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2021 Fantasy Baseball: Repeating Top 50 Innings Pitched

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How often can a pitcher go the distance in innings repeatedly?

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Zach Wheeler ended up having the most innings pitched in the regular season, just like we all expected right? Last year it was Lance Lynn and the year before that it was Justin Verlander. In fact, no pitcher has had back-to-back seasons being among the top three in innings pitched, and only Justin Verlander has repeated a top five performance (twice). In essence, it’s rare to see a pitcher go the distance repeatedly. But who is surprised? It’s tough to pitch for an entire season. It’s tougher to maintain that pace for multiple seasons, and nearly impossible to do it for five seasons. Injuries, limitations, poor years, and larger pitching rotations have limited many pitchers to a lower number of innings than we would have historically seen 10 or 15 years ago.

Five pitchers have been among the top 50 in innings pitched each year from 2017 – 2021 (Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer). Among those five pitchers, only Cole has been in the top 15 each year and only Greinke and Corbin have been among the top 30 each year. Why is this important? For those of you that play fantasy football you may recall the curse of the 370. When a running back had more than 370 carries he was statistically very likely to bottom out the next season, as it was too much wear and tear on a human body, even at elite athletic levels.

There have been 130 total Pitchers to land among the top 50 in IP over the last five years (out of a potential 250 spots – top 50 x 5 years)

  • 65 pitchers made it just one year (50%)
  • 32 pitchers did it two years (25%)
  • 16 pitchers did it three years (12%)
  • 12 pitchers did it four years (9%)
  • 5 pitchers did it all five years (4%)
Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images

Looking into top 10 innings pitcher performances

  • If a pitcher DID happen to land among the top 10 in innings pitched, they repeated a top 10 innings performance 28 times out of a possible 50 (62% of the time).
  • So elite pitchers are going to be elite more often than not.
  • On average, if a pitcher finished in the top 10 AND finished in the top 50 the next season, they averaged a finish of 25th.

Looking into top 50 innings pitcher performances

  • If a pitcher was among the top 50 in innings pitched, the feat was repeated 95/200 times over the last 5 years. This means if your pitcher was a top 50 pitcher in innings pitched, there is a 47% chance they will do it again in 2022.

The summary of this is – trust in the elites: Cole, Greinke, Nola, Corbin, Scherzer, DeGrom, Lance Lynn, Yu Darvish, Lucas Giolito etc...to repeat a lengthy number of innings pitched. Be wary of a repeat performance when you see a Zac Gallen, Clayton Richard, Chris Flexen, Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Julio Urias, James Shields, Aaron Civale, Ervin Santana etc.. because they repeat it less than half the time.

Top 50 IP Year over Year

Player 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Average Count
Player 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Average Count
Gerrit Cole 8 11 4 9 14 9 5
Zack Greinke 9 6 6 25 29 15 5
Aaron Nola 49 5 13 13 17 19 5
Patrick Corbin 20 12 14 29 28 21 5
Max Scherzer 14 1 47 23 22 21 5
Jacob deGrom 10 2 10 21 11 4
Zack Wheeler 28 20 14 1 16 4
Kyle Hendricks 14 36 3 16 17 4
Jose Berrios 18 15 35 6 19 4
Lance Lynn 26 7 1 47 20 4
German Marquez 16 46 2 18 21 4
Trevor Bauer 39 39 3 9 23 4
Kevin Gausman 24 26 41 6 24 4
Yu Darvish 24 34 5 34 24 4
Rick Porcello 7 20 44 44 29 4
Lucas Giolito 42 37 11 26 29 4
Jon Lester 33 29 48 39 37 4
Justin Verlander 4 4 1 3 3
Luis Castillo 22 17 8 16 3
Kyle Gibson 15 23 13 17 3
Carlos Carrasco 15 19 21 18 3
Marcus Stroman 11 26 25 21 3
Mike Leake 27 25 18 23 3
Dallas Keuchel 7 33 39 26 3
Adam Wainwright 48 29 3 27 3
Hyun Jin Ryu 30 25 30 28 3
Julio Teheran 22 38 41 34 3
Tyler Anderson 36 41 32 36 3
Jose Quintana 21 40 50 37 3
Matthew Boyd 50 24 40 38 3
Mike Fiers 45 25 44 38 3
Dylan Bundy 46 46 29 40 3
Clayton Kershaw 42 35 49 42 3
Shane Bieber 2 4 3 2
Corey Kluber 6 3 5 2
Sandy Alcantara 17 4 11 2
Kyle Freeland 9 15 12 2
Brandon Woodruff 7 22 15 2
Marco Gonzales 12 18 15 2
Charlie Morton 21 10 16 2
Walker Buehler 31 2 17 2
Jeff Samardzija 3 33 18 2
Luis Severino 17 20 19 2
Miles Mikolas 10 27 19 2
Zach Davies 18 19 19 2
Stephen Strasburg 40 5 23 2
Ivan Nova 23 23 23 2
Mike Minor 7 41 24 2
Robbie Ray 44 5 25 2
Jhoulys Chacin 34 17 26 2
Reynaldo Lopez 24 27 26 2
Eduardo Rodriguez 11 44 28 2
Antonio Senzatela 8 49 29 2
Andrew Heaney 32 27 30 2
Gio Gonzalez 11 48 30 2
Tanner Roark 31 31 31 2
Martin Perez 29 38 34 2
Masahiro Tanaka 38 32 35 2
Merrill Kelly 29 43 36 2
Corbin Burnes 41 32 37 2
Jakob Junis 35 39 37 2
Chris Bassitt 35 45 40 2
Dylan Cease 49 35 42 2
Jose Urena 46 41 44 2
Jake Arrieta 48 43 46 2
Chris Sale 1 1 1
Ervin Santana 2 2 1
Carlos Martinez 5 5 1
Aaron Civale 6 6 1
James Shields 7 7 1
Frankie Montas 9 9 1
Madison Bumgarner 9 9 1
Julio Urias 10 10 1
Chris Archer 11 11 1
Mike Clevinger 12 12 1
Nathan Eovaldi 12 12 1
Zac Gallen 12 12 1
Joe Musgrove 14 14 1
Framber Valdez 15 15 1
Clayton Richard 16 16 1
Noah Syndergaard 16 16 1
Jordan Lyles 18 18 1
Tyler Mahle 18 18 1
Jack Flaherty 19 19 1
R.A. Dickey 19 19 1
Dinelson Lamet 20 20 1
Chris Flexen 21 21 1
Jameson Taillon 22 22 1
Sean Manaea 22 22 1
Cole Hamels 23 23 1
Cole Irvin 27 27 1
Kenta Maeda 27 27 1
Marco Estrada 27 27 1
Mike Foltynewicz 27 27 1
Blake Snell 30 30 1
Dan Straily 30 30 1
Anthony DeSclafani 31 31 1
Brady Singer 32 32 1
Ricky Nolasco 32 32 1
Johnny Cueto 33 33 1
Zack Godley 33 33 1
J.A. Happ 34 34 1
Jason Hammel 34 34 1
Max Fried 35 35 1
David Price 36 36 1
Jason Vargas 36 36 1
Alec Mills 37 37 1
Alex Cobb 37 37 1
Wade Miley 37 37 1
Brett Anderson 38 38 1
Lance McCullers Jr. 38 38 1
Sonny Gray 39 39 1
Jimmy Nelson 40 40 1
Taijuan Walker 40 40 1
Dakota Hudson 41 41 1
Mike Soroka 41 41 1
Rich Hill 41 41 1
Matt Moore 43 43 1
Chris Paddack 44 44 1
Drew Pomeranz 44 44 1
Jesus Luzardo 44 44 1
Jon Gray 44 44 1
Zach Eflin 44 44 1
John Lackey 45 45 1
Jordan Montgomery 45 45 1
Derek Holland 47 47 1
Yusei Kikuchi 47 47 1
Trevor Williams 49 49 1
Andrew Cashner 50 50 1
Luis Garcia 50 50 1