I honestly don't know what to add to this news that likely hasn't been written somewhere else. The key facts, in my mind are:
- Crain's shoulder hurts
- That's an especially bad part of Crain to have hurting, seeing as he missed most of the 2007 season with a shoulder problem and rehabbed it extensively.
- It started hurting after a four-day span where he threw 28, 0, 11 and 30 pitches. He also threw those last 30 pitches while getting the snot kicked out of him.
But I've been squirming over a notion for a couple of years now, and I'd sure like to investigate it a bit more. If Crain's injury turns out to be more serious than just the 15-day DL, or if Crain has trouble being effective after his return, does it continue a trend we've seen this decade with the bullpen? Has the extra careful attitude this organization has with starting pitchers led to overuse of their relievers?
I'm just going off the top of my head here. Besides Crain now (and in 2007) we have Guerrier's decline last year after significant use. Neshek's decline in 2007 after frequent use. Juan Rincon faded significantly. Guardado became injury prone shortly after leaving. JC Romero declined considerably after carrying the team in 2002.
The Twins, and especially Ron Gardenhire, have been extra careful with their starting pitchers, so it's not like there is an uncaring attitude for these young arms. Furthermore, Gardenhire often talks about protecting arms in the bullpen, putting some relievers off limits for games. And while there have been studies examining the effect of high pitch counts on starting pitchers, I've seen no groundbreaking studies on relievers.
But I'm starting to wonder if there shouldn't be. Something like BP's Pitching Abuse Points system that tallies the number of pitches in an outing for relievers and tallies additional points given how recent and extensive their last outing (or two) was.
The recent talk this weekend about extending Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey made me reach back to my BP2002 book and look up the original study by Ran Jazayerli and Keith Woolner. If I get some time this week we'll go back and take a look at it for starting pitchers, because the more I read it, the more I realize it doesn't match the conventional wisdom regarding overextending young starting pitchers.
And maybe it'll provide a roadmap of what might be a path for evaluating usage patterns and injuries in relievers.