Originally Posted by edabbs44
I just find it ironic that, of all the areas that "strides" have been made in over the past number of years, this is the one where stats aren't necessary to back it up.
The closest you get is some arbitrary pitch count or innings increase. We are told numerous things about usage that can be disputed and are really just ignored. Like how Prior was never nearly as effective after 2003 (false), how no pitchers "today" would ever have innings increased like Prior did (false) or how guys like Webb, Johan and Peavy were treated properly and Arroyo was abused (maybe "true", but didn't really work out as anticipated).
I think it is pretty much common sense that more usage equals more wear and tear. But to try and assign specific blame to usage, mechanics or something else is pretty reckless. For every guy who was "abused" and eventually broke down we can likely find several who were "abused" and didn't break down, were babied and eventually broke down or broke down before ever getting the opportunity to get "abused".
I agree, it is prudent to be careful with pitching. Without a doubt. But to make claims about numbers of innings, pitches, etc is a stretch.
Why do you say stats aren't necessary to back it up? This is a concept that has been proven unequivocally to be truth. This really is a discussion that has been had a million times. It is proven without doubt that pitch counts and innings restrictions are very effective. Even some basic research would make this patently obvious. There is a reason why every team in baseball uses these factors to make sure their staff pitches as effectively as possible. I am not sure why anyone would want to continue to dispute this. This is old news. You can't blow off pitch counts and innings limits and why they are important if you want to have an up to date understanding of baseball.
For an introductory explanation of why pitch counts and innings limits have become common practice I would recommend Baseball Between the Numbers
by Baseball Prospectus. There are many, many more studies on the subject available on FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus' website and pretty much any other sabermetric resource on the market.
Teams have been using innings limits in baseball for 30+ years, so this is nothing new. For a century it was standard practice for pitchers to throw 300 or even 400 innings per year. Here is a list of the league leaders in innings pitched
per season. Eventually teams realized that pitchers performed much, much better when they were not worked so hard. In baseball history there have been 826
times where a pitcher threw 300+ innings in a single season. Know when the last time a pitcher hurled 300+ innings was? Steve Carlton way back in 1980, 33 years ago. It has been 25 years since a pitcher threw even 275 innings. Even before sabermetrics, people began to realize that a pitcher was much less effective as his pitch counts rose during a game. They also saw that players tended to get injured or have their performance suffer after a long game with a lot of pitches thrown.
Mark Prior had a 179 ERA+ in 2003 (one of the top 100 pitching performances in baseball history). His ERA+ in 2004 was only 110, which is a HUGE dropoff. His ERA+ in 2005 was only 120. He was still an above-average pitcher, but he was nowhere near the elite superstar he was in 2003. In 2006 his ERA+ was 65 and he only lasted 43 innings and then his career was over. So it is very clear that Mark Prior was never nearly as effective after 2003 despite your assertions to the contrary.
Pitchers today are not worked as hard as Mark Prior was in 2003. It is extremely rare for a pitcher to exceed 120 pitches in a game on a regular basis. It is also very uncommon to see pitchers get drastic increases in innings, especially when they are young. Once in a while it happens, but not nearly as often or to the same degree that used to be commonplace. This is one major reason why pitching is better across the board in today's game. Pitchers are more effective and throw harder than they ever have, largely because their arms are healthier and stronger because they are taken care of much better.
We can debate over exactly what the limits should be, but it isn't really debatable that limits are necessary and effective.