An Absolute Joke

Those are the words that former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone used this morning on Mike and Mike in the Morning to descirbe the plan hatched by the Nationals to shut down ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg after a certain innings limit is reached this season (between 160 and 180).  Leo Mazzone knows a few things about pitching.

In case anybody forgot, he was the pitching coach for the Braves when they won 14 division titles in a row, and had one of the top staffs in baseball every season.  And during that time, his pitchers did what pitchers should do, they pitched.  Their job, as starters, was to take the ball every five days, and they did that rather consistently during that run.  You can check the stats for yourself here, but the Braves had three pitchers that season 25 years old or under who pitched well over 200 innings.  Tom Glavine (25 years old) made 34 starts, pitched 246.2 innings, and went 20-11 (he went on to win over 300 games and will be in the Hall of Fame); John Smoltz (age 24) made 36 starts, pitched 229.2 and went 14-13 (he, too, is a prime candidate for the Hall of Fame with 213 wins and 154 saves in his career); Steve Avery (age 21) made 35 starts, pitched 210.1 innings, and went 18-8.

My point is that the 1991 Braves would not have been a World Series team (lost in 7 to the Twins) had the organization made the decision to shut either of those guys down at 160 innings.

The Nationals have a chance to do something special this year.  No, they are not guaranteed to win the World Series if they let Strasburg pitch, but they are also not guaranteed to be at the top of their division after this year.  The Phillies will not be terrible every year, and the Braves will continue to improve. 

Also of note, in the 18 total years that Leo Mazzone was a pitching coach, he had three pitchers have “Tommy John” surgery.  Three pitchers had ligament replacement surgery under his watch, and one of them, John Smoltz, has been known to take the blame himself because of the stress of his devastating splitter.  Looks like Mazzone knows what he is talking about after all.

2 Responses to An Absolute Joke

  1. psilenttype says:

    Steve Avery pitched 99 innings in his 1st season then dramatically jumped to 210 the next year. 233 and 223 the years following for about 700 innings pitched at only about 24 years old! He also was a young stud just like Strasburg and mind you without ligament injury, he was perfectly healthy, but his career derailed after from being overworked at such a young age. Why risk injuring Strasburg especially after coming of surgery at such a young age, he needs to be worked up gradually not dramatically.

    • TommyK says:

      Because nothing is guaranteed. I get the Avery argument, and people can point at Mark Prior all they want as well, but there is nothing that says the Nationals will be in the position after this year. Look at the Phillies or Red Sox. People thought they were primed for a run at the Series, but between injuries and underperformance, both teams will be home in October. Look at Bob Gibson; his first full season as a starter was 1961, when he made 27 starts (35 appearances overall) and threw 211.1 innings, one season after making just 12 starts (27 appearances) with 86.2 innings pitched. Gibson did pretty good for himself.
      The bigger issue is that the influx of TJ surgery could be a result of pitchers throwing less, coupled with iffy mechanics. There is an argument for both sides for sure. What people don’t always see when the innings limit argument is made is that not all innings are equal as far as arm stress goes. So if Strasburg throws 160 innings and is shut down, the actual number of pitches is never taken into account. Did he throw 25 pitches per inning or 15 pitches per inning? Or somewhere in between? Innings limits are arbitrary. And to be honest, I do not care for pitch counts either, solely because there is a significant difference in arm wear based on the stress of the pitch being thrown and the situation of the game; which is part of the reason Justin Verlander will throw a 93 mph fastball in the first inning, but will hit 99-100 in the ninth inning.

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