Happy February. Just eighteen days until pitcher and catchers report to Surprise, Arizona. It will be a few weeks of long toss, then throwing off a mound, then building arm strength a few innings at a time to get ready for the season. Where they can throw no more than a hundred pitches per game. The dreaded pitch count. This is a re-post from September 3, 2014, about the dreaded pitch count. Enjoy.
According to the Rangers announcers, Derek Holland was not on a strict pitch count last night. He was on the usual lame pitch count. A hundred pitches and done.
It was his first start of the year and, because he has a long, grueling twenty-five-game season ahead of him, the Rangers want to make sure he has something left in the tank come the end of September.
Pitch counts have been the leading cause of the Bieberfication of pitchers. We are turning them into wimps.
It used to be, a manager watched the game and made the determination of whether a pitcher had anything left in the tank based on how the ball was coming off the bat.
Now he just watches a clicker.
When the clicker turns to triple-digits, out comes the pitcher. Never mind that he is dominating. Never mind that the next guy coming in is a middle reliever for a reason. (Like Kirkman last night.)
The guy is a stud at pitch ninety-nine. Pitch one hundred? Pull the bum.
Really, I appreciate the sense of fair play displayed by modern managers. “Hey, we were dominating you. So, let me take out that guy and put in a guy you can get to.”
I know pitchers are fragile. Throwing a hundred pitches in one game is asking an awful lot from them. I mean, with the DH, pitchers are already saved from the physically demanding challenge of having to swing a bat. Those things can weigh thirty-four ounces. Oh, the inhumanity.
MLB should go a step further and have a Designated Fielder. A player stands next to the pitcher and is responsible for fielding any and all balls hit to the pitcher position, as well as catching the ball thrown back from the catcher. It’s way too much to risk a pitcher getting hurt performing non-hundred-pitch-throwing activities.
Nolan Ryan would not be in the Hall of Fame today if he lived in the pitch count era. He struck out 5,714 batters, and walked 2,795 hitters. That suggests one thing. He was at a hundred pitches by the sixth inning. He wouldn’t have been allowed to rack up the numbers.
Just look at 1987. That year, worried about his age and his arm, the Astros put forty-year-old Ryan on a strict pitch count. He averaged six innings a game that season. He hated it. Absolutely hated it.
A hundred pitches and out came Nolan. And out went his chance to hold down the win, or his chance to hold down the other team so his team could come back and win late in the game.
Because of pitch counts, in 1987, Nolan Ryan went 8-16, led the National League in ERA at 2.76 and was fifth in Cy Young voting. A guy loses twice as many games as he wins in a totally dominating season. How is that even possible?
Think how many more games a starter would win in a season without pitch counts. And you know what happens when a starter gets the W? The team gets the W.
It’s almost impossible to see a guy win twenty games a season anymore. And you certainly won’t see guys winning three hundred games in a career. Pitch count those days out.
“They had pitch counts when I pitched, “Bob Gibson noted. “I know because one game I threw a hundred ninety-four pitches.”
Yu Darvish is an advocate of the six-man rotation because that’s what they have in Japan. He reasons it’s not the amount of pitches you throw in a game, it’s the amount of days you have to rest between starts.
The Japanese don’t know the meaning of “pitch counts.” Mainly, because that’s English and they speak Japanese.
Over the weekend, in the high school semi-final playoffs, two Japanese teams faced off in a fifty-inning game. The game went so long, it took four days to complete.
They played a scoreless tie for fifteen innings on Thursday. So, they came back on Friday to finish it. But fifteen more innings later, it was still 0-0. So they came back on Saturday with another fifteen scoreless innings.
Sunday morning, they finally settled the score. In the top of the fiftieth inning, the visitors scored three sacred runs and held them in the bottom of the fiftieth.
Both starters went the distance.
The winning pitcher threw seven-hundred-nine pitches. The losing pitcher threw six-hundred eighty-nine pitches.
At least the winning pitcher got a break. He didn’t have to pitch again until the championship game. Later that afternoon. He came in in relief, and got the win.
Who needs them?