Mind Over Sports

WHY SOME MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL MANAGERS ARE DE-EMPHASIZING PITCH COUNTS.

Posted on: November 13, 2013

I was interested in comments made about Clint Hurdle, National League Manager of the Year, in today’s USA Today: “…he de-emphasized pitching counts among starters so they would focus on going deep into games.”

Beliefs play an important role in determining how many pitches a pitcher can throw before his arm tires out. But keep in mind, it’s the pitcher’s beliefs, not the pitching coach’s beliefs, that affect the pitcher’s performance.

There are many examples on record where pitchers threw more than the limited number of pitches allowed today, and were no worse off for having done so. Though it’s true that there are many new pitches today that didn’t exist years ago, and some of them have been known to damage a pitcher’s arm. However, even some of today’s pitchers believe they pitch better when allowed to exceed the number of pitches normally authorized by the pitching coach, and go the entire nine innings.

Here’s an example of a Letter to the Sports Editor that appeared in The Kansas City Star, April 30, 2000. The writer wrote: “I hope Tony Muser (then manager of the KC Royals) and all of the Royals’ pitchers read about Justin Green, a pitcher for Cameron (Oklahoma) University who pitched all 17 innings in a game recently. The next day he worked an 11-hour shift at a restaurant and showed no arm problems. I think the problem in professional baseball is that the pitchers do not throw enough. A few innings in a game is all they usually throw and then they have to rest for five days. Relief pitchers do even less work, and for the Royals, most of their ERAs are awful.”

But even Green’s remarkable feat didn’t compare with a performance by two pitchers in the same game on May 1, 1920, at Braves Field, when both Boston’s Joe Oeschger and Brooklyn’s Leon Cadore pitched all 26 innings in a 1-1 tie. Two days later Oeschger was back on the mound again pitching part of another 19-inning game.

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