Excuse me while I go on a little rant…
I am so tired – and done – with hearing people talk about pitch counts and innings limits. (And, in Yankeeland, where there’s “Joba,” there’s talk about counts and limits, etc.)
Regarding pitch counts and innings limits, with respect to preventing abuse of pitchers, to quote the dying Comedian “It’s a joke. The whole thing is just a joke.” And, here’s why:
1. Using an inning as a measuring unit for pitcher workload is a mistake. Not all innings are alike. Do you really think a pitcher works as hard in a 9-pitch inning as he goes in a 35-pitch inning? Of course, the answer is “no.” But, in the world of limiting innings, based on innings pitched totals alone, you are treating the 9-pitching inning the same as the 35-pitch inning and that’s just silly.
2. Using pitch counts, to determine a pitcher’s workload, alone, is a mistake. Not all pitch count totals are the same. Do you really think that a pitcher who throws 100 pitches over 7 innings in a game has worked as hard as a pitcher who has thrown 100 pitches over 4 2/3 innings? Of course, the answer is “no.” But, in the world of watching pitch counts, based on pitch count totals alone, you are looking at the destination and ignoring the journey that it took to get there. And, the journey is where all the labor is – and it’s not at the end of trip.
3. Heck, not all pitches are alike in terms of the stress they put on a pitcher’s arm. Do you think it’s the same on a pitcher’s arm when he throws a four-seam fastball as it is when he throw a split-fingered fastball? How about when he throws a two-seam fastball and a curve? Think that feels the same on his elbow? How about a straight-change versus a slider? While we’re at it, how about a pitch thrown from the full wind-up versus the stretch? Think they both feel the same on the arm?
So, forget pitch counts and innings limits when worrying about protecting a pitcher’s arm. If you really want to protect a starting pitcher’s arm, do this: The day after each of his starts, do a test on his arm – the shoulder, rotator cuff, elbow, etc. – and measure the strength of it. And, if you see that his arm is not losing any strength after each start, more so than usual, then he’s fine. And, only if you start to notice a trend where his wing is starting to weaken, again, more so than usual, after his starts, then you can start to back-off on his workload.
Anyway, that’s what I would suggest – rather than just look at pitch counts and/or innings totals. How about you?