Baseball Evolution West: Stick Webb on the DL

Baseball Evolution West: Stick Webb on the DL

Brandon Webb missed his scheduled start Saturday due to an inflamed right elbow. An MRI exam showed no structural damage, just a flexor tendon strain, and Webb is not expected to go on the DL. That could prove to be a huge, huge mistake.

The Diamondbacks have Webb signed through 2009, and have a no-brainer team option for 2010.  That is, assuming that Webb remains healthy and effective up until then.  The way to do that is to listen to his body when his body says, "slow down!"

Fortunately for the Diamondbacks, Webb has become a much more efficient pitcher this year than he had been in years past.  This is due mostly to increased control: fewer walks mean fewer pitches thrown.  But strikeouts are also a factor.  Webb has become less reliant on the whiff, and become more apt to induce a ground out early in the count.  Fewer deep counts mean fewer pitches thrown.

Despite this increased efficiency, Webb has had a busy workload this year.  Because he's so effective, Bob Melvin has let him pitch deeper into ballgames.  In recording an average of 22 outs per game, Webb is on pace to throw more innings than he ever has before.  And it's not like he wasn't a workhorse to begin with. 

Year GS IP IP/GS #Pitches #Pitches/IP #Pitches/GS
2004 35 208 5.9 3442 16.5 98.3
2005 33 229 6.9 3378 14.8 102.4
2006 23 167.3 7.3 2363 14.1 102.7

He may not exceed his career high in number of pitches thrown this year, but going deeper into ballgames also means that he throws more warmup pitches at the start of each new inning.  A lot of pitching coaches will tell you that you can't look at pitch counts in a vacuum, that the number of innings matters too.  And there's no reason not to be too careful with one of the cornerstones of the franchise.

Wait.  Actually, there is one.  The Diamondbacks are in the thick of both an incredibly tight NL West race and a terribly weak NL Wild Card race.  One start from Webb in August might actually make the difference between playing in October or preparing for 2007.  But if you want some advice on that, maybe ask Dusty Baker, who rode Mark Prior and Kerry Wood pretty hard in his 2003 push for the postseason.  How have their careers panned out?  Better yet, ask Billy Martin, whose 1980 A's squad threw nearly twice as many complete games as the next team in baseball.  Each of his four starters that year got injured shortly thereafter and were ineffective from there on out.

Not to mention the fact that if Webb does lead the club to the postseason, he's going to have to pitch in it!  That will mean more innings pitched and more pitches thrown and greater risk of injury or ineffectiveness.

But the decision to put Webb on the DL goes even beyond his own health concerns.  While the team is waiting and re-evaluating his arm every couple of days, Brandon is burning a spot on the roster.  Before the roster expands in September, the Diamondbacks need as many players contributing on the major league team as possible.  This is especially true if Webb indeed can' t pitch in the next week or so, because no other starter on the team is a lock to go six innings.  One more bullpen arm could make a difference in the standings now, and also save a guy like Tony Pena from getting overworked and developing arm troubles of his own.

So pretty, pretty please, put Webb on the DL retroactively.  It's best for him, it's best for the bullpen, and it's best for the team, both for this year and for future seasons.  If he does happen to heal before his entire 15 days is up, it's not as though his arm is going too get too healthy.

 

Read more from Keith Glab at www.baseballevolution.com 

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