Artificial Threshhold

There is a new trend in baseball, and that is strict adherence to pitch counts and innings limits. And I think they are doing more harm than good for today’s pitchers.

100 years ago, pitchers were expected to throw complete games, and they started every other day. Guys like Cy Young approached or surpassed 30 wins every year. Young won 511 games in his career. Nolan Ryan pitched in four decades. Besides pitching for a long time and being in the Hall of Fame, these guys, and so many other pitchers have something else in common: they had very few arm issues. Yes, there were guys like Joe Wood that burned out on the mound in a hurry, but those were the exception, not the rule.

Fast forward to today, and teams like the Washington Nationals announce that a pitcher (Stephen Strasburg) will only throw 160 innings this season. Johan Santana throws five innings and it is viewed as very successful. These two guys also have something in common: they are both returning from arm issues (Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery, respectively). They are the product of artificial limits. 100 pitches? Yank the pitcher. 160 innings? Shut him down for the season. In his Opening Day start, Strasburg threw 82 pitches in 7 innings, an average of 11.7 per inning. If he were to stay at that pace until his limit of 160 , he would throw about 1,875 pitches this season.

By comparison, Jon Lester threw 107 pitches in 7 innings for an average of 15.2 per inning. If he matches last season’ innings total (191.2) he would throw about 2,906 pitches. Justin Verlander threw 105 pitches in 8 innings (13.125 per inning). He threw 251 innings in 2011, meaning if he stayed at his Opening Day pitches per inning and merely matched his innings total from last year, he would throw about 3,295 pitches. Lester and Verlander have something in common, too: they have yet to experience significant arm issues, and will both hopefully remain healthy.

What I am getting at is that pitchers should throw MORE, not less. Arm strength is increased with more throwing. A runner, for example, does not train for a marathon by only running 100 yard sprints; he builds endurance to complete 26.2 miles. Now, does more throwing guarantee no arm issues? Absolutely not. A pitcher must also have sound and proper mechanics, and needs a little bit of luck. I am 100 percent against strict pitch counts and innings limits; not all pitches are thrown with the same amount of stress and strain, making a pitch count a very subjective measurement.

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One Response to Artificial Threshhold

  1. Pingback: Pathetic « Our Not So Expert Opinions

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