Friday, July 27, 2007

Pitch Count, Shmitch Count

I've played, followed, broadcast, p-a announced, and generally been a baseball junky since I can remember. A while back, don't really know when it started, the number of pitches that a pitcher makes in a game became important. The broadcasts follow it closely. The manager and pitching coach totally tuned in to it so they know when they can expect their pitcher to run out of gas. Even the pitcher's agent began using the number of pitches thrown as ammo against the team. "Hey my guy threw 120 pitches last night! What are you trying to do ruin his career?"

Well, if you've been around more than 40 years like me, you know that there was a time when the number of pitches thrown was either not important, or ignored. The number of guys a pitcher got out, and whether he won the game carried a little more importance than today's "quality start".

With that in mind, I've asked this question of some people that I respect who are close to the game and haven't gotten what I feel is a satisfactory explanation. So, I'll ask anyone who's reading this to respond to help out my feeble little brain.

Why don't they keep track of ALL the throws that a pitcher makes on a game night?

On any given night when a man pitches a baseball game he uses his pitching arm many more times than just the official offerings he makes to batters. Think about it. Before the game he needs to warm up. Let's, conservatively, say that he throws 30 pitches to get loose. Then, he goes to the mound before each inning and will usually throw another, at least 8, warm-up pitches. Then there are the pick-off moves to first base...or whatever other base...let's say he throws 10 of those during a seven-inning outing. That's another 96 uses of his arm during seven innings that aren't being least officially.

But, isn't keeping track of pitches all about how much wear and tear the guy is putting on his arm? If you're keeping track of wear and tear, shouldn't those other throws count too? I can't understand why not. I get it that warm-up pitches might be a little less stressful to the arm than a real "heat-of-the-battle" pitch in a game. But, to me, a pick-off throw should count for two pitches when it comes to arm damage. A pick-off throw is a totally foreign motion to his normal routine. A right-handed pitcher turns to first base and throws across his body. Exactly what you're not supposed to do to eliminate wear and tear during the regular pitching motion.

So, I guess if I were running a TV broadcast, or a pitching coach, I'd have two categories for pitches. A) Batter pitches and B) Non-batter pitches. Because when it comes right down to it, the number of pitches thrown to the batter is only a part of the real total.
For instance, after a 7-inning outing Chris Carpenter (who just had Tommy John surgery because of arm damage) might have this total.

Batter pitches: 102
Non-batter pitches: 96

If that's not important, then why bother keeping track of anything?

No comments: