Predicting the D-backs: Brandon McCarthy Starts

USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt: if healthy, McCarthy could be one of the best free-agent signings of the winter. But this is a man who made his major-league debut in 2005, and has yet to make more than 25 starts in a season there. Will 2013 be any different?

Let's start with looking at Brandon McCarthy's performance since his debut in May 2005:

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP BB/9 SO/9
2005 21 CHW 3 2 4.03 10 67.0 62 30 30 13 17 48 112 1.179 2.3 6.4
2006 22 CHW 4 7 4.68 2 84.2 77 44 44 17 33 69 102 1.299 3.5 7.3
2007 23 TEX 5 10 4.87 22 101.2 111 62 55 9 48 59 94 1.564 4.2 5.2
2008 24 TEX 1 1 4.09 5 22.0 20 11 10 3 8 10 110 1.273 3.3 4.1
2009 25 TEX 7 4 4.62 17 97.1 96 55 50 13 36 65 101 1.356 3.3 6.0
2011 27 OAK 9 9 3.32 25 170.2 168 73 63 11 25 123 122 1.131 1.3 6.5
2012 28 OAK 8 6 3.24 18 111.0 115 44 40 10 24 73 121 1.252 1.9 5.9
7 Yrs 37 39 4.02 99 654.1 649 319 292 76 191 447 109 1.284 2.6 6.1
162 Game Avg. 10 11 4.02 27 177 175 86 79 21 52 121 109 1.284 2.6 6.1

He did spend most of the first season in the minors, making nineteen starts there, so we should likely exclude that year from consideration. Since then, he has 89 starts over seven campaigns, which averages out at 13 per season. The actual number ranges from 25 in 2011, all the way down to zero in 2010, when he missed the entire year, due to a stress fracture in his shoulder that limited him to 56.1 innings, all in the minors. But since then, by some measures, he has been among the elite pitchers in baseball - in terms of quality of innings pitched, if not necessarily the quantity.

"I feel like I’ve tried everything I can, within reason, to do with my shoulder. And if it doesn’t respond and fix itself, then it’s just the hand you’re dealt." -Brandon McCarthy

Over the past two seasons, his fielding-independent ERA (FIP), generally regarded as a good predictor of future production, has McCarthy ranked 15th of the 139 pitchers with 200+ innings in that time. However, there are 83 players who have thrown more innings, and that's largely the reason why McCarthy was available for a relative song on the free-agent market for Arizona this winter, though there were reportedly as many as seven other teams interested. Given the way last season ended, there was some suggestion a one-year deal might be the way to go, for both sides, but in the end, Arizona locked him up for two.

So what has been the problem? Here's a table, largely based on data extracted from Baseball Prospectus, showing all the boo-boos for McCarthy since the start of the 2007 season, literally down to a torn fingernail in spring training.

Date On Date Off Trans Days Side Body Part Injury Detail
May 26, 2007 Jun 9, 2007 DTD 14 Right Fingers Blisters Middle Finger
Jun 10, 2007 Jul 2, 2007 15-DL 22 Right Fingers Blisters Middle Finger
Aug 11, 2007 Sep 11, 2007 15-DL 31 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Scapula
Sep 21, 2007 Oct 1, 2007 DTD 10 Right Forearm Tightness
Feb 26, 2008 Mar 7, 2008 Camp 10 Right Elbow Soreness
Mar 3, 2008 Mar 30, 2008 Camp 27 Right Forearm Tightness
Mar 30, 2008 Aug 23, 2008 60-DL 146 Right Forearm Inflammation
Sep 16, 2008 Sep 29, 2008 DTD 13 Right Fingers Flexor Tendor Strain Middle Finger
Mar 1, 2009 Mar 12, 2009 Camp 11 Right Shoulder Soreness
Jun 5, 2009 Sep 1, 2009 60-DL 88 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Scapula
Apr 26, 2010 Jun 3, 2010 Minors 38 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Scapula
Jun 11, 2010 Jun 19, 2010 Minors 8 Right Shoulder Inflammation
Jun 20, 2010 Jul 29, 2010 Minors 39 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Scapula
Jul 29, 2010 Nov 1, 2010 60-DL 95 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Recovery
Scapula
May 19, 2011 Jul 3, 2011 15-DL 45 Right Shoulder Stress Fracture Scapula
Aug 12, 2011 Aug 12, 2011 DTD 0 Right Knee Contusion Batted Ball
Mar 21, 2012 Mar 28, 2012 Camp 7 Left Fingers Laceration Torn Fingernail
May 3, 2012 May 12, 2012 DTD 9 Right Shoulder Soreness
May 18, 2012 Jun 2, 2012 15-DL 15 Right Shoulder Strain
Jun 8, 2012 Jun 19, 2012 DTD 11 Right Shoulder Soreness
Jun 20, 2012 Aug 10, 2012 15-DL 51 Right Shoulder Strain
Sep 6, 2012 Oct 12, 2012 DtdDL 36
Head Surgery Skull Fracture

It's that pesky right shoulder which has largely been the cause of all those problems over the year, and it seems likely to be that - hopefully be an absence of issues - which will define his time with the Diamondbacks. He told Nick Piecoro in February, "I’ve had, in four or five of the past six years, a scapula stress fracture, which doesn’t happen. I’ve got almost all of them in baseball history. It’s just become my injury." Whatever happens, it's likely we'll know soon. Piecoro points out that in each of the past four seasons, McCarthy has come down with the injury between April 26 and June 20.

Here's to him making it to June 21 intact. But how many starts do you think he'll make for us?

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