pitcher, the more the injury risk (+1% point increase each year older)
• Injury history: Nothing predicts future injuries like past injuries (+10% points for each season of the past three on the DL).
• Games Started: A pitcher needs to show they can throw for an entire season without breaking down (-3% points for each full season up to three).

Every year the average disabled list chance hovers around 40% which works out to two out of every five starters in a rotation will miss some time. Some teams will get hit with more injuries while others less.

Checking back on last year’s data, the formula predicted 54.2% of the 20 most likely pitchers would go on the DL would and 55% did. When I examined the least likely DL bound pitchers, the numbers didn’t line up so good with 31% of the pitchers predicted to be DL bound, but 45% made the list.

The failure with the “healthy pitchers didn’t surprise me. It was the first year in which the projected total was more than a couple percentage points off the final total. To start the season, I put the number of pitchers DL bound at 41% but the overall total ended up at 46%. The final value is not the highest it has ever been (at 50% in 2012), but the trend has been with more and pitchers getting injured. I am thinking I may need to think about re-calibrating the original formula with the changing demographic.

I will look into such a possible solution later, but for now here are the highest and lowest DL chances will the current formula. The full projections are available here.

Highest and Lowest 2017 Starting Pitcher DL Chances
NAME Age GS (2016) GS (2015) GS (2014) DL in 2016 DL in 2015 DL in 2014 2017 DL chance
C.J. Wilson 35 0 21 31 1 1 1 61.5%
CC Sabathia 35 30 29 8 1 1 1 60.0%
Jason Vargas 33 3 9 30 1 1 1 60.0%
Matt Harrison 29 0 3 4 1 1 1 58.5%
Steven Wright 31 24 9 1 1 1 1 58.3%
Charlie Morton 32 4 23 26 1 1 1 57.7%
Matt Cain 31 17 11 15 1 1 1 57.4%
Homer Bailey 30 6 2 23 1 1 1 57.4%
Hyun-Jin Ryu 29 1 0 26 1 1 1 56.5%
Matt Garza 32 19 25 27 1 1 1 55.9%
Derek Holland 29 20 10 5 1 1 1 55.7%
A.J. Griffin 28 23 0 0 1 1 1 55.6%
Miguel Gonzalez 32 23 26 26 1 1 1 55.5%
Mike Minor 28 0 0 25 1 1 1 55.4%
Yu Darvish 29 17 0 22 1 1 1 55.3%
David Phelps 29 5 19 17 1 1 1 55.1%
Alex Cobb 28 5 0 27 1 1 1 54.8%
Rich Hill 36 20 4 0 1 0 0 54.7%
Chad Billingsley 30 0 7 0 0 1 1 54.3%
Jake Peavy 35 21 19 32 1 1 0 54.1%
Luis Perdomo 23 20 0 0 0 0 0 33.7%
Luke Weaver 22 8 0 0 0 0 0 33.6%
Dallas Keuchel 28 26 33 29 0 0 0 33.3%
Hector Santiago 28 33 32 24 0 0 0 33.2%
Tyler Danish 21 0 0 0 0 0 0 33.2%
Michael Fulmer 23 26 0 0 0 0 0 33.1%
Jose Berrios 22 14 0 0 0 0 0 33.1%
Alex Reyes 21 5 0 0 0 0 0 32.7%
Zach Davies 23 28 6 0 0 0 0 32.4%
Brandon Finnegan 23 31 4 0 0 0 0 32.3%
Kyle Hendricks 26 30 32 13 0 0 0 32.2%
Drew Hutchison 25 3 28 32 0 0 0 32.1%
Matt Wisler 23 26 19 0 0 0 0 31.5%
Jose Quintana 27 32 32 32 0 0 0 31.5%
Chris Archer 27 33 34 32 0 0 0 31.2%
Robbie Ray 24 32 23 6 0 0 0 31.2%
Noah Syndergaard 23 30 24 0 0 0 0 30.7%
Trevor Bauer 25 28 30 26 0 0 0 30.3%
Madison Bumgarner 26 34 32 33 0 0 0 30.1%
Julio Urias 19 15 0 0 0 0 0 29.7%

As always, old often-injured pitchers have a high chance for injury rates and young non-injured pitchers have low injury rates.


• James Wagner of The New York Times wrote about how the Mets plan on dealing with starting pitcher injuries.

On Tuesday, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said the club would consider a variety of tactics: a six-man rotation at times; letting tired starting pitchers take a week off in the middle of the season; and using occasional spot starters to lighten the workload of everyone else.

My issue with most answers to the injury question is that “… teams will continue turning to rest to help.”

In baseball’s current state of velocity first pitching, I think this solution makes the most practical sense. Pitchers get hurt because they throw a lot of balls really hard. Position players play catch all the time and their arms aren’t giving out. Once a pitcher picks of his velocity, more stress is put on his arm.

No manager or pitching coach is going to tell their pitchers to throw slower. Instead, the answer is to throw just as hard, but do it few times. The magical balance has not been reached between these two factors with injuries still up.

The Mets are trying to find a way to keep their hard throwing pitchers throwing is to throw less. The problem’s possible solution (throw less) counters the eventual goal (throw more), but right now that is the only sensible solution.

• Staying with the Mets, it as been decided that Noah Syndergaard will not need surgery to deal with a bone spur.

Calling reports of the bone spur in Noah Syndergaard’s elbow “blown out of proportion,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson confirmed Tuesday that Syndergaard would not need surgery to remove the spur.

“This one is so insignificant in the eyes of the physicians,” Alderson said, speaking at the General Managers Meetings in Arizona. “It was probably blown a little bit out of proportion last year, which tends to happen around the Mets.”

Whenever a fantasy owner hears about a pitcher with bone spurs, remain calm. Every pitcher has them because they are formed to help stabilize the elbow when throwing hard. The issue of injury comes from one of the spurs breaking off and causing pain.

• And now a talk about even another Met, Matt Harvey. At First Pitch Arizona, Matt Harvey’s talent upon his return from thoracic outlet syndrome was brought up several times. I remember when the surgery news was release, the expectations were low but I decided to check back to make sure. There was no need to perform a detailed study as Craig Edwards did a great job covering the topic.

There are not any real patterns or signals to be divided here. This piece from Beyond the Box Score discusses a few of the players above and their effectiveness after the surgery. It’s a difficult procedure from which to return, but there are success stories. Most of the players who’ve had the surgery are relatively young like Harvey, but all had varying levels of success even before the surgery. While we usually think of a 14-month recovery for Tommy John surgery, thoracic outlet surgery doesn’t require the same time frame for recovery and, provided everything goes according to plan, Harvey will likely be ready for next season.

The truth right now is that we don’t know what will happen with Harvey with some players having success and other not having any. As for his 2017 value, I really think his value will change depending on the owner and league type. If stable known production is desired, Harvey is not the man. If someone is willing to gamble, especially in a shallow league will a deep waiver wire, Harvey is a great option.

• While Scott Boras didn’t directly admit Bryce Harper was hurt this past season, he did offer up this nugget:

His agent, Scott Boras, has acknowledged that Harper played through some “limitations” at times this season.

In my opinion, Harper was hurt and for some reason, he really doesn’t want someone to know. The main reason I can’t buy into the “I was not hurt” talk is that I don’t believe he could post his sub-par 2016 stats at 100% health. Something was wrong. I wonder if he continued to tell the team he was OK but he wasn’t. Another option might be staying off the DL to look healthier for free agency.

Devin Mesoraco will likely not be the everyday catcher for the season’s start even if he gets 100% healthy.

“I’ve seen Mes first-hand rehabbing down at the ballpark,” Williams said. “He’s down there most every day since the end of the season. He’ll go home for a little bit. The rehab is going well. The timing is he had surgery at a fairly comparable time to last year, within a few weeks. The timetable will be fairly similar.

“We’re optimistic he’ll open the season ready to catch, but probably on some sort of schedule. We’d probably prevent him going out there and catching the first 14 games of the season. It’s probably some sort of timeshare arrangement to make sure he’s eased back in. It’s hard to say for sure. The doctors said that really mid-January is when they’d be able to tell us with a lot more precision what the timetable looks like.”

Mesoraco is someone I could see being frustrating in deeper and two catcher leagues with his playing time  in question. In shallower leagues, he will be someone to take a chance on because his price will be low and catchers will be available on the waiver wire.

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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I’m fully expecting Harper to have some sort of minor surgery this offseason, to fix something that “couldn’t get worse by playing through it”.