View Full Version : The Absurdity of Pitch Counts

04-06-2011, 01:32
On July 2, 1963, When San Francisco Giants Juan Marichal and Milwaukee's Warren Spahn hooked up in one of the most memorable pitching duels off all time. The two matched one another for nearly 16 scoreless innings before a home run by Willie Mays over the left-field fence won the game, and gave the Giant's a 1-0 victory.

Each hurler threw more than 200 pitches and at one point in the game, Giants manager Alvin Dark asked Marichal if he wanted to come out. Marichal looked out at Spahn and said: “I’m not leaving while that old guy is still on the mound.” ....Spahn was 42 years old.

In today's modern era of pitch count's, if you throw 95 pitches and let up less than 3 runs in 6 innings of work, you'll be rewarded with a 15 million dollar a year contract, and be called one of the greats of the game.

That is the sad, and pathetic state of today's Major League Baseball pitchers. Of course it wasn't always like this, but slowly over time, instead of asking more of pitchers the way we do any other athletes, we ask far less.

What makes baseball great, is how little it's core has changed. In Basketball they installed a shot clock, and created the three-point line and completely wiped out so many defensive rules, that the game played 60 years ago is, but a shadow of what you see in today's modern NBA game. Football, has made so many rule changes, especially on how you can go after a quarterback, that the game itself is played vastly different. So the NFL is again, no where near the way it was when "Mean Joe Green" wreaked havoc on opposing QB's. Hockey? forget that, Billy Smith would need a 10 foot goalie stick to even reach his opponents ankles to give them a good whack, because the NHL has a nice big buffer zone so players can't bother a goalie. Go back 60 years and really nothing has dramatically changed in baseball.

I think the one major difference is the mound being lowered and while that did effect the game as far as producing more runs, the game is still played the same way. Yes, I understand that the DH was installed in the AL but, the bat is still made out of wood, the ball is still round, and the bases are the same length. Fields are smaller, but Fenway and Wrigley built decades ago are still being used today, but as far a pitcher throwing a ball to a batter in a Major League game, very little has changed in the past 100 years.

I keep hearing that the athletes of today are supposed to be so much more superior than that of their predecessors, and still pitchers are asked to give their team only 6 innings. I can't imagine Tony La Russa walking out to the mound in the bottom of the 6th and telling Bob Gibson "Great job, Gibby you gave us a great performance, but you're at 98 pitches so I am gonna have to pull ya" I think, the next moment La Russa would have went from the Cardinals manager to being the favorite to play in Broadways revival of "The Headless Horseman"

So why is it that pitchers in today's game, alarm bells start ringing every time a pitcher approaches 100 pitches? Why is it that years ago, pitchers can go throw a 150 pitch game and be out there 4 days later and you would never hear a peep of protest coming from the team, media, or fans? How did we get so far away from where the game was, to today's modern game? It is of course "the Pitch Count"

The pitch count is the most asinine thing MLB has produced since the Chicago White Sox decided have their players wear shorts in the major leagues.

You can't be serious and tell me Luke Hochevar and CC Sabathia have the same pitch count? If you have to ask who Luke Hochevar is then you made my point. Sure, CC will throw 115 pitches from time to time, but you know as soon as he gets to the magic 100 pitch count everybody from his mom to his manager is getting ready to pull that fat bastard.

I remember managing a 16 year old baseball travel team. I was considered the best manager in the league, so I was handed the reins of this leagues all star team. My coaches were chosen for me by the league and during the first game, I kept hearing this click-click-click. I looked over at one of my coaches and asked "What the hell is that?" He lifted up his hand and said "This is for counting the pitches" I asked why, since there was no "Pitch Count Rule"? and he answered "As soon as Rudy (The pitcher) reached 85 pitches we pull him" I did not say a word, I just went over and asked to see the counter and the coach handed it to me. I placed it on the ground and smashed it to bits with a bat, picked up the pieces and handed it back to my now shocked coach.

After the game, there was a big uproar and the league called an emergency meeting. After explaining to me the importance of pitch counts, they asked my opinion. So I gave it to them, and believe me, I GAVE IT TO THEM with both barrels.

My son is 5' 7 and soaking wet he is 140lbs and all he throws is junk, while Charlie is 6' 2" 175lbs fastball pitcher, so how can they have the same pitch count?

If Chuck is pitching in the Championship game and he is winning 1-0, but Harry is pitching a middle of the season game, winning 10-0, do you think their arms were under the same stress?

I asked them to answer me this on simple question, game tied 3-3 in the 8th, 1 out runner on first, do we send the runner? I was bombarded with questions, who is up? who was the pitcher? where we home or away? Who did the other team have pitching? Was our batter a rightly or lefty? all great questions, and as a manager I have to answer these, and also answer 100 more all in a few seconds before I deiced what to do.

With pitchers it seems as soon as they hit that 100 pitch count it, wasn't a question of should I pull him, but rather when will I. No one takes into account what the pitcher is actually doing out there, You never hear, does his curveball still have the bite it did in the first inning? Is he walking anyone? Is he going deeper into the count? Are the balls being hit harder? Is his fastball high in the strike-zone? What's the damn score? No one asks anything anymore. They all just say "CC is at 95 pitches, do we let him start the inning or pull him now?"

So when did MLB Managers become scared little rabbits? and why are they using pitch counts at all? All the answers come from one baseball game. Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees

With the Red Sox ahead 5–2 at the start of the 8th inning, a tiring Pedro Martinez pitched his way into trouble. Pedro was one of the best pitchers in the modern era, but at this time he had a lot of usage on his arm and being unusually small for a modern-day power pitcher, it was well know at the time that as soon as Pedro passed 100 pitches he was very hittable. With the Yankees starting to hit Pedro who had just past this magical 100 pitch count, he was visited on the mound by manager Grady Little. Grady looked as if he would pull Martinez, but a determined Pedro was able to talk Little out of going to his bullpen. The Yankees tied the score against Martinez in that inning on four successive hits, leading to a dramatic extra-inning, series-ending victory for New York.

After the Boston media and fans went crazy, Grady Little was fired.

Since then, no manager would dare get caught making the same mistake Grady did. Instead of actually watching the game and making a decision based on performance, every MLB Manager chose instead to use this 100 pitch count as a crutch so they would not have to defend themselves if they made a mistake of pulling a pitcher too early or more importantly too late.

It's a cop out, and every major league manager knows it! Today's only hope right now seems to rest with Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers. Ryan who in 1974, according to beat writers in attendance, threw 259 pitches in a 12-inning win over Kansas City. Nolan Ryan the premier power pitcher of his era, understands that pitchers are getting injured more today, not from being over-used, but from being under-used.

Ryan wants all his pitchers from the A ball to the majors, back on a 4 day rotation, instead of the pampered 5 days we find in every system. He also wants pitchers to be judge on performance, rather than some asinine pitch count.

If my son was had the ability to play professionally, I would hold out till the Texas Rangers drafted him. I understand what Ryan is saying and I 100% agree with him. There is of course times a pitch count should be used, but these are under very limited circumstances.

1) A young pitcher, not accustomed to playing in a season 162 games in length.
2) A pitcher coming off of surgery
3) A pitcher who has arm tightness, or a minor injury
4) A pitcher who has a history of arm trouble
5) An older pitcher, who has a history of losing his effectiveness after a certain number of pitches thrown (See Pedro).

These are the only reason, I can think of that would call for a strict pitch count. Weather, field conditions, time of season is no reason why a pitcher should be limited. There are so many other clues as too when a pitcher is losing his stuff. Fastballs that ride high, Deep counts, batters fouling off pitches that a few innings earlier, they were missing, but managers today care little about actually watching for these signs, instead they watch a counter clicking off numbers, more intently than their player on the mound.

Dominick Mezzapesa
e-mail mezz1962@optonline.net
Twitter dmezz1120

04-06-2011, 09:30
This is a super article and can't be argued with as I agree 100% there is no crying in Baseball and should be no pitch count either. Last night CC was going right along and there wasn't any reason to take the Yankees horse put this is what CC does. This is why he gets paid all that money. So I agree no reason for pitch counts other then ones mentioned in article

The Boss
04-06-2011, 09:36
Arent they blaming overuse on Kazmirs lousy career? The real issue is the point that a pitcher wants to play for someone that will not overuse him. You want to be strong when you hit 30+ years and are looking for that last contract, not on the downturn already

04-06-2011, 11:37
The Funny thing about Kazmir is when he was traded for that useless Víctor Zambrano, One of the reasons Kazmir who was a highly touted prospect was traded was because Rick Peterson said he noticed something wrong with his pitching motion and he believed that Kazmir would have loads of arm troubles down the line.

Everyone ripped Peterson for that evaluation...but as time would tell HE WAS 100% RIGHT