• The Myth of the 130-Inning Limit

    One of the topics being ardently discussed by the Twins fan base these days is the status of Kyle Gibson and his recovery from Tommy John surgery. As a part of that discussion much has been made of the 130-inning limit to which Gibson is being held – indeed, it has become for some the focus of the discussion. If Gibson has only so many innings before he is shut down this year, then doesn’t it make sense to have him “spend” those innings with the parent club, getting MLB experience in preparation for next year? Indeed, there are few topics which evoke as much passion now than how the front office is handling Gibson’s recovery.
    The problem is, I’m not sure that that limit exists. I’m going to buck the trend here and challenge the conventional wisdom and say that it probably does not, at least not in the way most are using the term. Oh, I have no doubt that there is an internal target number that the organization is looking at, beyond which they will treat Gibson with kid gloves, shutting him down at the first sign of arm weakness or fatigue. Indeed, I would be disappointed if they did not. But I believe he will be allowed to pitch until that moment comes, regardless of his inning total. I choose to take Terry Ryan at his word when he said in March that such a hard inning limit does not exist.

    "It's not a firm number," Ryan said. "He's different from (Francisco) Liriano. He's different from Joe Nathan. ... We're going to make sure that we take care of him, but we're also going to give him an opportunity to develop."
    Minnesota Twins send Kyle Gibson down, can't wait to bring him back - TwinCities.com

    So where did this idea of the 130-inning limit come from? I think it starts last year and the Stephen Strasburg situation in Washington. In his case there was a firm limit, which was announced very publicly early in the season, preparing the fan base for why Strasburg, their ace, might not be available to pitch in the playoffs. That put the whole question of inning limits after TJ surgery center stage in the eyes of the public. Add to that Kyle Gibson’s recovery from TJ surgery and it was natural for Twins fans to raise the same question regarding our young pitcher.

    The next piece is from an article on 1500espn.com that Phil Mackey published last November. In that article Mackey indicated that Ryan had told him earlier in the off-season that Gibson would be on a 130-140 inning limit, similar to Atlanta’s Kris Medlin who pitched 138 innings in his first full season back.

    Mackey: How does a 'healthy' Kyle Gibson fit into Twins' 2013 plans? | 1500 ESPN Twin Cities ? Minnesota Sports News & Opinion (Twins, Vikings, Wolves, Wild, Gophers) | Sportswire: Minnesota Twins

    From that point, the 130-140 inning limit became standard fodder, being picked up by bloggers and others and passed on regularly. Preseason analysis from the likes of Rhett Bollinger also perpetuated the idea, although they did call it an expectation rather than hard information from management. Soon it was the standard on which all forum threads on Gibson were based. And so here we are today.

    I of course could be wrong – there may indeed be an arbitrary number beyond which Gibson will not be allowed to go, one that has not been made public because that is just not the Twins way. But what if I’m not? What if my supposition is correct, and Ryan wasn’t just trying to fool us all in March? What if Gibson pitches for the rest of the season, although probably with extra days of rest? What does that say about how we handle information in the internet age?

    One thing it would remind us of is how easy supposition can become “fact” through the process of repetition. That’s something that is not limited to this case, of course. It’s become common in life in general, particularly in politics. The hard-cores on both the left and the right have become adept at repeating the same item of misinformation so often that it becomes factual in the minds of many who listen to them. Think Barack Obama and the furor over his birth certificate. The challenge, then, is to always make sure of our sources before we take as definitive something we’ve read in a blog or forum (or a newspaper or magazine article too, for that matter).

    It should also remind us that wisdom comes not necessarily from following the crowd, but from recognizing that wisdom is often something that has to be pieced together from multiple sources, never clearly revealed in any one source but only truly seen in composite. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle – all the pieces have to be properly placed before the true picture emerges. Thus the challenge is to have the patience to truly investigate a question from all sides, and only when we have all the pieces can we truly put the puzzle together.

    And yes, that means listening to people with whom we disagree, recognizing that even from their words we can learn and grow even if we do not adopt their views and positions wholeheartedly.

    Finally, it reminds us nothing is carved in stone and the ability to adapt is a hallmark of the human condition. The two articles I linked above seem to be contradictory, until you remember that one was published in November and the other in March. I have no difficulty believing both are accurate. Any change in stance comes from being willing to reassess the situation as more data comes available, in this case as the Twins' staff watched Gibson during spring training.

    That’s something every organization and every individual needs to be able to do, to always be willing to be flexible and change ones views when new information merits it. It is only when we become so hard and fast in our positions that we stop looking for new information, that we stop being willing to test our beliefs, that we come close to the danger of ossifying and becoming irrelevant, and of having a fast-changing world pass us by.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Myth of the 130-Inning Limit started by IdahoPilgrim
    Comments 36 Comments
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Personally heard that Terry Ryan radio interviews this winter/spring where that number was given by Ryan....so
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Personally heard that Terry Ryan radio interviews this winter/spring where that number was given by Ryan....so
      Unless you can produce the actual audio, it's just a myth...
    1. NoCal's Avatar
      NoCal -
      A veritable Montaigne view of the Twins ........and life?
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      Personally heard that Terry Ryan radio interviews this winter/spring where that number was given by Ryan....so
      So...no one is saying that number wasn't given by Ryan. But TR also said in March that there is no firm number.

      It would be nice if the Twins could come out and confirm what the current plan is. Or maybe they aren't sure yet. Either way, I think Walters made the decision to call up Gibson easy last night. Hope to see him soon.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      Very nice read. Though I hope you're right, the twins have a hard time leaving a pitcher in once he reaches 100 pitches. It doesn't really matter how well they are pitching ( was that Slowey or Blackburn that they took out after 8 no-hit innings). My belief is that the twins believe in hard set numbers more then the rest of the league. They get caught up in what you mentioned above (the birth certificate reference). I'm not a Twins conspiracy guy, I don't believe that they are out to make us miserable, I just believe that they are the type of front office that would set a limit.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Whether the number is firm or not doesn't really matter when it comes to discontent about not bringing him up.

      While obviously problems could develop at any innings count, he is MORE likely to be shut down the more innings he gets. He is currently at 92.2 innings so, whether the innings limit is precisely 130 or has some flexibility, he is approaching a place where they are going to be watching his innings more and more closely. And are much more likely to shut him down.

      130 innings may not be his ceiling but I'm not sure anybody guaranteed that he would get the full 130 either. Maybe they will shut him down at 120 or 125.

      I had forgotten the following tweet from Rhett Bollinger (found again on RotoWorld) on May 20:

      The Twins optioned left-hander Pedro Hernandez to Triple-A Rochester on Monday, which immediately led to speculation that Gibson could get the call. The 25-year-old right-hander has a 3.25 ERA and 46/14 K/BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings through eight starts this season in Triple-A. Even if the Twins opt for Walters or Deduno, it's just a matter of time before Gibson arrives. May 20 - 5:08 PM

      Obviously "time" did not arrive within the following month since it is now June 23 and we've not caught sight of Gibson.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      How can something be a myth if it was acknowledged by Ryan?

      Perhaps a better title and suggestion would be: "The mysterious innings limit for Kyle Gibson". Ryan said there was a limit and gave a rough number. That may have changed and their may be reason to believe it has changed. He may even have just been giving a very cautious number publicly, but it is not (nor was it ever) a "myth". That's a backhanded way of discrediting people who are citing something the GM said on the issue.

      I would think that sort of evidence is pretty strong, not made up or "mythic"
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I can see Gibson being allowed to go 150-160 innings as long as he looks strong. but I don't see him going much beyond that. They will want him to come back stronger next year and make sure they avoid a potential dead arm next year when he is up in Minn.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      If they don't limit his innings, they are taking a huge, unnecessary risk. The science is well documented. They have a recent example of how this risk came back to bite them in Liriano. If they push it beyond 140, I would be shocked.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Ryan first said 130-140, then said the number wasn't firm. From my perspective, 130-140 is not a firm number and neither statement contradicted each other.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Thank you for this piece. I've been blasted by a few folks here who take every quip as the ultimate truth (even if there is contradicting evidence) while trying to make that point:
      "One thing it would remind us of is how easy supposition can become “fact” through the process of repetition."

      Really hoping we see Gibson come up for Walters. Not defending it and I hope not, but I could see them give PJ one more start since that was his first real clunker (I know he wasn't great in 2 other starts as well).
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      The tricky thing, at this point, if he really struggles, is it due to the recovery, and does he need to be shut down? Or is it just regular rookie adjustments?
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      I guess we'll find out soon enough. I hope he gets through July and August before being shut down, and then maybe Worley or Hendriks takes over the spot in September.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      We don't know what will happen, and maybe the Twins don't either. But I fail to see how quoting Ryan, when he says something, is wrong somehow. We only know a: what happened; b: what they say will happen. For the future, we can extrapolate from past behavior, and their words. Ryan said what he said, I don't see how repeating that somehow makes people bad/wrong/evil/not real fans.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      We don't know what will happen, and maybe the Twins don't either. But I fail to see how quoting Ryan, when he says something, is wrong somehow. We only know a: what happened; b: what they say will happen. For the future, we can extrapolate from past behavior, and their words. Ryan said what he said, I don't see how repeating that somehow makes people bad/wrong/evil/not real fans.
      It doesn't.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Yeah, although the distinction between extrapolation and speculative fiction should be kept in mind.
    1. SwainZag's Avatar
      SwainZag -
      Quote Originally Posted by Chance View Post
      Very nice read. Though I hope you're right, the twins have a hard time leaving a pitcher in once he reaches 100 pitches. It doesn't really matter how well they are pitching ( was that Slowey or Blackburn that they took out after 8 no-hit innings). My belief is that the twins believe in hard set numbers more then the rest of the league. They get caught up in what you mentioned above (the birth certificate reference). I'm not a Twins conspiracy guy, I don't believe that they are out to make us miserable, I just believe that they are the type of front office that would set a limit.
      In this day and age in baseball with such good bullpens and use of specialty guys, I have no problem when the starters are pulled after 100-110 pitches or so.

      If you have an ace type pitcher I believe there should be a completely different mentality, but there is not one pitcher on this roster I would trust more going beyond 100-110 pitches than the bullpen arms the team currently has right now.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by crarko View Post
      Yeah, although the distinction between extrapolation and speculative fiction should be kept in mind.
      You're right, this blog is a good example of speculative fiction.

      Not only is Ryan's quote evidence of an innings limit approaching - so is major league baseball conventional wisdom, the Twins general conservative approach to injuries, and standard injury rehab timelines.

      Personally, I hope Ryan and his crew up that limit. The more Gibson, the better. But there was never a "myth", there was a very real expectation based on the vast majority of evidence. Not wild, hopeful speculation.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by IdahoPilgrim View Post
      I thought I had raised a valid point - that there is just as much evidence for there not being a firm limit as there is for there being one.
      Except that there isn't. As I noted in my last post, there is a vast preponderance of evidence that there is an innings limit from injury rehab times, conventional wisdom for handling this injury, the Twin's standard approach to injuries, etc.

      You have one quote from Ryan that is even more vague than the one that favors an innings limit.

      You may indeed be right, but you don't (as your article suggested and I take issue with) have anything beyond hopeful speculation. I share your hope, but not your confirmation of speculation as evidence.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      No team is ever going to announce a firm playing time limit, ever. Even with Strasburg, the Nationals were very cagey. In injury situations, teams don't want to appear arbitrary, even when there isn't really a better way to do it. In their more candid moments, they will refer to precedent and other players usage, but they aren't going to put a hard number out there for anyone -- even when it's blindingly obvious that a hard number is pretty much the driver behind any shutdown decision (like how Zimmermann and Strasburg were both shut down at the exact same threshold).

      Players probably wouldn't like it either, although it would be interesting to hear what conversations the teams have with the player about such a limit (if any).

      If that's the evidence you are looking for, you are never going to find it.
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