The Pirates get a lot of criticism for being too conservative with their pitching prospects. The complaints range from pitch counts, to single game inning totals, to single season inning totals. But one thing rarely gets mentioned: the Pirates have an excellent injury track record.
Ryan Beckman underwent successful Tommy John surgery today after leaving his first start in Altoona with an elbow injury. Beckman was drafted in the 18th round of the 2009 draft. And to my knowledge, he’s the only home grown pitcher that has had a major injury under this management group and their “conservative” pitching philosophies.
The only other players in the organization that I can recall having Tommy John surgery are Donald Veal, Tyler Yates, and Jimmy Barthmaier. None of those three can be chalked up to the Pirates’ development of pitchers, as none were developed in the farm system. Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio both dealt with major shoulder injuries after coming to the Pirates in the July 2009 trade with the Chicago Cubs. Again, neither player was developed under this system.
The Pirates have definitely had injuries to their pitchers. Kyle McPherson hasn’t pitched in action this year due to shoulder inflammation. Colton Cain missed time with a back injury in 2010. Quinton Miller has missed time with various minor injuries. But there haven’t been many major injuries involving the words “Tommy John” or “rotator cuff”. That’s huge from an organization that not-too-long ago seemingly saw every pitching prospect go down with a major injury.
Not only do the Pirates have a good track record of avoiding injuries, but they also are establishing a good record of keeping injury prone pitchers healthy. Bryan Morris is the strongest example here. The right-hander couldn’t stay healthy prior to the trade that sent him to the Pirates. He missed a lot of time in 2008 and 2009 with injuries. Then the Pirates overhauled his mechanics. Ever since he’s not only been healthy, but he’s put up dominant numbers, most recently out of the bullpen.
Victor Black and Jeff Inman are both guys with poor injury histories, and both have missed significant time since joining the system in the 2009 draft. Black pitched in only 4.2 innings in 2010, and Inman missed the entire 2010 season. But since then both have returned with strong numbers, and with the exception of a non-pitching related injury for Inman (sprained ankle prior to Spring Training this year), both have stayed healthy.
Say what you will about the Pirates being conservative with their pitchers. It seems to be working, as they’ve managed to avoid major injuries to their home grown guys, and they’ve managed to keep injury prone guys healthy.
Now if they could figure out a good system to avoid hamate injuries.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates lost 8-6 to the Orioles tonight. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at Lincoln’s struggles from the game and how he’ll remain in the rotation.
**Prospect Watch: Willy Garcia hits his ninth homer.