Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kazmir injured? We told you so...

You may recall that we warned you about Kazmir's pitch and innings count in our recently posted Draft Guide for starting pitchers. To recap:

A 1.38 WHIP gives me pause. Over 200 innings in his early 20s makes me blink. Awesome K rate, but can you count on him to stay healthy? Not with earlier than a seventh round pick, you can't (but he'll go much higher).

Well, looks like he may be breaking down even sooner than expected. He made a club record 34 starts last year, but lasted only three warmup pitches today before shutting it down. He's slotted for an MRI. Uh-oh.

Those of you who have already drafted and are counting on him to anchor your rotation should be panicking right about now. For the rest of us, it's yet another red flag. We've seen him typically slotted in the fourth or fifth rounds of fantasy drafts. We didn't think he should go higher than the seventh round, given the absurd amount of innings and pitches he was allowed to throw at such a young age. Now? No earlier than the ninth ... maybe even tenth ... round, and if there are any more problems, he becomes a pure speculation pick.

Who else did we warn you about? Quite a few guys, actually, but Harang, Haren, Lackey, and Verlander are four other high-ranked starters who were utterly abused by their respective clubs in the last few years. What are our benchmarks for abuse? Over 200 innings in a year for a pitcher in his early to mid-20s, or 3400-3600 pitches a year for anyone. (There usually aren't more than five to ten guys a year who hit this mark, and they overwhelmingly break down within a year or two). Another warning sign is when a guy is jumping a prodigious amount of innings in a year or two.

There are always going to be freaks who can toss 200 innings for 10 straight years, but there generally aren't going to be more than two or three of them playing at the same time in any given decade. And if they are still 25 or so, you have no way of knowing whether the promising young fireballer you just drafted has a ligament capable of throwing that many pitches year after year, as the track record just isn't there.

This is why spending high draft picks on pitching can give you ulcers. It's very, very difficult to win your league in the first four rounds of a draft -- typically players who go in these rounds are good, and other owners recognize this fact -- but it can be all too easy to lose it.

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