Worst-case scenario

Kris Medlen would most likely be called upon as fifth starter if, God forbid, JJ’s sore right arm proves serious. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but Medlen has the stuff to win 15 games — not that anyone could easily replace Jurrjens.

(And would John Smoltz be a candidate to replace Medlen in the ‘pen?)

–CB

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8 thoughts on “Worst-case scenario

  1. I’d completely forgotten about Medlen. That makes me feel slightly better. The Smoltz scenario could be a good one of he would be willing to accept a limited role and not dominate the clubhouse like he once did.

  2. Of course we hope he’s not out long, but the Braves can weather the loss better than most teams. Hanson, Hudson, Lowe and Kawakami is not a bad top four. Do you guys think JJ’s added workload last season — 27 more IP than in 2008 — contributed to an arm problem? Verducci made that point on mld network. But what do you do? A guy has to just pitch at some point, right? And he pitched 215 innings last year. It’s not like he went 250.

  3. I am hoping just a little tendontitis. How in the world did pitchers used to work 250+ innings year after year yet 200 is now too many? What has changed?

  4. Well, the current prevalence of five-man rotations, compared with four-man rotations 20 years ago. Basically, pitchers today get eight fewer starts a year than they used to, which accounts for the loss of innings. It also account for the lack of 20-game winners.

  5. Tokyokie, it seems in my limited memory that five (5) man rotations became the norm in the several years after Billy Martin burned up an entire crop of young arms out at Oakland. The ferocity of the criticism directed toward Martin (most sportswriters looked down on Martin, considering him declasse) caused managers to become increasingly sensitive to the young pitchers in their care and, also, ushered in the final stage in the evolution of the closer in the bullpen.

    I understand that starters work less innings than a generation ago. What I don’t understand is why their arms burn out quicker with fewer innings.

  6. Martin worked lots of pitchers too much, even before he got to Oakland. Overwork and over reliance on Art Fowler’s spitball techniques.

  7. Jack Straw, My guess has always been that as the five-man rotation philosophy filtered through baseball organizations, the workload pitchers were given in the minors was similarly eased, and as a result, a lot of them no longer have the arm strength to pitch as many innings as the old-timers did. (That probably doesn’t apply to Latin pitchers, who rack up innings in winter ball, too.) Part of that could also be attributable to today’s pitchers having less command of their pitches than guys used to; Warren Spahn, as I recall, used to throw 90-pitch complete games with fair regularity, and that’s unheard of today. (Or compare Mad Dog’s efficiency to that of most starting pitchers today, and even though he might have been yielding to a closer in the ninth, he wasn’t throwing a whole lot of pitches in a given game.) Part of it, too, is mindset; a Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton, if he got past the sixth or seventh, was going to pitch into the ninth. And a lot of the injury problems you see today are merely the result of better medical technology: Injuries that pitchers would have played through a generation ago are putting them on the 15-day DL these days, largely because an MRI can pick up tissue damage that doctors couldn’t discern before.

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