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Oakland A's pitchers and inning limits

With a young pitching staff comes the decision of how to handle inning limits. What will the A's do with their current group of talented starters?

My face when I see Butler is still on the roster.
My face when I see Butler is still on the roster.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

After three straight winning series and a baseball team that's finally playing in the same stratosphere as its ceiling, hopes are high among A's fans. The playoffs are probably out of reach, but with the addition of the second wild card and stories of second half comebacks abound, there's a cautious optimism burning inside our green hearts, flowing through our gold blood.

Here's a little bit of cold water for any hopes of a playoff run.

Along with a young rotation comes worries about inning limits and a touch of coddling. We are reaching a few of those inning maximums already, a problem that should come as no surprise. That means the A's might be shutting down some of their exciting young starters soon, putting a potential hold on good baseball. Here's where we stand:

Pitcher 2014 Innings 2015 Innings 2016 Innings
Kendall Graveman 167.1 140 110.2
Sonny Gray 219 208 101.2
Jesse Hahn 115.2 96.2 94.1
Rich Hill 48.1 94 79
Sean Manaea 121.2 100 101.2
Daniel Mengden 22 130.2 112.1
Zach Neal 165.1 167.2 80.1
Dillon Overton 37 126 118.2

How many innings and starts does each pitcher have left?

That's the question, of course, and only the A's know the answer. Inning limits have long been a debated topic, usually bringing out the best of Twitter users everywhere, and like all things arm related, there's no clear answer. Here are a few guesses, fed by a little bit of historical precedence and a lot of guess work.

No limit

Sonny Gray, Rich Hill, Zach Neal, Kendall Graveman

Not a lot of explanation needed here. While the first three have very different backgrounds, they are all sitting under their previous inning highs and the A's (or whoever their employer may be) won't have to worry much about an inning cap.

Graveman isn't quite a slam dunk like Gray or Neal to have free reign over as many innings as he can eat. He's not a rookie though and he's reached a mark of nearly 170 innings before, so it shouldn't be too unexpected for him finish the season in the rotation, barring injury.


Jesse Hahn and Dillon Overton

The comp: Jarrod Parker

Pitcher Year one Year two Year three
Jarrod Parker TJS 136.2 202

It's not a perfect comparison for Hahn and the circumstances are very different, but Parker is a recent case of a pitcher coming back from Tommy John to join the A's. It's likely that the A's will exercise more caution with Hahn and Overton than they did in the magical playoff run of 2012 thanks to the gap in the standings between the team and playoff baseball. Still, the A's have been aggressive with an injury returnee before so it's not out of the realm of possibilities.

My guess: The A's cap Hahn around 140 and Overton around 150. With the deadline looming and Rich Hill almost certainly on his way out, the question becomes where Hahn and Overton will spend the remainder of the season.

Sean Manaea

The comp: Brett Anderson

Pitcher Year one Year two Year three
Brett Anderson 120.1 104 175.1

It wouldn't be surprising for the A's to be aggressive with Manaea, but to a lesser extent than Anderson. If contention is to be a reality next season, Manaea will have to be strong for the full season.

My guess:  The A's squeeze 40-50 more innings out of Manaea, shutting him down in early September. That would make a full season in 2017 a reality without being quite as aggressive as they were with Anderson.

Daniel Mengden

The comp: A.J. Griffin

Pitcher Year one Year two Year three
AJ Griffin 26.1 160.2 184.1

Like Mengden, Griffin was a back of the rotation prospect who was sped through the minors once showing proficiency at the lower levels. Mengden's second year inning totals didn't quite reach Griffin's impressively high count in his second year, but he's very much set up to make a jump this year which would allow him a full season in 2017.

My guess: Mengden might make it to the end of the year without being shut down. If it does happen, it'll be in mid to late September

Other options than a simple shutdown

Shutting down pitchers at a certain mark is an obvious concept, but its efficacy isn't proven and boy golly can it lead to ugly late season baseball. Are there other options?

Don't do it?

Probably a bad idea.

The Dodger route

Inning limits are fairly simplistic, basically making the assumption that an injury is an all-at-once occurance. The Dodger's approach is a little more nuanced, keeping pitch counts and thereby inning counts down, hopefully relieving stress on the arm in a more dynamic way than just choosing a date to end a young pitcher's season. Of course, the Dodger route is equally unproven largely thanks to the lack of hard science behind any cause of injury. Still, it's an option that could make September more watchable and with the expanded 40-man roster, it wouldn't be so hard to implement.