From Michael Salfino at SNY:
“Quasi-scientific” is too kind. The theory (Verducci Effect) is anti-science — something proffered with no evidence because it sounds true. In non-scientific, Woody Allen parlance, “It’s a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
The two biggest advocates, Verducci and Baseball Prospectus’ “injury guru” Will Carroll, have not yet cited any studies of it to the best of my knowledge. Carroll told me earlier this season when I was writing a broader piece on this subject that “he’s working on another study now.” We’re still waiting for those results to be published.
Well, all of us except Brian Cashman, who has clearly seen enough. Never mind that the only real multi-season study to date by David Gassko of the great HardballTimes.com in 2006 debunked it. VE pitchers under age 25 fared no worse in the following year than non-VE pitchers (those whose workload did not increase 30 or more innings) who also were under age 25.
Salfino goes on to list further flaws in the Verducci Effect theory, and I encourage you to read it. However, I do take issue with Salfino believing that major league clubs like the Yankees are depending on Verducci for their data. I am sure that the teams have done their own independent studies, and they may have reached a different conclusion than Verducci. Maybe they feel a 50 inning jump is too high, or they might be counting pitches rather than innings. It is really difficult for us to know. For example, the website razzball.com did a study that I linked to this offseason that found that an 700+ increase in pitches or throwing more than 27% percent of pitches as curveballs or sliders leads to a durability and performance problems the following season. They followed this study up with a list of 20 pitchers who fit their risk criteria. From the 13 riskiest pitchers on that list, 5 have seen a significant dip in performance while 3 have suffered major injuries. Being that there is no control group here, it is hard to determine how far from the norm these results are, but it seems that this study may be on to something.
The point is that it is hard to just set a cutoff of 30 innings over the player’s previous high and be confident that you are doing the right thing. The stress of each inning is different, as is the strain each type of pitch exerts on the arm. That being said, it is up to the fans to trust the team on this issue. They almost certainly know more about what each player can handle than we do.
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