After a year of "prevention and recovery" that resulted in fewer games and dollars lost to the DL and yet ended with the ace on the mend, it may seem like it's impossible to avoid the doctor these days. And recent research by Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs suggests that it really is, at least when it comes to starting pitchers.
Just take a look at his introductory piece for background and an introduction to his DL-predicting equation. Then check out his second piece, and one number practically leaps off the page. 39% of all starting pitchers that started last year will hit the DL this year. And once they get there the, mean stay lasts over two months. Pitching is a dangerous thing, it seems. Your shoulder and elbow are perhaps not uniquely created for the purpose of hurling a small ball over 90 MPH.
What does this mean for the Mets? Well, not only has Zimmerman done the work to show us the likelihood of starting-pitcher-related disaster in the coming year, but he's also provided us the tools we need to estimate young pitchers without a track record.
Here are the Mets pitchers that Zimmerman has already projected.
30.4% Mike Pelfrey
43.6% Jon Niese
47.5% R.A. Dickey
Ouch, we haven't even gotten to the question marks and we've already got a pitcher that is almost as likely to hit the DL as not. Then again, any projection system that uses pitchers as a whole may miss the mark on knuckleballers. Just as they've outshone their peripherals in the past, knuckleballers may be able to stay healthier than this system projects. We know that some knuckleballers have joked about being to pitch every day.
Niese, on the other hand, may seem high for a young pitcher, but he's already made two DL trips in his short career, and he did not go to college. Those are two marks against him at his age that help move the needle north from 39.1%.
For the rest of the rotation, we'll have to do our own work. Here's the formula.
z = (.2209)(Years with Trips to DL)+(-0.0040)(GS in last 3 year)+(0.0509)(Age in previous season)-1.7692
That produces some ugly numbers, some of the highest in the game:
62% Chris Capuano
63% Chris Young
Yeah, so maybe we get one full pitcher-year from these two pitchers.
For the rookies, we have to use his third piece, where he linked college status, age and BMI. That puts our rookie, and let's call him a rookie because he's still eligible for ROY, in the following bracket. (I used this link for BMI.)
30.3% Dillon Gee
Thanks to stat guru Geoffrey Young, I can also tell you that there is only a 2.02% chance that the starting five stay healthy. There's only a 11.9% chance that only one hits the DL! There's an 86.1% chance that two (or more!) are injured this year. It's a virtual lock that we'll have a patchwork rotation this season.
So this is why starting pitching depth matters. This is why we may even see Jenrry Mejia starting games in Citi Field this year - and not because we necessarily think he's ready. And if you're sorry to see Dillon Gee fail to make the major league team, fret not. He will make some starts in Citi Field this year, and the Gee Unit will be in effect.