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Chris Sale is getting the anti-Strasburg treatment. And it tells us … nothing.

Sep 25, 2012, 8:23 AM EDT

Chris Sale AP

Jeff Passan talks with Chris Sale and the White Sox. While Stephen Strasburg was shut down at 159 and a third, the White Sox’ young arm is still going at 188.  No, Sale never had Tommy John surgery, but he had also never thrown more than 71 innings before this season.

It’s an interesting article, but not because it tells us which approach is right and which approach is wrong with a young starter. Indeed, try this little experiment: Read Passan’s article and check out the quotes from Don Cooper and everyone with the White Sox.  Then imagine a future where Sale is facing Tommy John surgery or worse and think how horribly they’ll play. Heck, they’ll be used at a capital trial of those pitching war criminals.  Do the same for Strasburg in relation to all of the cautious quotes from the Nats and their fans if Strasburg nonetheless gets hurt. Now reverse it, with both guys being healthy. You can take any and every possible lesson from it depending on the outcome.

The most interesting thing about it all is just how certain the White Sox are that they’re doing the right thing with Sale.  And how, earlier, the Nationals were just as certain that they were doing the right thing with Strasburg.  Sort of tells you that, no, no one has any freakin’ idea what the right thing is, the only validation, such as it is, that anyone will get is if either of those two get injured in the future, and even then we won’t know whether their treatment caused it, prevented it, was meaningless or not.

  1. El Bravo - Sep 25, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    I think Mark Prior should be the MLB’s Young Pitcher Czar. Let me make all the tough calls for all the teams around the league based on a case-by-case analysis and in-person interviews. That guy knows how to pitch well til his arms falls off like a champ.

    • El Bravo - Sep 25, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      me=him (channeling Mark Prior again)

  2. paperlions - Sep 25, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    I’m not sure that Sale getting hurt in the future will tell us much. Law has said since the draft that Sale’s mechanics (very high stress on the elbow) were going to lead to TJS if he was used as a starter, and he doesn’t appear to be alone in that opinion. I hope the kid stays healthy, but if a decent portion of scouts thought the guys mechanics were going to lead to TJS, and he winds up having TJS….I’m not sure how we can disentangle the effects of use versus the effects of mechanics.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      Yeah adding in mechanics adds an exponential number of possibilities to the table. Also throw in the idea that the arm has only X number of pitches before it blows out (a theory of some), and you wonder if you should just ride the horse until the arm falls off?

      • paperlions - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:44 AM

        I’m sure that is one approach that coaches use….figuring that surgery is nearly inevitable, so you may as well get what you can, get surgery (which makes most “as good as new”), and saddle back up. I’m not saying they are callous about it, just reasonable. The WS have done a good job of making sure he has rest and is fresh each start (giving him extra time if he is fatigued)….so it isn’t like they are old school and just telling guys to “pitch through it”.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 25, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      This was the critical factor that Passan neglected. We’ve known, since before Strasburg was drafted, that his mechanics made him prone to injury. Turns out, Sale has a similar problem.

      I don’t think you can disentangle usage from mechanics, except in the extreme, Mark Prior-type case. The case where a pitcher is used heavily without regard to the effects (as noted below). It’s clear that the White Sox and Nats, in their own ways, have been careful with their very talented young pitchers.

  3. danaking - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    I’m not a hard core stat-head, but I know enough to say this: comparing Strasburg to Sale in this regard will tell us nothing. The data sample is too small. If history shows young pitchers who experience an increase of over 150% in their innings from one year to the next show an overwhelming propensity to get hurt, then the White Sox are on very thin ice.

    The flip side is, there are people who seem to think young pitchers shouldn’t pitch at all. This will probably always be a thorny issue. Pitchers get hurt, young pitchers most of all.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 25, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      If you read Baseball America long enough (and I have), one thing you learn is to beware young pitchers with large workload increases. Even if they aren’t coming off major surgery (ex., Jeff Samardzija).

      Doesn’t mean such pitchers will get hurt, but it could mean they just get tired and ineffective. Strasburg was in that territory, and Sale is there now. It’s about managing risk. We see 2 teams with 2 different approaches to handling 2 different pitchers. Which is the riskier? I doubt we will ever know.

  4. Jason @ IIATMS - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    Comparing one to the other doesn’t do any good, I agree. However, just looking at that picture of Sale, I fear for his shoulder, not his elbow. That Inverted-W motion has claimed too many shoulders. Maybe he bucks the trend, maybe not. I am not sure any innings cap would help, really. Either Sale can defy physics and remain healthy (I hope so; I like watching him pitch), or he could tear that labrum.

    Same can be said for everyone who throws a baseball for a living. But with that motion, I’m particularly concerned.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      Just for the heck of it: http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/PitchingMechanics101/Essays/DeathToTheInvertedW.html

    • El Bravo - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:19 AM

      Ah the infamous inverted W of death. Some though, call it the M of life.

      • Jason @ IIATMS - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:26 AM

        I prefer the sideways Sigma, personally, but I chose their convention for the sake of HBT.

    • ezthinking - Sep 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Except he is a side-armer so the W or M, if its really there, may or may not make a difference. Clear as mud? Exactly.

    • Reflex - Sep 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      I can’t really tell if that’s a W given his lean, he may be clear on that one. But then I’m not an expert. Read enough though that I’ve done very good in my fantasy league grabbing inverted W pitchers on the upside and selling high before their elbows blow out…

  5. willclarkgameface - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    Kenny Williams = smart.
    Mike Rizzo = the smarmy bane of Nationals fans existence when they fail to win a championship after throwing in the towel on the 2012 season.

    Again, there was a better way to do this and I just think that Mike Rizzo is on of the most stubborn ass holes on the block, bigger than most of the other GMs in the game that want to furiously teach you a lesson on exactly how much they know and how right they are.

    This isn’t going to end well. And rant on Nats fans about how “one guy doesn’t win a championship in baseball”. Yeah, well how about the fact that you have a team in DC that has been doing nothing but thinking about this for the last 6 weeks, realizing that no, they’re not down for the count, but have been severely hurt by this decision. It’s in their heads and they won’t be able to get it out.

    And for that I will laugh all the way home.

    You Nats fans should be pissed about this, but I’m sure you’re all busy thinking about the postseason and 2013 season tickets.

    Silly. Just silly.

    • paperlions - Sep 25, 2012 at 9:49 AM

      You’re an idiot (I mean that in the best possible way).

      The Nationals have the best record in baseball and a young, talented, exciting team….and you are questioning Rizzo’s decision making? The only reason the WS have a shot at the post season is that they are in the worst division in baseball. Kenny Williams has made quite a few questionable decisions as GM…..I wouldn’t want him as GM of my team….the organizational process is all over the map.

    • akismet-e6748cca3a16ea6e8283008d25583adc - Sep 25, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      And “willclarkgameface” is an arrogant pr*ck who thinks he knows more than the Medical staff who performed the surgery and who recommended the recovery path that Strasburg is on. Which, by the way, is the SAME recovery path that fellow Nat Jordan Zimmermann did in 2011 and now he’s in the top 5 in NL pitcher WAR.

      The Nats are looking for the long term. Everyone else who thinks they know better than Rizzo think short term. The Nats have the best record in baseball with one of the youngest rosters in the game and have a large part of their core team locked up for years to come. There’s no reason to think this is a one-year wonder for this team.

      Fans in Washington support this decision and understand it is a conservative approach. It seems like only people OUTSIDE of Washington can’t understand this.

      • natslady - Sep 25, 2012 at 11:02 AM

        Just don’t read his posts. I thought it was just Nats/Rizzo but he does the same (“profanity-laced”) posts for other teams and issues. My approach is give him an automatic thumbs down and move on. He’s an Orioles fan now, so it’s their problem. :)

      • natstowngreg - Sep 25, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        I know a number of fellow Nats fans who do not support the decision. But they appreciate a front office that has built a team from worst record in MLB in 2009 to best record in MLB in 2012.

      • 4cornersfan - Sep 27, 2012 at 3:04 PM

        I thought that I read here that the surgeon who performed the surgery was never consulted about how many innings he should pitch. I also note that Tommy John himself pitched over 200 innings for the next 5 years after surgery after coming back at the age of 33 and pitched for 13 more years. John didn’t throw as hard as Strasberg but my understanding is that it is the breaking balls that cause the most damage and he threw a lot of those.

    • willclarkgameface - Sep 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      What’s with all the name calling? You guys are a peaceful bunch.

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