Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shawn Hill to the Bullpen? Not So Fast

More and more people are talking about the idea of helping Shawn Hill stay healthy by moving him to the bullpen where, the theory goes, he'll have less wear and tear and be better able to stay healthy.

Here's the problem: there's very little evidence that relievers get hurt any less than starters. What we know about reliever usage is incredibly limited. Is it really harder on your arm to pitch 5-6 innings every 5-6 days on a regular routine versus pitching an inning two days in a row, and then not pitch at all for two days, and then, etc., etc. Relievers also warm up a lot and then don't get used.

Hill is by far more valuable as a starter, and we should try to use him in that role. If he can't hold up as a starter, chances are he wouldn't hold up as a reliever either. Reducing his value by converting him into a reliever doesn't make sense for him or the team.

One other thing. I seem to be reading an awful lot from people saying that they're sick and tired of Shawn Hill, blah blah blah. First of all, if you can't root for a guy like Shawn Hill, I don't know whom you root for. He's a great guy, really talented, and if you think you're tired of his injuries, think how he feels.

Second, if you wanted to call on the team to dump Hill, the time to do that was last fall when they could have non-tendered him. (I'm glad they kept him, by the way. The risk-reward is decidedly in our favor.) Complaining about him now, when we tendered him a deal, took him to the arbitration hearing, and lost, is silly. We're on the hook for his $775,000 this year. Just root for him and be happy with what you get.


Sean Hogan said...

I don't have any injury stats to back it up, but I would have to think that pitching a whole lot in one day and then throwing side sessions in between starts would cause more wear on Hill's arm than pitching a few innings every few days. If Hill pitches out of the pen, they can control his pitch counts and number of appearances without hurting the team. It's a huge detriment to the Nationals when he gets hurt and they have to go with a long guy for 4-5 innings and kill their bullpen for the next few days. They can ease him back in, get his pitch count up and eventually get back into the starting range.

I don't see relief pitching as a permanent goal for Hill, but rather as a temporary way for him to get some ML innings in without putting his arm in extreme danger by logging too many innings.

I see where you're coming from, but I think Shawn would be much more effective in 1-to-2 inning spurts this year than 5-6 innings in between injuries.

Steven said...

Will Carroll has written about this a lot, and there are just very few if any studies that look at this. And stats really don't do it justice. You need a doctor who actually examines the wear and tear to try to study the impacts. It just is totally uncharted waters.

GM-Carson said...

WSBGM's wants to know who has the best bullpen in the NL East. We've broken down each team's set of relief pitchers and included a poll to vote.


Please give it a link, if you like it. Thanks!

flippin said...

What scares me is that again this year, we do not have any starters that can give us 7+ innings on a regular basis. We must have had the lowest innings pitched by a starter, by a mile. Hill in the bullpen would probably pitch more innings on a less routine schedule. Bad idea. Is vicodin banned?