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Bailey Ober's successful innings management


There was a lot of controversy surrounding Ober, particularly in June and July, about whether to let it rip and potentially shutting him down in September or whether to keep his pitch count low - around 80 pitches per outing - in hopes that would allow him to reach the finish line in 2021. I was as skeptical as anyone but also wasn't willing to dismiss the idea out of hand, as it was an interesting mid-term strategy that I can't recall seeing used so strictly to manage innings for an entire season.

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Well, it appears it worked. Ober has hit some speed bumps in September but is still pitching adequately and has blown past his previous innings pitched numbers.

2017: 28.0 IP
2018: 75.0 IP
2019: 78.2 IP
2020: 0 IP
2021: 108.1 IP

He has one remaining start so he'll likely end 2021 in the 111-114 IP range, roughly 35 IP more than any previous season and infinitely higher than the zero IP from 2020.

I find the game theory in this interesting because I don't have a strong opinion either direction: is it more important to "fight through" lineups an additional time but then shut down late in the season or is it more important to adjust to the routine of a six month season, taking the ball every fifth day? And how does each impact that pitcher's ability to expand upon that the following season?

And speaking of which, where would you place Ober's innings limit for 2022? Is 150 IP achievable? Or would you try to push even higher?

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I'm not sure where he should top out in 2022. It's been a unique situation, with 2020 a missed year for so many, but I think he could (should?) be pushed. Depending on his off-season regimen, I would start him similarly in the beginning of the season and hopefully get him to go longer into games by the end. I think 150 is definitely doable, and hopefully higher. Too many questions that I don't have the expertise to answer. That lost year has certainly messed with development all the way around, but I think by next season, it should be 'back to normal' for the most part and with big steps forward

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Isn’t the old adage about sophomore slump for starting pitchers due to blowing past their previous innings peaks and having a dead arm their second year?

Im not sure I’d stretch his innings much year 2, maybe 5-10% and look for year 3 to start extending the length of his starts significantly 

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14 minutes ago, Sconnie said:

Isn’t the old adage about sophomore slump for starting pitchers due to blowing past their previous innings peaks and having a dead arm their second year?

There is an old adage suggesting that is the case but I've seen a lot of conflicting evidence whether it's true or not. I'm pretty much in the dark about where the limit is or if there is one at all, really.

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I would probably make it based off if number of pitches in a game.  Maybe max out at 90 and allow an occasional start go to 100 or so pitches. The 100-110 pitch games are going on good starts. That may go over 7 innings in that start.  I think the idea is to limit stress on the arm which is to limit pitches over limiting innings.  I think that is what they are doing now keeping his pitch count around 80.  Also in starts where he has a lot of pitches thrown in an inning could cause an audible lowering the limit of pitches that day by 10 or so.

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Great question, Brock.  And expect none of us are in position to know what is best, much less what will happen beginning six months from now.

What I do know is that I am thrilled to be having this discussion.  Who would have ever guessed that Ober might be our most experienced internal option for the 2022 starting rotation, and possibly the best.  Who would have thunk?

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I wish there was a good bio-marker or test for muscle fatigue out there. I remember being at the science museum years ago and a machine could measure my muscle contractions in my forearm. Things like that make me wonder if such a device could be used to measure muscle fatigue in pitchers arms or shoulders. I suppose, if it could, they'd already have invented it.

I'd be inclined to expand Ober's pitch count to 100. However many innings he gets to, he gets to.

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I think they handled Ober nearly flawlessly all season. Never expected all this from him, but also, with his track record and not pitching last year, to get him to make every start and remain healthy is fantastic. 

His previous high was 78 1/3, but even that came in short spurts with a couple of extended IL stints. So, just as important as the number of innings, they were watching his number of pitches. I know some were frustrated, but whatever the plan was, it has worked! 

Secondly, the player development and analytics and all that stuff Falvey brought in has really helped him. First, there is the increased velocity. Second, he told me in a 2019 article about using the technology and analysis to find a release point to stay healthy, to gain velocity, to know that he needs to work up in the strike zone, etc. 

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11 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

I think they handled Ober nearly flawlessly all season. Never expected all this from him, but also, with his track record and not pitching last year, to get him to make every start and remain healthy is fantastic. 

His previous high was 78 1/3, but even that came in short spurts with a couple of extended IL stints. So, just as important as the number of innings, they were watching his number of pitches. I know some were frustrated, but whatever the plan was, it has worked! 

Secondly, the player development and analytics and all that stuff Falvey brought in has really helped him. First, there is the increased velocity. Second, he told me in a 2019 article about using the technology and analysis to find a release point to stay healthy, to gain velocity, to know that he needs to work up in the strike zone, etc. 

Where do you think they will push him to next year in terms of innings?

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22 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

I think they handled Ober nearly flawlessly all season. Never expected all this from him, but also, with his track record and not pitching last year, to get him to make every start and remain healthy is fantastic. 

His previous high was 78 1/3, but even that came in short spurts with a couple of extended IL stints. So, just as important as the number of innings, they were watching his number of pitches. I know some were frustrated, but whatever the plan was, it has worked! 

Secondly, the player development and analytics and all that stuff Falvey brought in has really helped him. First, there is the increased velocity. Second, he told me in a 2019 article about using the technology and analysis to find a release point to stay healthy, to gain velocity, to know that he needs to work up in the strike zone, etc. 

I think the technical changes are really important. If he is now pitching in mechanical/anatomically better position he may be able to withstand a higher jump in innings pitched. An amazing bright spot in a bad season. Love watching him aggressively go after hitters. 

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We can't know if the Twins got every possible inning from Bailey Ober this season, but to me it looks like they gave him a very good chance to grow and learn. Listening to him talk, I hear a young pitcher with a very good idea how to formulate a plan against an upcoming opponent, and then execute that plan with increasing precision. 

We do know that Ober will be exiting this season healthy (knock on wood), and he will have a very good idea what he needs to do in the off season to get better next year. If he builds up his legs and core just a bit more, he could add an mph or two to his heater, and last another couple innings in each start. That would make him pretty close to a #1 starter. Nothing wrong with having two potential aces on the staff.

With a couple guys like Ober and Ryan leading the rotation, all you need is one more guy (Jax, Maeda, Duran, Belazovic, etc.) having a good season for the team to be right back in playoff contention. 

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With his ERA much worse in innings 4 and 5 than earlier in the game, it's hard for me to believe we haven't gotten maximum value from what he has to offer in 2021. 

He now has a good base of success to build on, but needs at least one further step of progress, whatever that may be, to achieve greater stamina and become a reliable 6+ inning pitcher, the kinds who helps solidify a rotation.

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I think the Twins did a good job with Ober. I’d certainly like to see more innings in 2022, but health is the most important. I hope he can come back for both more innings and increased effectiveness next year. Hopefully, more pitchers will take similar steps to Ober’s and the Twins start developing multiple arms on the major league level. 

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My question would be how easy/smooth or hard/stressful is his delivery?

If he isn't putting tons of stress on his elbow or shoulder, he should be allowed to go as deep as long as he is effective.

If the Twins are treating him with kid gloves, I'm sure they have good reason.

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5 hours ago, Squirrel said:

Where do you think they will push him to next year in terms of innings?

With a 'regular' offseason of rest, workouts, etc., I think he can get to 140-150 innings. I do think that they need to remain cautious. There are a lot of concerns about how the missed year could effect things for at least another year. 

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My understanding is that the Twins were using a great deal of in-game data to determine when to pull the plug on Ober, and likely Ryan, starts this year. Tracking velo, spin rates, extension on release, etc. to see if there's any noticeable changes throughout the game to show they may be fatiguing then base their decisions off that. I'd assume that'd be the same approach next season while trying to push him a little more, but nothing crazy. I'd also assume seeing the numbers go the wrong way in game meant he was close to the end, but not immediately pulled as they would want to help build more strength by pushing him and having his body respond by getting stronger. I think 150ish innings next year is a good goal in a semi-competitive year for the team.

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Given his injury history in the minors, I'd be inclined to keep treating him with kid-gloves. Realistically the team is not going to compete for a division next year; all you want to see is growth and health from Ober and Ryan next year with an eye to compete in 2023. 

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23 hours ago, Brandon said:

I would probably make it based off if number of pitches in a game.  Maybe max out at 90 and allow an occasional start go to 100 or so pitches. The 100-110 pitch games are going on good starts. That may go over 7 innings in that start.  I think the idea is to limit stress on the arm which is to limit pitches over limiting innings.  I think that is what they are doing now keeping his pitch count around 80.  Also in starts where he has a lot of pitches thrown in an inning could cause an audible lowering the limit of pitches that day by 10 or so.

This approach would hopefully give the Twins more games with starting pitchers getting to at least 6 innings so we aren't killing the bullpen.  Those short starts are ok once in a while but they can really mess up the bullpen for days.  

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22 hours ago, bean5302 said:

I wish there was a good bio-marker or test for muscle fatigue out there. I remember being at the science museum years ago and a machine could measure my muscle contractions in my forearm. Things like that make me wonder if such a device could be used to measure muscle fatigue in pitchers arms or shoulders. I suppose, if it could, they'd already have invented it.

I'd be inclined to expand Ober's pitch count to 100. However many innings he gets to, he gets to.

Muscle fatigue really isn’t the issue. It is preventing an overuse injury.

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I dont think there has be a moratorium either in regard to his total IP. Pitching, hopefully, a full season or close to one, and simply monitoring him while allowing him to creep up to the 90-ish pitches per game mark should allow 150IP (or so) very organically. 

But they've done an outstanding job this season not only building his endurance up and maximizing him, but by also working on his pitches and subtle changes on the fly.

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2 hours ago, old nurse said:

Muscle fatigue really isn’t the issue. It is preventing an overuse injury.

Right, but the current theory behind why many injuries happen is muscle fatigue leads to the injury because mechanics get out of whack. 

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Ober has pitched well, the management staff have monitored his innings very effectively, and Ober has been very accepting and methodical about his own progression; kudos all around but especially to Bailey Ober for his work. The rise of Ober is especially impressive because of the pitcher's difficulties in the past few years and the frustration of a Covid year. I would like to think that a tall physical player, like Ober, has a tough journey to harness the subtle movements necessary to succeed at pitching. 2021 is hopefully just a precursor to a very solid sophomore campaign for the big right-hander. Can we just hope for 150-180 innings next year similar to what we have watched this season? Fans are driven by hope.

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Right, but the current theory behind why many injuries happen is muscle fatigue leads to the injury because mechanics get out of whack. 

The pace of the game it is not the game itself but the bullpen sessions, long toss, and warmups that cause the muscle fatigue that leads to injuries, In terms of monitoring mechanics, that’s Rapsodo’s functions. You could do a point of cart lactic acid but the glove hand is going to be pretty sore by the end of the season 

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Looking at his game log on baseball-reference.com, I’m struck by two things. First, including his time in the minors, he has not missed a start since his first outing on May 8. Second, in the majors, aside from one outlier above and one below, he has thrown from 59-82 pitches in every game, averaging 74 per game. 

This year, he has averaged 4.52 innings over his 24 total starts and averaged 16.4 pitches per major league inning. His first start was on the day of the Twins’ 32nd game, so assume six more starts up front and one remaining for 31 total starts.

At 4.52 innings per start for 31 starts, that is 140 innings. If he were to average 10 more pitches per game at the same number of pitches per inning, that would be 10/16.4 * 31 equals 18.9 more innings. (That .9 inning is going to be interesting to see!)

That would put him at 159 innings, and assumes health that allows him to make every start. It’s hard to imagine a number higher than that as a goal. The likelihood of missing a start or two makes 140 seem like a more realist number to project. 

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1 hour ago, IndianaTwin said:

Looking at his game log on baseball-reference.com, I’m struck by two things. First, including his time in the minors, he has not missed a start since his first outing on May 8. Second, in the majors, aside from one outlier above and one below, he has thrown from 59-82 pitches in every game, averaging 74 per game. 

This year, he has averaged 4.52 innings over his 24 total starts and averaged 16.4 pitches per major league inning. His first start was on the day of the Twins’ 32nd game, so assume six more starts up front and one remaining for 31 total starts.

At 4.52 innings per start for 31 starts, that is 140 innings. If he were to average 10 more pitches per game at the same number of pitches per inning, that would be 10/16.4 * 31 equals 18.9 more innings. (That .9 inning is going to be interesting to see!)

That would put him at 159 innings, and assumes health that allows him to make every start. It’s hard to imagine a number higher than that as a goal. The likelihood of missing a start or two makes 140 seem like a more realist number to project. 

Uhhhhmmmm.... I was under the impression that there wasn't going to be any math during this discussion? 😉

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