Collette Calls: Proactive Pitching Measures

Collette Calls: Proactive Pitching Measures

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

If you have been in the business world long enough, some thought leader has undoubtedly quoted the great Wayne Gretzky's famous line, "Skate to where the puck is going and not to where it is." It is a timeless line because it remains as true today as it was when he said it, whether in hockey, business or life itself. It is particularly applicable to fantasy baseball because reactionary roster measures come with a tax of overpaying for a need via FAAB or trading outside of your comfort zone to fill a roster need you did not properly prepare for.

I bring this up because it is time to start thinking about certain pitchers and how much we will be able to count on them the rest of the season as their 2022 workloads pile up. Let's take a look at the largest increases by major-league innings pitched from 2021 to 2022:

Pitcher

2021 IP

2022 IP

IP Diff

Kyle Wright

6.1

85

78.9

Dakota Hudson

8.2

75

66.8

Luis Severino

6

72

66

Noah Syndergaard

2

58.1

56.1

Spencer Strider

2.1

47.2

45.1

Miles Mikolas

44.2

88.2

44

Devin Smeltzer

4.2

44.1

39.9

Michael Lorenzen

29

68

39

Paul Blackburn

38.1

75.2

37.1

Chris Archer

19.1

52.1

33

Joe Ryan

26.2

54

27.8

Wright has seen a significant spike in his major-league workload over 2021, but he did pitch 149 innings between Triple-A, the majors and the postseason last year, so that should somewhat alleviate the concerns about any

If you have been in the business world long enough, some thought leader has undoubtedly quoted the great Wayne Gretzky's famous line, "Skate to where the puck is going and not to where it is." It is a timeless line because it remains as true today as it was when he said it, whether in hockey, business or life itself. It is particularly applicable to fantasy baseball because reactionary roster measures come with a tax of overpaying for a need via FAAB or trading outside of your comfort zone to fill a roster need you did not properly prepare for.

I bring this up because it is time to start thinking about certain pitchers and how much we will be able to count on them the rest of the season as their 2022 workloads pile up. Let's take a look at the largest increases by major-league innings pitched from 2021 to 2022:

Pitcher

2021 IP

2022 IP

IP Diff

Kyle Wright

6.1

85

78.9

Dakota Hudson

8.2

75

66.8

Luis Severino

6

72

66

Noah Syndergaard

2

58.1

56.1

Spencer Strider

2.1

47.2

45.1

Miles Mikolas

44.2

88.2

44

Devin Smeltzer

4.2

44.1

39.9

Michael Lorenzen

29

68

39

Paul Blackburn

38.1

75.2

37.1

Chris Archer

19.1

52.1

33

Joe Ryan

26.2

54

27.8

Wright has seen a significant spike in his major-league workload over 2021, but he did pitch 149 innings between Triple-A, the majors and the postseason last year, so that should somewhat alleviate the concerns about any type of limits to his workload until the NL East is likely settled sometime by mid-September. Strider is another concern for Atlanta given he worked 85 innings in 2021 across all levels and has now made the jump from reliever to starter in the course of this season. With Strider being just 23, Atlanta will continue to be careful with him. They have rarely allowed him to face a 20th batter in a contest and he has just twice pitched into the sixth inning this season.

Hudson has been a decent fantasy surprise with his five wins and good ERA for teams able to comfortably roster his anemic strikeout totals, but he pitched all of 25 innings last season and has already tripled that workload. He has not worked a full season since 2019, making it tough to envision him continuing at his current pace. I am mostly speaking to NL-only managers here, but you should begin lining up alternative plans for his rotation spot if you have not already done so. Mikolas presents a similar issue for the Cardinals as he worked 85 innings from 2020-2021 after missing significant time recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his arm. He has already surpassed that total this season while pitching rather effectively, but that is no guarantee for any future success as we don't know how his repaired arm will handle the renewed heavy workload levels moving forward. 

Severino has looked fantastic this season for the Yankees with a 23% K-BB% and four wins along with strong ratios. He went over 190 inning both in 2017 and 2018 before going down with Tommy John surgery in 2019 and pitched a total of 25 innings from 2019-2021. He has nearly tripled that himself and is on pace to get to 160-plus innings if the Yankees continue to use him at their current pace. The AL East division title is pretty much a forgone conclusion, so I would expect Severino to see his workload heavily managed by September if not sooner as the club ensures he is as fresh as possible for a deep October run. The Angels are sadly likely not making a postseason run, but Syndergaard is on a one-year deal and the club could very likely trade away the pitcher to a contender. Thor threw 197.2 innings in 2019 before becoming injured and threw 10 innings over the previous two seasons before his return this year. He will want to pitch as much as possible as he auditions for his next deal, but the effectiveness of those innings could come into play as his arm adjusts to a return to a larger workload after a two-year recovery. His teammate, Lorenzen, is working in the rotation for the first time since his rookie season of 2015. He was a workhorse reliever from 2017 to 2019 before injuries and Covid disrupted the previous two seasons. He has already pitched more this season than the previous two combined and is not far from exceeding his previous levels of work. He, like Syndergaard, is a physical presence and takes excellent care of his body, but he is also on pace to quintuple his previous workload.

I am not as concerned with Blackburn as he worked 127 innings in 2021 between Triple-A and the big leagues, so even doubling his current total does not really matter for what has been one of the bigger pitching surprises of the season. I am, however, concerned for Minnesota. Ryan threw 84 innings of professional baseball and a little more in the Olympics last season, but is over halfway there now and has never thrown over 100 innings as a professional. Archer went down late in 2019 and missed all of 2021 recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome and has pitched 19.1 innings in the past two seasons while nearly tripling that already this season. Smeltzer pitched all of 20.2 innings from 2020-2021, and has already thrown 65.1 innings between Triple-A and the majors this season. His professional high is 153.1 innings in 2019, so he has been there before, but it has been a couple of seasons and he did just miss a chunk of time in 2021 with left elbow inflammation. Minnesota has postseason aspirations, but it will need to look to add alternative plans to this rotation as should you if any of these arms are part of your own title pushes the rest of the way. 

I bring this up now because the pitching pools in many leagues are quickly drying up due to both injury attrition as well the league mandating teams reduce roster sizes with no more than 13 pitchers on the roster. Just look at the free agent pitcher list in my 12-team RotoWire OC for this past weekend's FAAB run. Talk about slim pickings:

Pitcher

Injury

Team

Own %

Ranger Suarez

 

PHI

89

Zach Eflin

 

PHI

79

Marco Gonzales

 

SEA

72

Eduardo Rodriguez

Out

DET

58

Walker Buehler

60-Day IL

LAD

53

Nick Lodolo

60-Day IL

CIN

52

Yusei Kikuchi

 

TOR

49

Stephen Strasburg

15-Day IL

WAS

43

Adrian Houser

 

MLW

42

Marcus Stroman

15-Day IL

CHC

42

Kyle Hendricks

 

CHC

40

Zach Davies

 

ARZ

39

Freddy Peralta

60-Day IL

MLW

37

Tylor Megill

15-Day IL

NYM

36

David Peterson

 

NYM

36

Keegan Thompson

 

CHC

34

Jason Adam

 

TB

31

German Marquez

 

COL

31

Alex Faedo

 

DET

30

Anthony Bender

15-Day IL

MIA

28

Mitch Keller

 

PIT

27

Chris Flexen

 

SEA

25

Brad Keller

 

KC

25

There are some intriguing names there, but there are even more guys out with injuries as teams have been forced to seek healthy replacements for some notable pitching injuries on the list above. 

Pick whichever motivational quote you would like to get yourself moving in the right direction: 

  • The best time to act on this was last week. The second best time is now!
  • Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing.
  • Act now. There is never any time but now, and there never will be any time but now.
  • Do it now. Sometimes 'later' becomes 'never'
  • If you keep waiting for the perfect time to act, you will never be able to do that thing.

Or, to quote Shia LaBeouf -- "Just DOOOOOO It!"

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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