Two pitchers with heavily decorated resumes.
The first, CC Sabathia, has more of a track record and is completing his 10th full season in the Majors.
The second, Tim Lincecum, affectionately known as “The Freak,” is in his fourth season, and has two Cy Young Awards.
However, both are known as workhorses, the proverbial baseball term that gives revered status to those pitchers who miss very few starts to injury and normally throw 200-plus innings per season.
Based upon their sizes, both Sabathia and Lincecum are on the opposite ends of the spectrum of pitchers you would consider workhorses.
CC is a hulky 6’7″ 290-pound behemoth, while Lincecum stands 5’11” and 170 pounds. Yes, even though Tiny Tim appears more slight, he is listed at 170.
Both have thrown a lot of innings in their careers. Sabathia has averaged 31 starts and 210 innings during his first nine full seasons, while Lincecum has averaged 32 starts and 226 innings in his only two full seasons.
In today’s game, those are huge amounts of innings…but somewhere Steve Carlton is laughing.
Both pitchers are headed for similar (if not higher) numbers this year. CC has made 20 starts and Lincecum 19, with both having double-digit wins once again.
Interestingly enough, Sabathia is the only active MLB pitcher who has double-digit wins and a winning record in each season of his career.
But with the similarities between the two pitchers (team workhorse aces) and their differences (body type), which hurler is the more likely pitcher to eventually break down?
I don’t think either one will break down anytime soon. Both have pretty good pitching mechanics. Their arm actions are great, putting less stress on their elbows and shoulders.
But history does provide a glimpse of those types of pitchers who have long careers, and they are not usually the slight of build guys.
There have been 70 pitchers in baseball history who have thrown 3500-plus innings. The leader, of course, is Cy Young, with a ridiculous 7,356 innings. It doesn’t matter what era you are pitching in, that is a preposterous amount of innings.
So, of all these 70 pitchers, only eight are of the recent era. They are Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer, Dennis Martinez, Jack Morris, and Mike Mussina.
All of the other 62 pitchers played the bulk of their careers before the 1980s.
Almost all of these 70 pitchers were six feet tall or bigger. Ten were under six feet tall, and all but one played before the 20th century, when pitchers threw with less velocity but more often during a season.
The only pitcher under six feet tall who pitched in the modern era was Whitey Ford, who tipped the scales at a robust 5’10”, 178 pounds.
But Ford was a soft-tossing left-handed pitcher who would pepper the corners with moderate fastballs, change ups, and cut pitches (literally). Similar to Glavine, minus the cut balls.
There are not many smallish built pitchers who throw many innings, especially hard-throwing slight of build pitchers like Lincecum. Even Pedro Martinez and his lengthy career, has thrown only 2,827 innings, and he is similar in size to Lincecum with the same velocity.
Martinez, who had tremendous pitching mechanics, ended up having rotator cuff surgery in 2006. His rotator cuff issues began back in 2001 (at age 29) when he missed a good chunk of that year to the injured shoulder.
Lincecum is now 26 years old, but at the same age, Pedro had thrown about 300 more innings than Lincecum will throw this season.
Sabathia, as of this writing, has thrown 2,027 innings. That is good for 404th place all time. At his current rate, CC will move into the 360th-place range.
He has a workhorse frame, and even with the seven postseason series (and 61 more innings), Sabathia looks as strong as the day he broke into the Majors.
With his slight build, Lincecum should not compile as long a Major League career as Sabathia. He may not break down for major arm surgery like Pedro, but I would not bet against it.
History shows us smaller guys do not last as long or throw as many innings as bigger guys.
But both smaller and bigger guys end up getting surgery. That is the nature of the beast with pitchers.
They say pitchers’ careers are made with their legs, and the arms are just along for the ride. When the legs get tired, the arm gets tired, and that is when injuries occur.
That is why a Major League pitcher who is throwing around 120 pitches can still throw more if his legs are strong, but a guy can be wiped out after 90 if his legs are weak.
From the looks of both pitchers, it appears Sabathia’s legs have a bunch more strength than Lincecum’s.
For that reason, his size, and the longer history of sustained work with no ill effects, I believe CC Sabathia will have the longer career, logging many more innings than “The Freak.”