Reconstructing historical pitch counts for a look at how starter usage has changed.
How many pitches did pitchers really throw “back then?” You know, during the days when men were men, a mustache was a mustache, and pitchers weren’t coddled. No one did any drugs ever, especially in baseball, and pitchers finished what they started. Just ask any lawn care professional who specializes in youth removal and was a fan of the game back then. Yes, the 1960s and 1970s were the halcyon days of high pitch counts, when all that you needed was a 10-man pitching staff. It was glorious.
Do starters who are worked hard in college get injured more often in the minors and majors?
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Dustin Palmateer once played division III junior college baseball, finishing with a career batting average below the Mendoza Line. He now writes about the game. You can reach him via email.
Is there a price to pay in the start after an outing in which a pitcher throws a lot of pitches?
A week ago, Tim Lincecum pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, striking out 13, walking four, and throwing—gulp!—148 pitches. He also drew a walk at the plate and scored a run. I'm sure recording the last out is a moment he’ll remember for the rest of his life, just as it was for Johan Santana, who last year pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history in a comparatively efficient 134 pitches.
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How often has a pitcher issued 10 or more walks and 10 or more strikeouts in the same game? Not often at all.
When we examined Sandy Koufax's workload a while back, reader LynchMob asked whether anyone had thrown more than 193 pitches in a game since Koufax did it on May 28, 1960. I found two documented cases, both by members of the following year's Dodgers:
Josh Outman didn't get to finish his fifth inning, despite being up by eight. Will this be the sort of conflict that dooms the Rockies' four-man rotation?
You don't care whether Josh Outman gets credited with a victory, but Josh Outman cares whether he gets credited with a victory. On Saturday, with his pitch count well past the limit his manager has set for his new four-man starting rotation, Outman was pulled from his start. He was leading by eight runs, with two outs in the fifth inning and, therefore, an out short of getting credit for the win. He became the first starter since at least 2000 (as far as I went back) to leave a game with two outs in the fifth inning while leading by at least eight runs.
As Jose Bautista can attest, the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone tells us a good deal about his capabilities.
The pitcher begins each confrontation with a batter with the initiative. He alone controls when the baseball is thrown, how it moves, and where it is located. Thus, the batter is by nature placed in a reactive position. However, the batter, too, has a measure of control over how the plate appearance proceeds. He stands at the plate with a club, and it is within his discretion to swing his weapon or not.
The Mariners throw out arbitrary innings limits in favor of something much more mellow and nuanced.
In the early days of BP, the group had a catch-phrase for young pitchers coined by Gary Huckabay: TINSTAAPP: There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. I’m not sure if Gary picked it up from Robert Heinlein or Milton Friedman, both of whom got some mileage out of “There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” back in the last century, but regardless of the inspiration, Gary’s point was that young pitchers are so susceptible to both injury and random fluctuations in performance that you could never take their prospect status at face value.
In the days since, teams have done everything they can to prove Gary wrong, often by treating their young pitchers with kid gloves. Gone are the days when a Dwight Gooden would be allowed to throw nearly 500 innings in the majors before his 21st birthday. Now many young pitchers are subject to arbitrary pitch counts and innings limits in order to forestall the point of injury—as if anyone knows specifically where or when that point lies.
While we can credit some common sense decisions about pitch counts—today a manager doing what Dallas Greendid to a 23-year-old Al Leiter in 1989 would be tarred and feathered—with reducing injuries to young pitchers, it is foolish to say that we can know with any specificity that it’s the 751st pitch of the season that is going to break a kid and not the 603rd or the 811th and how much that particular pitch matters versus the pitcher’s mechanics, the weather he’s pitching in, the stress of any particular inning in that chain of 800 pitches, or if a butterfly is flapping its wings in Patagonia. There is really only one surefire way to protect a pitcher from injury and that is to seal him in Mylar, stick him in the basement with your comic book collection, and never let him anywhere near the mound.
Is the pitcher taking the mound in this year's NLCS Game Five that much different from last year's?
At this point in the season, most baseball fans are aware that the Phillies' Game Five starter this evening, Cole Hamels, has had far more trouble preventing runs in 2009 than he did in 2008. In 2008, Hamels seemed unhittable for much of the season and the post-season, and the Dodgers knew going into Game Five last year that they had their work cut out for them as they faced elimination, down three games to one. After knocking him around in the fifth inning of last Thursday's series opener, the Dodgers are confident that they are up against a different pitcher than the one that stymied them for the clincher last October, as they face elimination yet again.
Will proposes a new system of developing young pitchers that marries science and coaching.
Johnny Sain and Leo Mazzone are simple folk wisdom passed down from guru to student, with the student eventually becoming the new guru. Of course, this wisdom does stand up to many of the tests science throws at it. With newer pitching coaches, science is entering the picture with
Tom House, Rick Peterson, and Glenn Fleisig leading the way. Still, we're leaving something on the table and leaving far too many pitchers headed to the table--the operating table.