Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Verducci Effect for 2017


Lopez is the #1 Verducci effect risk factor arm for 2017. Photo via Layton getty images

Lopez is the #1 Verducci effect risk factor arm for 2017. Photo via Layton getty images

This year’s installment of’s Tom Verducci‘s “Year After Effect” (which he’s using as the title instead of the eponymous “Verducci Effect”) was published earlier this month.  This is a quick review of the past few years of his work and documentation of his macabre “success rate” in predicting trouble for young arms working on large innings load increases.

Here’s my reviews of his lists on this same topic from year’s past: 2013 year after effect and 2014 year after effect, and 2016’s year after effect (I forgot to do it in 2015).   In the 2013 post, there’s some counter-arguments to whether or not his “effect” actually exists, with research on all pitchers who qualified for the thresholds he laid out at the time.  I won’t go into the same arguments made there; what I will do is point out the actual results of his predictions:

  • 2013: 11 candidates mentioned, 5/11 regressed or got injured the following year (but, it should be noted, that another 3 of the candidates he mentioned have completely fallen off a cliff in subsequent years).  8/11 candidates showed regression: 72% prediction rate.
  • 2014: 10 candidates mentioned; 8/10 regressed and more shockingly 6/10 had arm injuries.  80% prediction rate.
  • 2015: 14 candidates mentioned (only 5 “main” ones were on his true watch list): 11 of those 14 regressed or got hurt.  One of the 14, Marcus Stroman missed the whole season with a knee injury but counts as a non-regression candidate, so frankly its 11 of 13 guys who actually pitched all year.  84% prediction rate.
  • 2016: 5 candidates mentioned: 2 regressed badly, one regressed nominally, one missed most of the season with arm injuries.  80% prediction rate.

So in the last four years, he’s identified a total of 40 arms at risk and 31 of them regressed or got hurt.  That’s a 77.5% overall “success” rate at predicting regression or injury over multiple years.  You can quibble with those who claim this “effect” doesn’t exist but you’can’t argue against Verducci’s research year over year.  For me, his analysis is less about running pure numbers to find candidates and more about giving context to the pitchers he selects.  Mostly they’re starters (not relievers), mostly they’re young and mostly they’re guys who had to pitch high leverage innings on top of vastly increased workloads.  But if you want counter arguments to his observations, see the 2013 post above for links.

So who’s listed this  year?  A slew of pitchers this year, including a name at the top that we’re quite familiar with.  Most of his pitchers this year are very young and nearly all of them only pitched part-time in the majors.  In a departure this year, 9 of the 12 guys he lists pitched mostly in the minors in 2016 and mostly struggled in the majors, which is going to make my judgement next year as to whether the player “regressed” more difficult.  But here’s the list of 12 guys:

2017 Candidate Name/TeamAge as of Jan 20172016 IP2016 IP delta increase2016 ERA2016 FIP2016 xFIP2016 SIERA
Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox22155.356.34.913.924.524.55
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays23203.670.333.553.754.01
Rob Whalen, Mariners22144.6486.575.054.774.47
Brock Stewart, Dodgers24149485.795.95.034.62
Joe Musgrove, Astros23147.346.
Julio Urias, Dodgers19127.6403.393.173.693.88
Jeff Hoffman, Rockies23150464.886.274.965.22
Michael Fulmer, Tigers23174.349.63.063.763.954.03
Sean Manaea, A's24166.344.63.864.083.964.04
German Marquez, Rockies21187.348.
Jake Thompson, Phillies22183.643.
Daniel Mengden, A's23170.339.66.54.344.574.5

Click here for my full Verducci effect worksheet with detailed stats pre- and post-season.

The guys i’m most intrigued by include:

  • Reynaldo Lopez, who I suspect will start in AAA for the White Sox while they try to figure out if he’s a starter long-term or perhaps a future 100-mph closer.
  • Aaron Sanchez and Michael Fulmer were two awesome rookies last year (Fulmer won the AL Rookie of the Year and Sanchez was the best pitcher on a good Toronto team).
  • Sean Manaea is an interesting younger arm who I’ve often mentioned here because he would have been an option with the 1st round pick we gave up in the 2013 draft so that we could sign Rafael Soriano.
  • Julio Urias projects to be the Dodger’s 3rd or 4th starter and is incredibly accomplished for his age; he seems like he is a lower-risk guy here despite his workload thanks to effortless mechanics.
  • Jeff Hoffman is a rather “famous” name in that he was in talks to go 1-1 in 2014 before blowing out his elbow during his junior year; Toronto drafted him 9th overall despite the injury and then he was a key member of the prospect haul that went to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal.

Hey, at least there’s no Nats this year 🙂


22 Responses to 'Verducci Effect for 2017'

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  1. I thought it was interesting last year that the Nats essentially shut down Giolito — the much bigger investment — but continued to push Lopez, the $17K guy. Rizzo had publicly claimed that Giolito had a wider innings limit because of spring and instructional league innings the year before, but when push came to shove, they didn’t push him. Of course it “helped” matters that he was struggling.

    Meanwhile, part of the reason Lopez had such a big delta was that he had experienced a “dead arm” for part of 2015, which already should have been a warning sign.

    Elsewhere, presumably Urias is going to be in the Dodger rotation. Will they shut him down, or risk consecutive dramatic increases on a very young arm?

    It should be noted, now that Verducci has been doing this for several years, that the “effect” isn’t just for one season. Many of the guys on the lists never completely recovered, have had recurring issues (Harvey most prominent), or have never lived up to billing.


    24 Feb 17 at 9:32 am

  2. KW its a good point. I guess the cynic could think that the decision was solely based on initial investments. As we’ve discussed here several types, conventional economic theory (specifically of “sunk costs” just don’t seem to play into the decisions made by MLB front offices).

    I suspect that the team found themselves having to make a difficult choice; when both Stras and Ross went down and it was clear Petit couldn’t answer the call and that Cole just doesn’t seem lke he’s even a 5th starter in the majors … they opted to push Lopez well past comfort levels. Probably because he was the one of the two guys who hadn’t been injured (either that or because clearly Giolito wasn’t the same guy thanks to fiddling with his mechanics).

    Urias is an interesting case; very , very young. But he’s always dominated no matter where he’s gone. I would have ranked him above Gioilto on macro prospect lists last year simply because of his age and his accomplishments at his age. Verducci thinks his mechanics are so smooth that he’s a lesser risk. Likewise Lopez is high risk in part because his mechanics are so violent.

    Todd Boss

    24 Feb 17 at 9:42 am

  3. “Orange” Marmalejos to the 60-day DL to free a 40-man spot for Wieters. Presumably, the Nats have at least one catcher on the market, possibly two.


    24 Feb 17 at 10:13 am

  4. … didn’t see that coming! The executioner is staved off for someone.

    Todd Boss

    24 Feb 17 at 11:09 am

  5. Apparently there is some conflict on which of his arms they’re claiming is injured! I actually didn’t think you could put a player on the 60-day until the beginning of the season. Is this a development in the new CBA?


    24 Feb 17 at 11:23 am

  6. On the one hand … i’ve often noted the cynicism of the DL list and the ways you can use it for your own ends. On the other … i don’t mind manipulating it for our own benefit 🙂

    Todd Boss

    24 Feb 17 at 11:47 am

  7. I can’t get too cynical about the Marmalejos move considering that this means he’ll miss the beginning of what is a crucial season for him where he needs to start hitting HRs at a rate that might mark him as a potential first baseman. Had it been Read or Bautista, I might be more suspicious.

    Karl Kolchak

    24 Feb 17 at 2:12 pm

  8. I am intrigued by this prospect Luis Robert. Seems like the last of the Cuban mega prospects. I wonder if Rizzo and Ted have one more big prospect signing in them. He profiles nicely for when Harper leaves and Robles should be ready. Same trainer/agent as Yunesky Maya. Not sure if that helps or hurts.


    25 Feb 17 at 11:32 am

  9. Skole HR first at bat. Just saying….

    Marty C

    25 Feb 17 at 3:44 pm

  10. Hey Marty, so did that Harper kid!


    25 Feb 17 at 4:24 pm

  11. On the plus side, Skole hit a homer. On the minus side, he hit it off of a guy who spent most of last year in AA. I’ll call it a push. Call me when he hits one off of a guy who spent at least a day last year in the majors 🙂

    Todd Boss

    25 Feb 17 at 4:27 pm

  12. On the plus side, it better than not hitting one. On the plus side, rooting for our own draftees who have put in their hard time in the minors and deserve a chance to show their stuff is something every Nats fan should enjoy, instead of insulting them.

    Marty C

    25 Feb 17 at 4:33 pm

  13. Ah spring training. A time for over-reactions to small sample sizes 🙂
    – Harper hits the first pitch he sees 450 feet: See! he’s fixed! He’s winning the MVP this year!
    – Skole hits a bomb off a minor leaguer: see! I told you he should have been on the majors all last year!
    – Taylor goes 0-2: See! I told you he was a bum.
    – Eaton goes 0-2: See! I told you we over-paid.

    Inre Skole. Fact of the matter is this. In one signing Skole went from competing for a real bench job to being guaranteed another year in AAA. At least he’s on the 40-man this time, which means he’s guaranteed of coming up when Zimmerman inevitably gets hurt and Lind is starting at 1B. So that’s great for him. Maybe he dominates and becomes 2017’s version of Clint Robinson for this team. I really hope so. I wasn’t insulting Skole; i was insulting all those posts last fall where you were 110% ultimate fan boy for Skole and ignoring the many others here who pointed out that apples-to-apples he was never close to even those guys you were saying he should be replacing.

    Todd Boss

    25 Feb 17 at 5:06 pm

  14. Geez Todd… enjoy our long suffering players success while they have them…

    And you really have no idea how Skole would perform against major league pitching in major league ballparks. He’s never had the chance to show it. Remember you were the guy defending Espinosa to keep the “average” Turner in the minors last year.

    I have no idea if Skole can hit MLB pitching. My point is I’ll enjoy just getting the chance to see it when he gets a shot as I do all our long suffering prospects, then we can let the chips fall where they may.

    This is not Skoles first MLB Spring training homer by the way. I believe he’s hit a few before in limited opportunities.

    Marty C

    25 Feb 17 at 5:52 pm

  15. The most interesting things to me today, VERY VERY early in the spring, were: 1) Nathan consistently in the 90s, touching 92 (he suddenly looks more like a contender than an oldies act); 2) Stevenson’s HR (very curious to see if he can position himself to get into the conversation as a potential Werth replacement); 3) Gott getting a very early call, so he faced the Met starters.

    Good for Skole, good for Soto (jacking one off Blevins); their places are pretty much preordained, but as Todd said, Skole can position himself to get a call if Zim goes down.

    Slow starts for CRob, Taylor, and Goodwin at the plate. All are probably pressing, right off the bat. Terribly slow start for Adams and some of the other bullpen arms who nearly blew a 7-0 lead. Looks like Romero had a good inning, though.

    And it’s always good to beat the Mets, from the first game of the spring through #162!


    25 Feb 17 at 8:41 pm

  16. Was nice to see Bryce stepping right at the pitcher on his HR swings.

    Marty C

    25 Feb 17 at 9:23 pm

  17. Yeah, and a shorter stride from Bryce as well. He’s definitely been working on his swing mechanics as well as his weight lifting.

    Meanwhile, what’s up with the Mets starting Gilmartin? They started Lugo on Friday and are starting Flexen today. None of their projected starters have yet to be seen. I know it’s early, and that they have reason to be cautious, but that trend is starting to get curious. Meanwhile, Duda had to get cortisone shots in both hips, so his recovery tour isn’t off to a rollicking start.


    26 Feb 17 at 7:43 am

  18. You’re right Marty, I have no idea how Skole would hit MLB pitching. I have his MILB stats.
    – Lind’s career MILB slash line: .327/.389/.526. His career majors slash line: .271/.328/.462
    – Robinson’s career MILB slash line: .302/.381/.510. His career majors slash line: .257/.336/.384
    – Skole’s career MILB slash line: .256/.365/.448

    So, basically both Lind and Robinson destroyed the minors and then regressed roughly 50 points in BA, 60 points in OPS, and 75-100 points in slugging. That’d make Skole’s predicted MLB slash line .216/.305/.350 or so. And that’s be pretty awful.

    I don’t hate Skole. I just think he’s a AAA ceiling player and won’t be a worthwhile MLB player. If you’d like to find me examples of 1B-limited players who *improved* their slash lines once they got to the majors, i’m all ears.

    Espinosa/Turner last year: lets not be revisionist history here. I absolutely favored starting Espinosa and keeping Turner in the minors to start 2016 for one primary reason: to get back his service time. Then when Espinosa had the great month it made things even better. Turner came up primarily because Revere sucked, not because Espinosa did. And, again, lets not forget what really happened last year … when the team had not one but TWO major holes in its lineup (Espinosa and Revere), Turner could only really fix one of htem. So the team decided to keep the plus-defender Espinosa where he was and take the off-chances he’d run into a pitch and drive it 400 feet versus the feeble .300 slugging Revere.

    I have zero problems with the way the Nats deployed their team last year. You can’t have an all-star at every position.

    Todd Boss

    26 Feb 17 at 10:29 am

  19. KW — Stevenson showing some power is indeed a big positive. Dude has already shown he can hit and steal bases and is a good defender, albeit with a weak arm. For him, developing some decent pop would be the difference between his being a somewhat slower version of Ben Revere (and thus a marginal MLB-er) and potentially being another Adam Eaton.

    Karl Kolchak

    26 Feb 17 at 12:58 pm

  20. Skole to me is practically the dictionary definition of a AAAA player. Were he a couple of years younger and had Marmolejos’s ability to make contact and hit for average, the Nats might really have something there. He had that ability before the freak elbow injury that required TJ surgery and cost him a year of development. Why he dropped from being a .290 hitter to a .240 hitter post injury is a mystery, but it totally derailed his prospect status.

    Karl Kolchak

    26 Feb 17 at 1:06 pm

  21. Stevenson: agree. Its one swing, clearly a SSS, but the swing he put on that ball to drive it out is leaps and bounds better than the swing he exhibited at LSU.

    Todd Boss

    26 Feb 17 at 4:32 pm

  22. Todd Boss

    26 Feb 17 at 4:33 pm

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