Is Overuse Part Of Jose Veras' Problem?

July 7, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jose Veras (40) throws a pitch against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Jose Veras pitched a perfect seventh inning on Sunday, his first perfect outing longer than one out since May 23. The clean inning lowered his season ERA to 4.75, which seems really low considering how unreliable he's been at times. He's walking over six batters per nine innings this season, making him one of just three players to hand out that many free passes and still make over 30 relief appearances in the first half.

I'm inclined to wonder, though, if Veras' control issues can be traced back to his 2011 workload. Veras pitched in a career-high 79 games last season with the Pirates, including 53 appearances with either zero or one day's rest. There are only four pitchers in all of MLB who made 79 appearances last season. The others are:

Jonny Venters, who appeared in 85 games as a setup man for the Braves. This was actually Venters' second straight year over 79. This year his ERA has gone up from 1.84 to 4.45, and he was recently placed on the DL with elbow issues.

Bill Bray, who appeared in 79 games as a lefty specialist for the Reds. His workload was less than the others (he only pitched 48.1 innings over those 79 games), but he's been limited to eight games in 2012 due to injury.

Craig Kimbrel, who appeared in 79 games as the Braves' closer to tie for the league lead with 46 saves. He's the exception on this list, as his ERA has actually gone down (from 2.10 to 1.41) this season and he leads the NL in saves again.

When you add in Veras you get a list where three of the four pitchers have experienced diminished effectiveness and two are injured. That's eye-opening, but it's also a small sample size.

Follow the jump for a longer look at this issue over the last 3+ seasons.

Since 2009 16 pitchers have made at least 79 appearances in a single season (three have done it twice). Here's how they did the following year:

Pitcher Season Team Games ERA Nxt Yr games Nxt Yr ERA Change Games Change ERA
Sean Green 2009 Mets 79 4.52 35* 3.86 -44 -0.66
Ryan Madson 2009 Phillies 79 3.26 55 2.55 -24 -0.71
Peter Moylan 2009 Braves 87 2.84 85 2.97 -2 +0.13
Pedro Feliciano 2009 Mets 88 3.03 92 3.30 +4 +0.27
Mike Gonzalez 2009 Braves 80 2.42 41** 4.01 -51 +1.59
Matt Guerrier 2009 Twins 79 2.36 74 3.17 -5 +0.81
Carlos Marmol 2009 Cubs 79 3.41 77 2.55 -2 -0.86
Sean Marshall 2010 Cubs 80 2.65 78 2.26 -2 -0.39
Randy Choate 2010 Rays 85 4.23 54 1.82 -31 -2.41
Peter Moylan 2010 Braves 85 2.97 13 3.24 -72 +0.27
Pedro Feliciano 2010 Mets 92 3.30 0*** n/a -92 n/a
Nick Masset 2010 Reds 82 3.40 75 3.71 -7 +0.31
Luke Gregerson 2010 Padres 80 3.22 61 2.75 -19 -0.47
Jonny Venters 2010 Braves 79 1.95 85 1.84 +6 -0.11
Brandon Lyon 2010 Astros 79 3.12 15 11.48 -64 +8.36
Jose Veras 2011 Pirates 79 3.80 TBD TBD TBD TBD
Jonny Venters 2011 Braves 85 1.84 TBD TBD TBD TBD
Craig Kimbrel 2011 Braves 79 2.10 TBD TBD TBD TBD
Bill Bray 2011 Reds 79 2.98 TBD TBD TBD TBD

* - Green pitched in eleven games for the Mets and 24 in the minors.
** - Gonzalez pitched in 29 major league games and 12 minor league games.
*** - Feliciano had shoulder surgery during spring training in 2011 and has made one minor league appearance since.

Here's my takeaways from this list:

  • Some guys appear to be better suited to high workloads than others. That shouldn't be surprising, as each of these guys has their own unique combination of body type/arsenal/training regimen/etc.
  • With that said, by my count six of the 16 pitchers to throw in 79 or more games in 2009 or 2010 pitched significantly less or not at all the next season: Randy Choate, Sean Green, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliciano. That's not counting Bill Bray or Jonny Venters, who have been injured this year.
  • Tying overuse to effectiveness is a bit more of a reach, as these guys' numbers are all over the charts for the following year. ERA isn't the best stat to use to measure this, but it would display a full-on collapse and that was the goal.
  • Of the 19 pitchers to appear in 79 or more games since 2009, almost a third are Braves.

In conclusion, there's no real hard and fast evidence to suggest that Veras' struggles are related to his 2011 usage. His fastball velocity remains steady and there's not a clear trend to show that pitchers used at his level tend to see a decrease in their performance. If Veras is hiding an injury or eventually breaks down, though, the Brewers really don't have much right to be surprised.

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