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Quo Vadis?

Posted By Ryan Moore On Apr 28 2009 @ 11:51 pm In Washington Nationals | No Comments

In which I espouse pitch count heterodoxy.


Two articles popped up earlier this week that got me to thinking.  Which is unusual.


First was this account [1] of the most recent exploits of Stephen Strasburg.  Strasburg, if you recall [2], is the fire-throwing San Diego State pitcher who will almost certainly be the Nationals draft pick in June.  On Friday, Strasburg beat Texas Christian's shamelessly purple Horned Frogs [1]: seven innings, fourteen strikeouts, 121 pitches.


121 PITCHES!?!?!?  The standard internet baseball-type person reaction is outrage mixed with shock mixed with more outrage.  But I'm done being outraged about pitch counts.  And so is my man Nolan Ryan [3].


Under the leadership of club president Nolan Ryan, the Texas Rangers have embarked on a pitching experiment that could be called “back to the future on the mound.”

Ryan has banished the use of the pitch count in determining how long a pitcher stays in the game through out the organization.


The pitch count has long been a battlefront between internet baseball-types on one side and grizzled scouts on the other.  Strangely, the dorks have been winning: pitch counts are now de rigueur, and organizations are more aware than ever of the importance of protecting their arms.


Except that it hasn't worked.  At all.  There's evidence presented here [4], but I like to keep it casual around here, so we can be anecdotal.  Does it seem like pitchers are blowing out their arms less often?  Did all that babying help John Patterson or every single Orioles prospect of the last ten years?


It's becoming obvious that the problem – and make no mistake, it's a serious problem – is being approached from the wrong angle.  I don't know what the correct angle is, but I think the Rangers might be on to something.  By emphasizing general conditioning instead of attempting to save arms by not letting their pitchers pitch, they may have discovered one of those much sought after market inefficiencies.


As for young Mr. Strasburg and his fantastically valuable, death-dealing right arm, I say let him throw.  I've come to the hard-hearted conclusion that if a pitcher is going to ruin his arm, it's going to happen whether or not you cut him off at 80 pitches.  So I've adopted the diffident air of an emperor at the Coliseum: let the gladiators knock each other off – life is short, and there are plenty more where that came from.  If it's going to happen (and we can but trust to Fate), let it happen soon enough to save the Nationals fifty million smackers.

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URLs in this post:

[1] this account: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2009/04/24/sports/aztecs/z28838f94feba952e882575a30019ee57.txt

[2] if you recall: http://www.prosportsblogging.comindex.php/mlb/washington-nationals/184-the-doctrinal-history-of-the-very-expensive-draft-pick

[3] And so is my man Nolan Ryan: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/columnist/thorne/2009-04-26-thorne-column_N.htm

[4] evidence presented here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/what-pitch-counts-hath-wrought/

[5] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/ryanm/feed/

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