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Is Gerrit Cole headed toward a Strasburg-like shut down or is there a different model in play?

SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – We all know the Stephen Strasburg story of 2012 but I’ll repeat it one more time. Strasburg, the Nationals ace, was shut down after he reached 159 innings last season, despite the fact that the Nationals were in a postseason chase. Many among the Beltway populous were not happy.

 

Teams have become more cautious of protecting young arms and that’s mostly a good thing, I think.

 

Some question the credibility of the Verducci Effect — the theory pitchers 25 and younger are at a greater risk of injury if they have an innings jump of more than 30 in any given year —  but a team like the Nationals apparently subscribed to that type of thinking.

 

Most clubs ease young pitchers into professional life in some way, if not in a multitude of ways.

 

Knowing all this. Knowing that Gerrit Cole has already pitched a combined 86 1/3 innings between the Majors and Triple-A this season is Cole is headed for a Strasburg-like shutdown in September?

 

After all, Cole pitched 132 innings between three minor league stops last year in addition to instructional league. He is on pace to well exceed that total and that would a Verducci Effect red flag.

 

strasburg

No one wants to be Stephen Strasburg … at least not in Sept. ’12. 

 

But I don’t think Cole will be shut down in September.

 

Why?

 

I asked Pirates GM Neal Huntington what the innings limit for Cole is this season. He declined to answer but he did offer this:

 

“Part of our development plan is to build guys accordingly so that when they get to the big leagues they are hopefully in a position to log the innings without the media attention that some have gotten. We’ll let you know if he ever gets to his workload.”

 

For starters, Huntington is probably wise to not to put a red line innings cap out on Cole for public consumption. What good would that do for Cole? It would only create a story for the media and public. Great for us, not so great for Cole.

 

Second, it sounds like Cole is going to exceed his innings by more than the Verducci Effect would recommend….but it should be noted the Pirates don’t place much stock in the Verducci Effect and say it has been proven to be an inaccurate tool.

 

But here’s the other reason why I believe Cole will be pitching in September: the Pirates are already being careful with Cole.

 

Cole has made three starts and held elite velocity deep into each of those starts, he could have gone longer,yet he has not thrown more than 88 pitches or 6 1/3 innings. He threw seven innings three times in Triple-A this season and exceeded 90 pitches in starts with Indianapolis.

 

Conversely, but mid July of last season, Strasburg had already exceeded 100 pitches in eight of his starts.

 

My guess is the Pirates are not on the Strasburg 2012 plan, they are on the C.C. Sabathia plan of 2001 or the Chris Sale plan of 2012. They are shaving innings and pitches where they can so Cole can pitch in September.

 

Sabathia surprisingly broke camp with the Indians in 2001 as a 21-year-old and his workload was monitored. He made 33 starts but pitched just 180.1 innings, averaging 5.4 innings per start, and that was by design (And Huntington was with the Indians during that time period).

 

Sabathia made it through an entire season, pitching into October with just 20 more innings than Strasburg.

 

The White Sox moved Sale to the bullpen briefly last season to keep his innings down and he pitched into September.

 

Whatever their plan, I think the Pirates will continue to be careful with Cole to make sure he’s available in September and October if needed.

 

The other factor to be mindful of is Cole is not coming off Tommy John Surgery like Strasburg, and Cole is as big and physical as you’d ever want a right-handed pitcher to be.

 

I believe Cole has an innings cap – every young MLB pitcher probably does – but whether that’s 180, 190 or 220 the Priates are going to be careful not to reach it.

 

WILL COLE GET SENT DOWN?

 

Of course will Cole remain with the big league club when A.J. Burnett returns?

 

Cole is supposed to be beyond Super 2 status so it surprised me to see Huntington suggest over the weekend that Cole could get sent down as the rotation crowds. After all, Cole has the best arm in the organization and this is a club whose story is no longer that of development but of contention.

 

“There’s a business component to it, as far as keeping our depth,” Huntington said. “Gerrit’s probably got the best stuff of anybody in the rotation … (and) he’s made three impressive outings. But the challenge is, if we need another starter (due to injury) later, it may make sense to send Gerrit back so we have a sixth quality starter.”

 

- TS

11 Comments

  1. Neal Huntington. you have got to be kidding about sending Gerrit Cole back down to indy.
    He is right where he belongs, with the big boys. He is good enough to be the lead starter
    on this team, unlike A.J. Burnett, who has had some shaky outings lately, and Morton
    doesn’t have his control where he would like it to be. Don’t even think about putting
    MacDonald back in the rotation. He scares me and many other fans who root for the Bucs.
    Why mess with a good thing? The Pirates are playing as well as any team in the majors right now, and, barring any big injuries, will continue to excel into October. GO, BUCS!!!

    • If Cole should be the lead starter, why are there five Pirate starters who have better ERAs, and that doesn’t even include Wandy.

      McDonald is back on the DL, so relax, you’re not going to be seeing him any time soon.

  2. Neal Huntington.Send Gerrit Cole Back And Why Take The Chance Of Losing More Pirate Fans? They Are Coming To The Stadium In Droves.Treat The Players Right.Not Like Bonds,Bonilla,And Lots Of Others Over Money!How Can We Save A Buck.Keep The Team. You Have Now! You Had A Team That Can Contend With Anybody Now Maybe One Of The Best If You Don’t Self Emplode It!I Love The Pirates And We Want A Winner Now!Go Bucs

  3. Does it not appear Cole is still likely to trip Super 2 status?

    The prognosticators kept saying the date was ~June 20th and the Rays were originally going to leave Myers down until the 24th. With Cole coming up on 6/10 isn’t it wise to send him down for two weeks just to be safe. Maybe do it right after his final start prior to the All Star break and then reset the rotation so he is the 5th guy and only has to miss one start for the big club before coming back up.

    Better safe than sorry with the arbitration clock.

    • The projected cutover for Super-2 for this year is 119 service days. Cole if he stayed up the entire year would have only 111 service days. Not sure what day that translates to, but you could calculate 8 days before Gerrit was called up.

    • Super 2 ‘deadlines’ are floating dates: players with less than three years of service time but more than two in the top 22 percent of service time are eligible for an extra year of arbitration. So as I understand it, we cannot know for sure if Cole is clear of Super 2 status … it’s an estimate at this point. But Cole is right on the border

  4. I wouldn’t agree with it but completely understand the reasoning of maintaining depth for not only our starters but relievers. Cole and Morris are the easiest to send down in that case because they both have options left. It is the front offices and Hurdles job to look down the road and foresee what may happen and be able to weather that storm.

    Injuries always happen and you can’t afford to lose a servicable pitcher like Mazzarro or Gomez because another team picks them up. They probably will already have to DFA JMac because the numbers don’t add up.

    I guess the question is do you believe Cole can do what Morris is doing better and if so can he do it better enough to warrent completely changing what his role is for the rest of this year. Tampe did this with Price, Cincinatti is doing it with Cingranni (SP?) but in this case Morris hasn’t done anything to deserve to be sent down. The guy has been really good.

    At the end of the day someone will more then likely get hurt sometime in the next month and both Morton and Cole will be in the starting rotation so whatever decision they make will only be termporary. You need 6,7 or 8 starters to make it through the year sometimes more.

    By the way this is a great problem to have. Even some really good teams can’t find a 5th starter and the Pirates have Morton, Cole and Gomez all available with Glassnow, Kingman, Taillon and Hredia all showing positive signes of contributing in the future. It’s hard to believe I’m saying this but it’s good to be a Pirate fan right now (I just knocked on some wood).

  5. * AFTER 20 CONSECUTIVE YEARS OF LOSING…….the PBC should be in the business of winning MLB games.
    .
    * Gerrit Cole is one of the 10 best arms in the organization. He is achieving above average results…so far after 3 MLB games started.
    .
    * Bob Nutting wants to win games….make $$$…bring people back into the ballpark after 20 years of losing.
    .
    * One would assume…there is NO POSSIBLE WAY Gerrit Cole gets removed from this roster in 2013 (except for injury)…….NO WAY…NO HOW…..CANNOT HAPPEN! …. ;-)

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