Wednesday, April 8

Lester Leads List of At-Risk Pitchers

Over at Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci posted today his annual list of at-risk young pitchers, and right there at #1 is tonight's Sox starter, Jon Lester.

For those of you unfamiliar Verducci's "at-risk" list, it's based on a pretty basic theory: pitchers who are 25 and under are highly susceptible to injury the year after they see a workload increase of 30 innings or more. Obviously, many clubs have been operating under the same assumption for years now, keeping young arms on tight innings restrictions.

But Verducci's particular equation on this has been scarily accurate: he went 6 for 7 with injury predictions in 2008 (think Ian Kennedy, Dustin McGowan, and Fausto Carmona). In today's column, Verducci summarizes his track record: "Over the previous three years I red-flagged a total of 24 young pitchers at the start of those seasons. Of those 24 at-risk pitchers, 16 were hurt in that same season. Only one of the 24 pitchers managed to stay healthy and lower his ERA: Ubaldo Jimenez, of Colorado, a guy I said would be less at risk because of his powerful body type."

This year he red flags ten pitchers (listed in order of their workload increase): Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Dana Eveland, Mike Pelfrey, John Danks, Jair Jurjjens, and Jon Niese.

Verducci does note of Lester that he "has age (he turned 25 in January) and size (6-2, 200) on his side," and expresses greater concerns over slighter, younger guys like Lincecum. He also notes that John Farrell appears to be on top of the situation and does not seem particularly concerned about Lester's injury-risk this year.

Still, Lester's workload increase in 2008 was dramatic - up 83.1 innings over the previous year. The Sox already seem to see Lester as their long-term workhorse, but this could be the year where they find out whether that goal is realistic.

Lester makes his first start of the season tonight against the Rays. There are nerves enough surrounding this start without Verducci's pesky historical analysis, but it's one more plotline to keep in mind. It could be one of the most important of the season.


Joe Murph said...

For those of you looking for national baseball coverage, for my money, the team is a better option than Verducci and Heyman just seem to offer a better balance of analysis and inside scoop.

Soxin09' said...

I would have thought Lincecum would have been on the top of this list but either way Lester is a concern in 09'.

Just as red sox nation was feeling good about the pitching staff, this comes out!

Joe Murph said...

The list's order only takes into account the increase in innings pitched for the 25- crowd. Verducci himself considers relative age and body frame, and in that light, does say that Lincecum, Hammels are bigger concerns than a guy like Lester who is 25 and quite a big framed guy.

Anonymous said...

We'll see how Lester does tonight, Lincecum only went 3 innings last night, 78 pitches. I don't think it was injury related, interesting that he was inafective.

Also important not to place too much emphasis on the 1st start of the season.

Anonymous said...

Lincecum looks exactly like a brunette version of Jodie Foster in Bad News Bears, right? Right?

D Vicino said...

Dustin Pedroia....hitting rockets with the high fastball...take that MLB Live 09'.

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