Four Starting Pitchers Potentially Closing In On Innings Limit

Interestingly, it feels like I haven’t heard nearly as much this year about pitchers coming close to a potential innings limit. Actually, I’ve heard nary a peep about such a risk. But maybe it’s just because I don’t read other fantasy or real baseball news sites or fantasy message boards. But whether or not others have discussed it yet or not, there are going to be a smattering of starting pitchers who are shut down before the season ends. Let’s discuss four that may face such an early shut down.

Innings Limits?
Name 2017 IP* 2016 IP* Diff
Lance Lynn 150.2 6.2 144
Alex Cobb 151.1 43.2 107.9
Dylan Bundy 146.1 109.2 36.9
Aaron Nola 141 111 30
*Combined MLB and minor league innings

Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb both missed the majority of the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2015. Lynn returned late, throwing just 6.2 innings over three starts in the minor leagues. Though he has a pair of 200 inning seasons under his belt, this is obviously a significant numbers of innings given the injury he has recovered from. Both ZiPS and Steamer are unaware of the reason his innings were non-existent last year, which has resulted in what looks like an inflated RoS innings total. I would take the under on even the lower ZiPS projected innings total of 26.

Of course, fantasy owners might actually be rooting for Lynn to stop making starts. His 4.72 SIERA is drastically higher than his 3.17 ERA, as Lynn has benefited from a ridiculous .235 BABIP, which has helped him strand more than 80% of the baserunners he has allowed. He has never shown any sort of BABIP suppression skills before and his batted ball profile is the same as it always has been. He’ll be seriously overvalued next season.

Cobb also returned from surgery last season, but did so earlier, and therefore made five starts for the Rays, after logging eight in the minors. Unlike Lynn, Cobb hasn’t proven his workhouse status in the past, as his career high in innings during a full year is just 177.2, set all the way back in 2012. His recent DL stint helped slow down his innings pace, but he could still be shut down at any point, especially with Brent Honeywell continuing to confuse minor league hitters and fantasy owners alike, as we wonder what it’s going to take to get him promoted.

Like Lynn, fantasy owners may very well want Cobb to call it a season. His SIERA sits nearly a full run higher than his SIERA, and his underlying skills have collapsed. Once an elite combination of strikeouts and grounders, he now has neither of those above average skills, having become just a soft-tosser that relies heavily on his defense. It’s pretty obvious what has happened — he has halved the usage of his best pitch, the splitter, in favor of his curve ball. The curve induces a below average SwStk%, but even his normally strong splitter has endured its weakest season from a whiff generating standpoint. Since you could never guess how major elbow surgery is going to affect a pitcher, there’s no telling if he’s ever going to get his old skills back.

After we seemingly waited forever for Dylan Bundy’s arrival, he has now strung together two 100+ inning seasons, though they haven’t exactly been of the quality we had been hoping for when he was a top prospect back in the day. He’s now almost 40 innings above his mark last year, and given the injuries he dealt with earlier in his career, every innings he throws sets a new career high in a season. While Bundy hasn’t exactly translated a strong SwStk% into a strong strikeout rate, his biggest issue is all the fly balls he allows. His 47% mark ranks third among qualified pitchers and is a risky approach in a home run friendly home ball park. Some of the damage from the homers is offset by a lower BABIP, but his current skill set is just not very appealing.

Aaron Nola is a perfect example of the need to ignore ERA and focus on SIERA, as his underlying skills haven’t actually improved (in fact, they have declined if you believe SIERA), but his ERA has dropped by more than a run. That’s simply what happens when your BABIP and LOB% normalize. Nola missed time last year due to elbow issues, though we haven’t heard of any such whispers of injury so far this year. In his favor is that he threw 187 innings back in 2015, so he’s probably least likely on this list to see his season cut short.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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There was a beat report yesterday that Luis Castillo will be shut down after a couple of starts in September.

Vil Blekaitis
Vil Blekaitis

That would certainly hurt one of the remaining teams in our playoff bracket.