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Are Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw being overworked?

Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw are both appearing in a ton of games... Is that something to worry about going forward?

Duane Burleson

Cody Allen has appeared in 58 games already this season, putting him on pace for 76 games. Bryan Shaw has been even busier, with 59 appearances so far, putting him on pace for 78. Marc Rzepczynski is on pace for 74 games, but because he's more likely to face only one or two batters, he's not throwing all that many innings, while Allen is on pace for 70 IP, and Shaw for 73.

Allen and Shaw's game counts are high, though not out of line with the norm for busy MLB relievers. Shaw is currently tied for 7th in MLB, while Allen is tied for 11th. Only three other teams have a pair of relievers who've each made so many appearances, but what makes Allen and Shaw stand out to me is that they were both basically just as busy last season, when Allen pitched 70.1 innings in 77 games and Shaw pitched 75.0 innings in 70 games.

There's not anything to make me think either guy is suffering from their workload; both of them have numbers since the All-Star break that are very similar to what they were doing beforehand. (There's still almost a quarter of the season left though, and I realize they may tire yet.)

More from LGT on the Tribe bullpen

How often in recent history has a pitcher thrown 70+ innings and 70+ games? How often has a pitcher done it in back-to-back years? How many kept it going beyond two years?

I looked at data since 2000 (for no special reason beyond roundness), and found 193 different pitchers with 70+ and 70+ at least once, with a total of 337 such seasons total, an average of 24 per season. As I said, Allen and Shaw are on pace for high totals, but not abnormally high. In any given year, most teams have a pitcher at that level.

Of those 193 pitchers, 56 of them went 70+/70+ in consecutive seasons, which works out to 29%. So, if Allen and Shaw do in fact reach 70 and 70, they'll be bucking the odds, and joining a more select company of relievers.

Editorial aside: It should be noted that while I think a pitcher reaching 70/70 is largely a matter of their body being able to hold up to the strain of it while maintaining the level of effectiveness that led them to be counted on so frequently, that is certainly not the only factor. A manager might choose not to pitch a guy as often, despite the pitcher being healthy and successful.

None of those 56 pitchers were with the Indians for their consecutive 70/70 seasons. In fact, in franchise history, no pitcher has ever had multiple 70/70 seasons (consecutively or not), so Allen and Shaw each have a chance to become the first.

It would be interesting to dig through all of those pitchers to see how effective they were in the year after their second consecutive 70/70 season, relative to their performance in those two seasons, but there's no easy way to do that, so it would require manually looking at three (or more season) from each of those 56 pitchers, and that would require far more time than I have. You kind find the full list of them here though, and if you should happen to dig into their results, be sure to write a FanPost about it, so the rest of us can see what you found.

I can tell you that of the 56 pitchers who pitched back-to-back 70/70 seasons, 25 of them pitched a third one in a row, 14 of those guys pitched a fourth one in a row, and Aaron Heilman pitched five 70/70 seasons in a row from 2006 to 2010.

So, while only 29% of guys who've pitched a 70/70 season in the 2000s did it again the following season, 45% of those guys did it a third time in a row, which implies that if Allen and Shaw do get there this season, it's reasonable to think one of them could do it again in 2015.