Monday, May 2, 2016

Throwing It All Away

On Friday night, Miami Marlins pitcher Adam Conley had a no-hitter going against the Brewers at Miller park into the 8th inning when he was removed from the game by his manager Don Mattingly because he his "pitch count was too high".  Conley had thrown 116-pitches with one out in the 8th. A couple of relievers came in after that--not only giving up a hit--but giving up three runs in the 9th to make it much closer than it needed to be.

This was the second time this year that a pitcher with a no-hitter was lifted from a game.  LA Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed Ross Stipling from a no-hitter in the 8th inning against the San Francisco Giants earlier this month due to "too high a pitch count".  He had thrown exactly 100-pitches.  The next batter hit a game-tying home run off the reliever brought in to save the no-no.

Managers and pitching coaches that live and die by pitch counts nowadays are like global warming alarmists.  The don't seem to know what going past their "numbers" would actually mean--and anyone who suggests exceeding those "limits" is scolded for wanting to "destroy the game".  Pitch counts have become such an important part of the game that telecasts now have them posted in the corner of the screen at all times along with the count and the score.

It wasn't always like this.  Nolan Ryan once threw 235-pitches in a 14-inning loss to Luis Tiant--who threw a complete game with 195-pitches.  Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves both went the distance in a 16-inning game--throwing 227 and 201 pitches respectively.  Oh, and Spahn was 42-years old at the time.

Pitch counts start early now in baseball.  Kids in Little League are limited to 75-pitches a game and a certain number per week or weekend tournament.  The argument for that is "it saves their arms".  Yet, the majority of young pitchers in the Major Leagues today have already had Tommy John surgery to repair torn tendons in their pitching arms.  Some baseball insiders have even called it a "step in their careers" and how you "want to get it out of the way as soon as possible".

There is a vocal (but growing) minority that believes kids should be encouraged to throw MORE at younger ages to build up better arm endurance.  The key is to not throw every pitch at absolute maximum velocity.  Pitching today is a power game--with starters throwing 95-miles an hour going six-innings (due to pitch counts) relieved by bullpen guys throwing 97 in the 7th and 8th and a closer who can hit 100.  Mix in a lot more off-speed stuff and well-placed breaking balls, and pitchers would have no problem going more than 100-pitches without looking into the dugout for the manager to come and get them. 

Next, let's debunk the "Tony LaRussa Legacy" that your closer can only come in at the start of the 9th inning with no runners on base........

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