Blame bad luck, not Ryan for Rangers' injuries - NBC Sports

Blame bad luck, not Ryan for Rangers' injuries
Texas president stresses higher workload for pitchers
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Colby Lewis' injury this season has nothing to do with Nolan Ryan's philosophy ofÿprodding pitchers to go deeper into games, writes Tony DeMarco.
August 7, 2012, 7:08 pm

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Tony DeMarco

TonyDeMarco

NBCSports.com contributor

c 2013 NBC Sports.com Reprints

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MSNBC.com Sports Columnist Tony DeMarco

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Baseball Expert Tony DeMarco has been covering the big leagues since 1987, and been casting Hall of Fame ballots for the last 15 years. He answers questions weekly here:

Q: Now that the Rangers are running out of starting pitchers due to season-ending injuries, do you think it has anything to do with Nolan Ryan's emphasis on starting pitchers going deep into every game?
- Stephen Shoemaker, Tulsa, Okla.

A: The injuries to which you refer are to Colby Lewis (torn flexor tendon in right elbow) and Neftali Feliz (Tommy John surgery). And I'm not willing at this point to make any connection whatsoever between them and what in my mind is a sound strategy to train starting pitchers to go deeper into games.

Let's examine each case. First of all, this is not Lewis's first major injury, as the 33-year-old right-hander didn't pitch in the majors in 2005 after undergoing surgery.

In his two-plus seasons with the Rangers since returning from Japan, Lewis threw 201 regular-season innings in 2010, 200.1 regular-season innings in 2011, and was right on that same, normal-usage pace with 105 innings this season.

Granted, when you add in 50 additional postseason innings over the 2010-11 seasons, that is pushing it a tad. But still, a two-year average of 225 innings pitched can't be classified as over-use for a veteran starter, especially one who relies on command, not velocity.

Feliz's situation has nothing to do with innings, as he threw only 42.2 innings this season in eight outings, and as a reliever in 2010-11 averaged only about 74 innings per season, including post-seasons.

And if you want to include Roy Oswalt's recent struggles into this equation, it's well-documented that he has ongoing back (not arm) issues.

Personally, I'm all for what the Rangers are doing with starting pitchers throughout their organization. It's about time starting pitchers be trained to throw seven-plus innings and 120-plus pitches per start.

When it comes to younger (25-under) arms, you do have to watch increasing work loads by too much from one year to the next. That's why you see the trend toward innings limitations - most notably on Stephen Strasburg. That's sound strategy, too.

But you can't tell me that this generation of pitchers - who are bigger and better-conditioned than their predecessors - can't pitch 245 innings per season (7 innings x 35 starts) without risk once they become established big-league starters.

Here's what should serve as the new model for starting pitcher development at the big-league level - Justin Verlander, the game's consensus top pitcher:

Injuries happen; they are part of the game - especially for pitchers. But training starting pitchers to only throw six innings and 100 pitches, then look into the dugout for the manager to come get them, just isn't right, either.

Q: I'm wondering how Alex Rodriguez's strikeouts compare to Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. It seems as if he strikes out all the time to me.
- Mark McDonald, Yulan, N.Y.

A: The numbers for your handful of Yankees sluggers speak for themselves, Mark:

  • Reggie Jackson: 2,597 strikeouts (most all-time) in 11,418 at-bats, or one every 4.3 at-bats.
  • Alex Rodriguez: 2,000 strikeouts (fifth all-time) in 9,551 at-bats, or one every 4.8 at-bats.
  • Mickey Mantle: 1,710 strikeouts (25th all-time) in 8,102 at-bats, or one every 4.7 at-bats
  • Babe Ruth: 1,330 strikeouts (101st all-time) in 8,399 at-bats, or one every 6.3 at-bats.
  • Lou Gehrig: 790 strikeouts in 8,001 at-bats, or one every 10.12 at-bats.

Incidentally, Rodriguez soon will pass Andres Galarraga (2,003) and move into fourth place all-time in strikeouts. Jim Thome (2,534) and Sammy Sosa (2,306) are Nos. 2-3.

One more note: In two of Gehrig's three AL home-run title seasons (1934 and 1936) he totaled more home runs than strikeouts: 49 homers in both seasons, compared to 31 strikeouts in 1934 and 46 strikeouts in 1936. Amazing.

Q: I was wondering how long Troy Tulowitzki will be out, and if he will come back strong.
- Pat Hederman, Chicago

A: The Rockies have much bigger front-office and talent-development issues to address, but there's no doubting how much Tulowitzki's absence has hurt them this season.

He suffered a left groin area injury during the first series of the season, and really never was 100 percent - as his high error total of eight in 47 games indicated. In contrast, he committed only six errors in 140 games in 2011, and nine errors in 151 games in 2009).

Tulowitzki hasn't played since May 30th, and underwent surgery on June 21st to clear up scar tissue in the left groin area. The good news is he has begun taking batting practice, and the original prognosis for a return in eight weeks after surgery seems about right.

Two things to consider here: While Tulowitzki really does need to get back on the field and re-assume his role as team leader, there's obviously no purpose in rushing him back, given the standings. So his return to the lineup will occur only when team doctors are convinced he is 100 percent healthy.



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