Jeff Jones on managing pitcher workloads

Jeff Jones showed last year he could take the challenge of handling a pitching staff coming off a deep postseason run. Despite many Tigers starters pitching well past their career highs for innings in 2011, they stayed relatively healthy in 2012. The few injuries they had — Doug Fister’s oblique issues and Max Scherzer’s late-season shoulder problems — weren’t season-threatening, and only closer Jose Valverde had a really severe dropoff.

Now, he’s trying to do it again. And after back-to-back years with deep postseason runs, Jones isn’t taking the issue lightly.

“There’s always going to be concern after going to the postseason two years in a row,” Jones said Saturday. “We’ll do whatever we can to make sure that we don’t push them too hard, too early.

He looked at innings and workload numbers for the biggest increases, and he had discussions with manager Jim Leyland, whose Pirates staffs had three consecutive extended seasons when they ruled the NL East in the early 1990s.

The result: Several Tigers starters held off a bit on starting their throwing program, notably Justin Verlander. Others will use the longer camp this year thanks to the World Baseball Classic to build up their arms slowly.

“To me, it’s to our advantage this year,” Jones said of the longer camp, “because we have some guys that threw an awful lot of innings last year and the year before. So the extra five days, I think, will help us be able to go a little bit slower with some of them.”

Though Verlander fell shy last year of his 2011 total, even with the extra round, he didn’t fall short by much: 266 2/3 innings last year, 271 1/3 innings in 2011. Anibal Sanchez’s postseason meant he pitched about 20 more innings than his previous high, though he had come close to 200 innings in each of his previous two seasons. Scherzer fell a few innings short thanks to his shoulder issue, but racked up about 415 innings over the last two years.

Some pitching staffs handle it well, such as the Yankees in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. That was a more experienced pitching staff, and the rotation went through some tweaks over the years with free-agent additions. Other staffs went through some issues.

“Once you go through it and you play longer, you go the playoffs, I think it’s just experience that tells you when [you] need to start this year,” Jones said. “JV and I talked extensively about when he wanted to start, things like that.”

Jones made the point with Verlander that he made with others: Don’t feel like you’ll be behind schedule. With the extended spring slate, you won’t be.

15 Comments

The main concern must be Porcello: 691 plus inning and he is only 24 YO.
With Verlander and Scherzer the problem are not the innings but the number of pitches due to their K rate and the inability to fool batters ( especially Scherzer)

My concern would be Sanchez and possibly Verlander pitching in the WBC. I know they have pitch limits for this tournament, but they’re not that severe.

Yes, they lose their rhythm due to the time between outings

MLB is more tightly run than the United Nations. We have heard absolutely zero since the Tony Bosch stuff came out.
I feel the DY incident in NY last year affected his season. Consequently it affected the team’s too. I sure hope the Peralta stuff does not fester.

Since we have a full month of games in April this year, should we consider starting the regular season with thirteen pitchers?? We start with three at MN and follow with six home games against the Yanks and Blue Jays. Potential for several games under 50 degrees worries me.

Great article Jason. We need to get all our pitchers ready to go on April 1st. No need to overuse anyone in spring training. Competition is great but make the decisions with ten days remaining so everyone can settle into their roles.

one of the unintended consequences of this uncertain closer situation: if there are early blown saves, there could be a temptation for the manager to shift some additional workload onto the starters, leaving them in longer to get important outs late.
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i imagine Sanchez had to pass a physical before his new contract. so they at least have some temporary assurance that his arm is ok after the long postseason. not sure how extensive those medical evaluations are, but it shouldn’t be a mere formality considering the money involved.
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as I understand it, there’s been considerable scientific study into what can be done to keep a pitcher’s arm healthy, but it still seems more art than science to me. for example, Mark Prior was touted as having ideal pitching mechanics, yet his promising career was derailed by shoulder problems.
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Yeah, that study is very suspect. And it did center around Mr. Boras’s desire to shut down his prized money-maker. Aside from what we’re discussing here, I thought Washington went about it all wrong, and the Nats are my other dog in the hunt.
I’m in agreement that there’s no sure way to predict this stuff.
And I don’t care for spring training competitions unless someone is trying out for a contract or is an invite with a minor league contract. Having success against minor leaguers or split squads proves nothing.

King Felix seems to be a new case. Supposedly he has an elbow issue.He is another player with a ton of innings while young.
Or are they protecting him from fans at home?

Prior’s example is an excellent contrast case to that of Max. Smooth mechanics versus violent mechanics leading to a possible paradoxical result. Predicting an eventual injury outcome may not be subject to scientific analysis alone, if it is predictable at all.

And actually, my prediction is virtually all pitchers will sustain injuries. Rehab and recovery thus become key issues.

It all seems a bit hypocritical.
Their worried over pitch count wear and bringing them on slowly, yet then tell Rick he is fighting for the 5th spot despite pitching three full seasons at the Majors.
Not sure how big the stadiums were back home but a full three tier stadium would with the game on the line is going to be interesting for Rondon. Even if he has a lights out spring, he should start on 7th inning duties and work his way up as hopefully others, probably Benoit/Coke ahead don’t fall down.

Benoit: 2 saves /4 Blown saves WHIP:1.667. The Tigers supposedly believe he does not have the stamina to be a closer
Coke: 1/2 BAA:324.375 .479 .854 . BAA for RHP( 70 % of hitters) 396 .446 .604 1.050 ( but a 400/474 Babip, he could argue he was unlucky or the defense failed him: a GB/FB: 0.93)
Dotel: 1/3

It is Rondon or Alburquerque. The rest are no closer material

Porcello has a career ERA of 4.54 ERA plus 94 Fielding Independent ERA :4.26. He lost his spot:
Smyly( Porcello) 2012:.3.99 (4.59) ERA plus: 106 (92)WHIP: 1.268(1.531) H/9 8.4( 11.5) HR/9 1.1(0.8) BB/9 3.0 (2.2) SO/9 8.5 (5.5) SO/BB 2.85 (2.43)
FIP: 3.83 (4.26)
And the team needs a LHS

I agree Benoit has struggled filling in when the designated closer wasn’t available. He might be able to go the final step if he trusted his stuff which is easily the best going around. With Benoit seemingly affected with the mind games, he probably would fail anyway without a major vote of confidence from management.
I would prefer Benoit over Rondon for opening day and let him earn his stripes.
Al might be a last resort option if his health is holding.
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Justin had a good final day with the team going 7 under on handicap despite Garrigus, his partner going even par.

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