Is it time to sit Patrick Corbin?
Obviously, the answer is ‘no’. Whether it feels like it or not, the Diamondbacks are still in a playoff race; five back of the wild card with 31 games to go.
However, is there a plan for sitting the young staff ace once the determination is made that the team’s playoff chances have been extinguished? Welcome to the new hot topic in baseball.
Forget that it happened in New York. And I don’t care how much more SportsCenter mentions an injured Met over an injured Blue Jay or Diamondback. Matt Harvey’s elbow tear has baseball executives across the league cringing.
“Nothing is more important in today’s game than keeping your starting pitchers healthy,” writes SI’s Tom Verducci. “Over the past five years, only 14 teams had four starters make 30 or more starts. Ten of those 14 teams made the playoffs, including all five world championship teams.”
Injuries are the great evil in sports. Like a bolt of lightning striking from a clear blue sky, the injury gods took down Gayle Sayers in the prime of his career, robbed us of seeing how great Sandy Koufax might have been, and knocked Bo Jackson out of two sports. And who knows how many future greats were taken down by injuries before we ever got to know their names.
Of course, we are talking sports here. Doesn’t matter what rules you put in place, injuries will never be avoided entirely. But baseball seems to be looking into ways of diminishing the risk. Old school fans are going to hate it, but MLB teams are going to start experimenting with new methods of preservation.
For example, in his most recent article, Verducci suggests a two-week vacation in the middle of the season for pitchers. Boston’s Jon Lester was given one this summer, and now he’s back on top of his game.
Washington GM Mike Rizzo stirred the hornet’s nest last year when he set an innings limit for his ace pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, and then held to it despite the Nationals having qualified for the playoffs.
And now Mets fans, poor beleaguered Mets fans, are wondering why Matt Harvey was still pitching at all. The team has been out of the playoff race since mid-April. The entire 2013 season has been built around displaying for the base how promising the future looks in the form of young pitching studs Harvey and Zack Wheeler. And now Harvey’s hurt? He might need Tommy John surgery? Well, there goes the 2014 season as well.
You can’t play sports worried about injury, and you can’t manage sports around avoiding injury. But the Matt Harvey situation no doubt has executives wondering how to proceed.
Patrick Corbin has had an amazing season in Arizona. At 24, he’s established himself as staff ace, he’s made his first All-Star Game, and he’ll get some fourth, fifth or sixth place votes for Cy Young.
Should that be enough for this year? Should the D-backs sit him? Quit while they’re ahead, or at least be planning to shut down Corbin at the first possible moment?
As of Wednesday, the left-hander had thrown 177.2 innings. He’s never thrown more than 186 innings in a season. Corbin’s 26th start of the year was his worst. And he has seven scheduled starts remaining. If you remain in the race, he makes all seven. But the moment you’re out, you have to yank him from the rotation, and if for no other reason than “just in case.”
Professional football has changed the way it conducts its business. The old school, “rub some dirt on it” methods are a thing of the past.
An in an effort to protect its assets, I’m betting that baseball is on the verge of several new school ways of thinking as well. Some fans are going to hate it, especially those who believe the babying of pitchers is what’s causing all the injuries in the first place. But get ready…
– Two-week vacations for starting pitchers?
– Better protection for catchers on the home-plate collision?
– Better protection for second basemen during pivot plays at second?
– Stiffer penalties against up & in?
– Shutting down pitchers 25 & under after 200 innings no matter if you’re in a playoff race or not?
– Or how about pre-emptive Tommy John? Just to get the stronger ligament in place before your career gets started?
– Or, I don’t know, Human Growth Hormone?
Now, wouldn’t that be ironic?
Bottom line: You may not like it, but the future is coming.