Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saabs and PAPs

We've had some fun around here comparing major league pitchers to some fine automobiles, so let's speculate on the baseball equivalent of this true story.

The guy on the left bought that grey Saab 900 SPG new in 1989 and has recently passed (cue Dr. Evil) one million miles on the odometer. The guy on the right is a Saab executive who rode shotgun as the numbers turned, then announced that this guy - and anybody else who can prove he bought a new Saab and drove it a million miles - gets a free 2007 Saab 9-5 Aero (MSRP $38,735).

When I considered this well-worn Swede (the car was manufactured well before GM bought Saab) my first thought turned to hurlers who'd been asked to throw many thousands of pitches over a long career and how usage patterns have changed over time. The guys at Baseball Prospectus created a system called Pitcher Abuse Points (PAPs) to describe the effects of overuse. Last year, for example, Livan Hernandez and Carlos Zambrano finished 1-2 in PAP, averaging over 100 pitches per start.

Pitchers and cars may be the same in this respect. You don't want to go full-throttle before the engine's had a chance to break itself in (young pitchers shouldn't throw too many high-stress pitches) and you need to perform preventive maintenance (the Oakland A's call it "prehab") throughout the life of the car.

But as I began to type, I realized that here is a car that had not been abused; from its pristine condition (it has the original engine and turbo!) one must admit it's been lovingly maintained. It's no stretch to say that more cars could be driven for six-figure mileage if people took better care of them. It's a similar conclusion to an article at The Hardball Times that suggested GM's should start conditioning their minor league pitchers to throw more pitches than usual.

That being said, I imagine we'll see a return to the 4-man rotation before someone else comes forward to trade his million-mile Saab for the latest model.

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