The Attrition War, Astros

DMZ · June 3, 2005 at 2:53 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

Part of a continuing series, follow-ups to the initial post detailing the Mariners history over the same period.

Do the Mariners, in comparison to other teams, suffer a higher rate of injury to their pitching prospects than other teams? Here, I look at the Astros.

The Houston Astros had 29 pitchers who appeared at least once on a Baseball America Top Ten prospect list between 1995-2004.

Of those, pitchers who injured their elbow and required surgery: 1
Of those, pitchers who injured their shoulders and required surgery: 5
(generally, I’m looking for major surgeries that require ~1y off)

Wade Miller does not count against the shoulder numbers.

Overall, this is a modest decrease in the number of serious injuries suffered by their pitchers as compared to the Mariners.

The Astros have produced two good starters in Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt, and Miller went down with Labrum surgery. Holt had two okay years. Billy Wagner was a stud, but also had some work done on his elbow.

Detailed data:
Name, rank/year (one rank/year for each year)

Matt Albers, 9/2004

Jimmy Barrett, 4/2003

Jimmy Barthmaier, 10/2004

Taylor Buchholz, 1/2004

Scott Elarton, 6/1995, 5/1996, 8/1997, 2/1998
Offseason rotator cuff surgery betwen 1999-2000 season. Traded to the Rockies in July 2001 (folowed by rotator cuff surgery in March 2002)

Kevin Gallaher, 8/1995
Possible 1995 surgery. Signed by the Orioles in 1999.

Freddy Garcia, 6/1998
Traded to the Mariners in July 1998 for Randy Johnson.

John Halama, 8/1998
Traded to the Mariners in July 1998 for Randy Johnson.

Carlos Hernandez, 9/2000, 1/2002
Rotator cuff surgery in February 2003.

Oscar Henriquez, 10/1996, 5/1997
Traded to the Marlins in November 1997 for Moises Alou

Jason Hirsh, 8/2004

Chris Holt, 7/1996, 6/1997
Shoulder required arthriscopic surgery in June 1998. Two years of decent starts in 97 and 99. Traded to the Tigers in a complicated December 2000 trade.

Rich Huisman, 9/1995

Mark Johnson, 10/1997, 10/1998

Brad Lidge, 5/2002, 3/2003
Shut down with shoulder problems in May 2001. Knee surgery in December 2002.

Tony McKnight, 5/2000, 4/2001
Traded to the Pirates in July 2001 for Mike Williams.

Greg Miller, 7/2001
Labrum surgery in 2001 following many MRIs and shoulder problems.

Wade Miller, 3/1998, 3/1999, 3/2000
Good starter from 2001-2003. Frayed rotator cuff shut him down in June 2004 but didn’t require surgery

Mike Nannini, 10/1999, 9/2000, 9/2001

Fernando Nieve, 5/2004

Roy Oswalt, 9/1999, 1/2000
Good starter since 2001.

Anthony Pluta, 6/2002
Elbow ligament replacement surgery, June 2003

Chad Qualls, 9/2002, 9/2003, 7/2004
In the bullpen.

Santigo Ramirez, 10/2003
Allowed to walk after the 2004 season, signed with the Royals.

Tim Redding, 10/2000, 3/2001
Spent some time in 2002 on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Traded to the Padres in March 2005 for defensive catcher extraordinaire Humberto Quintero.

Wilfredo Rodriguez, 4/1999, 1/2000, 2/2001
Supposedly had bone chips removed from his shoulder/elbow in April 2002, though I furrow my brow at that. Didn’t pitch from 2002-2003 that I can find. Signed a minor league deal with Texas in Jan 2005.

Rodrigo Rosario, 8/2002, 7/2003
Labrum (and biceps) surgery July 2003. Selected by Florida in the Rule 5 draft December 2004.

Robert Stiehl, 5/2001
Labrum surgery in 2001.

Billy Wagner, 1/1995, 1/1996
Elbow surgery to repair a tendon (by Dr. Lewis Yocum) in June 2000. Missed half a season. Traded to the Phillies in November 2003 (where he’s had rotator cuff problems).


17 Responses to “The Attrition War, Astros”

  1. Steve Thornton on June 3rd, 2005 3:32 pm

    Be careful not to shift your standards as you go through these. Halama was a good starter for a while, too. Redding, Holt, Elarton and Lidge had some decent if unspectacular years; Lidge was pretty studly in ’04.

    Maybe include a career VORP or something. I assume you’re just sitting around looking for ways to increase your workload, right. But it would be a better way to compare, especially when you get up to 30 teams.

  2. Brett Farve on June 3rd, 2005 3:42 pm

    I would love to help, but I (probably) do not have the resources available.

    This is all great stuff … just because there won’t be many responses does not mean that it isn’t getting read.


  3. Steve Thornton on June 3rd, 2005 4:05 pm

    Eff, VORP won’t work, BP doesn’t have it historically, only four years. It’ll have to be PRAR (pitching runs above replacement).

    I’m workin’ on a chart….

  4. Brock on June 3rd, 2005 4:06 pm

    This is really neither here nor there, but IIRC didn’t Wagner break his ORIGIONAL pitcher arm a couple of times but then come back to pitch (100 mph) with him other (non-dominant) arm?? I think I heard that somewhere, but I could be way wrong.

  5. DMZ on June 3rd, 2005 4:14 pm

    At the heart of it, though, the “production” part is subjective and I should probably just skip it. What I’m interested in is how many of their prospects suffered horrible injuries that cost them at least a year of development time.

  6. Mike Thompson on June 3rd, 2005 4:32 pm

    Actually, BP has VORP back through 1972.

  7. IgnatiusReilly on June 3rd, 2005 4:39 pm

    I think Wagner (if it was indeed him) made the switch when he was 14 or so. I’ve often wondered why you don’t see more players like Ryan Anderson attempting a switch though.

  8. Ralph Malph on June 3rd, 2005 4:51 pm

    Wow, I never heard that about Wagner. That’s amazing; I throw like a girl with my glove arm. Maybe that’s Randy Winn’s problem — he’s throwing with the wrong arm.

  9. Steve Thornton on June 3rd, 2005 4:57 pm

    6 – yes, they have it but it’s a bear to get at. I meant they don’t have Pecota Cards, which lay it out where you can see it all at a glance.

    As far as injuries go, the Astros look like they have just as much trouble as we do — BUT, they have much better pitchers to show for it. Their guys come back. It’d be nice to think Meche, for example, is going to be a star but I don’t believe it.

    Maybe the problem with the M’s isn’t injuries but rehab.

  10. DKS on June 3rd, 2005 5:00 pm

    Here’s a different perspective on the issue.

    I don’t have a Baseball America subscription to see their prospect lists, or the desire to duplicate Derek’s work looking for injury histories. Instead, I decided to ask the question “Have the Mariner’s debuted as many successful pitchers as other teams? How valuable have those pitchers been?”. Surprisingly, for 1995-2004, the answers seems to be “Yes, more valuable than average” (7th out of 30th in total value). I don’t measure where those pitchers came from (draft vs. international free agent vs. traded as a minor leaguer) or opportunities (if they drafted far more pitchers than hitters, you would hope they got above average results from the pitchers). I could answer the last question a little by repeating the study for hitters, but that will have to wait for another day’s wasted hours.

    Here’s what I did.

    I grabbed the Baseball Prospectus VORP for Pitchers reports for 1992 through 2004 and shoved them into an Access DB.

    First I removed everyone who pitched in 1992-1994. This is a little unfair to a prospect who got a cup of coffee in 1995, but anyway. I also removed pitchers who pitched for two teams in their debut year (43 of them), mostly because from the VORP reports I couldn’t tell which team they pitched for first. That left 1128 pitchers who debuted in the majors 1995-2004 and pitched at all (even 1/3 inning).

    During that time, average VORP was about 10 (actually 8-9, but 10 is a nice round number). In any given year, about 250 pitchers were above that cutoff and 400 below it.

    I defined a successful pitcher as one who had a VORP over 10 for at least two seasons. There were 266 new such pitchers over that timespan. Of those, 165 had that success while still with their debut teams. Without detailed transaction data, I don’t have any way of evaluating the other 101 (were they traded for good value or simply released/lost as a free agent?).

    Out of those 163 new pitchers successful with their original team, here’s the per-team total VORP (only VORP with original team counts) and number of pitchers.

    team VORP Number
    ANA 1189.6 13
    NYA 1159.3 6
    MIN 1113.6 9
    CHA 898.7 10
    OAK 875.9 4
    HOU 723.1 7
    SEA 711.5 6
    FLO 711 10
    CLE 603.1 6
    MON 602.4 8
    LAN 584.1 5
    CHN 569.5 5
    DET 551.5 6
    TOR 475.7 4
    PIT 411.7 6
    ATL 403.1 5
    SFN 387.7 4
    SDN 377.6 6
    MIL 374.3 4
    SLN 368.8 4
    CIN 357.4 5
    TBA 332.3 7
    BAL 275.4 4
    PHI 237.2 3
    KCA 228.2 4
    ARI 195.8 3
    TEX 191.9 4
    COL 145.2 5
    NYN 62.8 1
    BOS 20.5 1

    Here’s the Seattle pitchers that make up those 6

    name debut total years w/team
    Freddy Garcia 1999 255.6 6
    Joel Pineiro 2000 151.8 5
    Ryan Franklin 1999 113.1 5
    Gil Meche 1999 85.7 4
    Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000 65.2 4
    Julio Mateo 2002 40.1 3

    The rest of the West

    Jarrod Washburn 1998 205 7
    Troy Percival 1995 204.7 10
    Ramon Ortiz 1999 113.4 6
    Shigetoshi Hasegawa 1997 104.4 5
    Scot Shields 2001 101.8 4
    Brendan Donnelly 2002 71.4 3
    John Lackey 2002 70.2 3
    Francisco Rodriguez 2002 66.9 3
    Mike James 1995 66.2 4
    Lou Pote 1999 58.8 4
    Scott Schoeneweis 1999 50.1 5
    Mike James 1995 66.2 4
    Pep Harris 1996 40.7 3
    Jason Dickson 1996 36 4

    Tim Hudson 1999 350.3 6
    Mark Mulder 2000 217.5 5
    Barry Zito 2000 254.3 5
    Rich Harden 2003 53.8 2

    Doug Davis 1999 28.3 5
    Jeff Zimmerman 1999 78.7 3
    Mike Venafro 1999 43.3 3
    Danny Patterson 1996 41.6 4

    Looking at this — Oakland produced the Big 3 but *nothing* else until Rich Harden came along. Anaheim has been the real star of the division at pitcher development. Texas has been terrible, but we knew that. And Boston and the Mets?

    Now that I look at this list, I think someone at Baseball Prospectus did something sort of similar to this, but I’m being cheap and not subscribing to the web site this year, so I can’t check.

    Of course, Boston is so low in part because Derek Lowe doesn’t count by my standards, having pitched in 12 games for a -6.7 VORP for Seattle before being traded to Boston, where he put up about 170 VORP over 8 years.

    Minnesota is up there because they’ve kept Brad Radke — 422 VORP over 10 years. Johan Santana (176/5 years) didn’t hurt any either. The Yankees get lucky in that Rivera (308) and Pettite (390) debuted pretty much at the start of the study and stayed the whole time.

    Thoughts? We could get different results by increasing the minimum requirements for success (I have a hard time listing Doug Davis up there, for instance) or shortening the time span. Is it fair, given arbitration and free agency, to continue to count VORP for 10 years, or should I only count the first 3-6 years after the debut? Actually joining this to a free agency or arbitration databse would be best, but I don’t have that.

  11. DKS on June 3rd, 2005 5:06 pm

    Damn. I used the <code> tag to try to make the charts line up, but they just came out small and ugly. Hmm, you used pre once, does that work?

    test table
    A different test

  12. DKS on June 3rd, 2005 5:07 pm


    Derek, if you could make that pretty somehow, I’d appreciate it. All the spaces lined up before I submitted it.

  13. Katal on June 3rd, 2005 5:18 pm

    Didn’t Oswalt have a recurring groin injury a couple years ago?

  14. Jeff Sullivan on June 3rd, 2005 6:11 pm

    You’re going to want to set up a sidebar link for this stuff.

  15. pensive on June 3rd, 2005 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the time and effort. It is appreciated.

  16. Steve Thornton on June 3rd, 2005 6:15 pm

    DKS – you beat me to it, in a more intelligible form as well. I think you’re missing out some guys, who were developed in one system but pitched in another — I personally wouldn’t credit Freddy to us, but to the Astros, whereas Shawn Estes is ours, even though he never pitched a game for us, but did quite well in SF (he’s one of your ’95 cups of coffee).

    What I see is a system that produced good results a number of years back, but those results are starting to peter out now (not surprisingly; five years is probably above average for a MLB career), whereas the newer crop is all hurt or flailing — Blackley, Nageotte, etc.

    I think what wins is continuity — having your waves of talent overlap each other, so that your Griffeys overlap your A-Rods. That’s not happening here. If we’d been able to turn Pineiro into a ten-year pitcher instead of a five-year pitcher, and stretch non-system add-ons like Sele and Moyer a little longer, and get the young guys on track, we’d have something. But a nickel here and a dime there, and all of a sudden you’re broke.

    I hope that makes sense. I’ve had a crappy week at work and I’m wiped out.

    The real killer is the injuries to Blackley, Nageotte, Soriano, Atcheson, Madritsch, Pineiro last year. Collectively that’s a hard burden all at once; while these other teams look like they’ve had as much injury over the last 5-10 years, they haven’t had it all at once like we seem to have. That, and the fact that none of these guys are real studs.

    I don’t envy the job of the M’s front office, but it sure seems like we ought to get more for $90 mil, doesn’t it?

  17. murton on June 4th, 2005 9:37 am

    Derek, for your database accuracy, Wade Miller never had surgery. He may not even have injured his labrum but his rotator cuff. Media reports are often conflicting since they seem to think that the labrum and rotator cuff are the same thing, as all just part of the shoulder area. Given how unbearable labrum injuries are and how it’s not possible to simply strengthen the area around a cartilage and improve it, I assume that Miller tore or has fraying(?) in his rotator cuff. Whatever the case, he chose rest and rehab and was able to return within a year.

    And Taylor Buchholz, definitely not chilling since reaching triple-a last year. Actually, looking at his minor league trackrecord, I don’t understand why he was ever considered a very good prospect in the first place, reports of a wicked curveball notwithstanding.

    The total numbers for all teams should be very interesting.