Turn Off Ads?
Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Article: History of the Pitch Count

  1. #1
    Member NJReds's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    New Jersey, USA
    Posts
    5,432

    Article: History of the Pitch Count

    The article below ran in my local paper today (NJ Bergen Record), and I thought it would be of interest to the board as we often discuss Narron's handling of pitchers.

    An aside, I heard Bob Gibson interviewed on a local sports talk show recently and he mention that he pitched three complete extra-inning games in a row...the middle game he threw 194 pitches... Needless to say, he thought pitch counts were overrated as well.


    How the pitch count became baseball's most important (and debated) statistic
    Sunday, July 1, 2007

    By J.P. PELZMAN
    STAFF WRITER


    The old-fashioned ones have the odometer-style readings, and are still readily available. But if you want to go upscale and spend a few more bucks, the newer ones are high-tech with digital readouts and an audible alarm that can be programmed to go off when a certain number has been reached.

    Yes, technological advancements are transforming the pitch counter, but that same technology can't do much for the pitchers themselves. Today's starting pitchers are not nearly as durable as the older models, who routinely finished what they started before rigid pitch counts helped the complete game to become an endangered species.

    But even though it is utilized, referenced and debated more than ever, keeping a pitch count isn't anything new. But let's just say it wasn't quite as important in baseball's past, as an anecdote from Hall of Famer Jim Palmer will demonstrate.

    "The first time I ever kept a chart," the former Oriole great recalled recently, "[Mike] Cuellar gave up a leadoff hit with a 5-2 lead with [Rod] Carew, [Tony] Oliva and [Harmon] Killebrew coming up, and I said, 'Mr. Weaver, that's his 135th pitch.' "

    And legendary manager Earl Weaver responded, "Get your rear end to the other end of the dugout. I'll let you know if he's tired."

    Palmer said, "So I got the idea right then that pitch counts didn't mean much to Earl."

    Some veteran baseball people believe those numbers mean too much today.

    "I hate them," said Dallas Green, the former manager of the Mets and Yankees who is a consultant to the Phillies. "It's changed the entire game. It's created an era full of five- or six-inning pitchers."

    Baltimore pitching coach Leo Mazzone said, "I think that if the pitch count is the reason why you leave a guy in or take him out, then you're missing the boat somewhere."

    It wasn't that way when Tom Glavine, a former Mazzone student, came up with the Braves in 1987. Glavine is three wins shy of 300, which may become an unattainable goal for younger pitchers, who don't get as many decisions because of pitch limits.

    "I don't remember there being that much talk about it," said Glavine. "You obviously had an idea and when guys started approaching 110, 120 [pitches] you'd start hearing some talk about it, [but] not nearly to the degree you do nowadays. I think there is some use for a pitch count in this game, but I think there's no question that it's gone way overboard in terms of dictating when pitchers are going to come out of the game."

    The general consensus is that in the mid-1990s, pitch count became the biggest factor in whether or not a major league starter was removed.

    "I understand from a business standpoint," Glavine said, "you're trying to protect an investment."

    Green put it a bit more bluntly.

    "It's kind of a protect-your-[rear] kind of deal," said Green, also a former big league pitcher. "I think we're really hurting the game of baseball by doing this."

    "I think you do what you can to prevent injuries," Mazzone said, "but arm injuries occur from overexertion and overextension, not necessarily a pitch count."

    Glavine said, "I guess the thing that I don't like is that somehow it's come down on us, the pitchers, that we're fragile. We're not tough ... and somehow we've instituted this pitch count that we can't pitch beyond that when that's not the way it works."

    Glavine admitted that Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson "can give concerted numbers that this is a guy's range and if he gets a little outside of his range for one start, that's one thing. [And] if he does it for two starts or three starts how it impacts his starts down the road."

    "What it is more than anything else," Peterson said, "is keeping guys in cycles of pitch counts. Let's say you're a runner and you average three or four miles a day and you're averaging 21 to 25 miles a week. You can't start logging 40 to 45 miles and stay fresh. You may not get injured, but there's no freshness."

    "I understand that," said Glavine, who doesn't dispute Peterson's numbers, "but I also think sometimes there's some common sense. I'll be the first to tell you I can throw 70 pitches in a game and be worn out, if it was a laborsome game. Much more so than if it was a game where I threw 120 where it really wasn't much effort."

    Peterson conceded that the "emotional and physical stress" of an outing, including the number of jams and whether a pitcher had to run the bases, will impact how quickly he becomes fatigued.

    "Years ago, you never concerned yourself with pitch counts," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Now, with statistics telling you that between this number and that number bad things happen to this particular pitcher, you have to pay attention to it. The bullpen has become a huge part of what happens now."

    As has the specialization of the bullpen, according to Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry, who averaged 7.82 innings per start during his 25-3 Cy Young Award season of 1978.

    "We didn't have the long man, short man [and] setup guy," he said. "We had a closer, but that's all we had. So unless you got into the ninth inning where you were going to need a closer, you were in there.

    "We were programmed to go 130 to 140 pitches in a game," said Guidry, who once threw 154 pitches in 10 innings against Cleveland. "If I'm out there pitching, the only guy that's probably better than me is the closer, so if you're not going to bring him in, you'd just as soon leave me out there ... and I'll see if I can get out of my own mess."

    That's become a lost art today, at least in the late innings.

    "You really learned a lot about yourself when you pitched late in a ballgame," said Palmer, a TV broadcaster for the Orioles. "You learned about your guts and your conditioning and your focus and your ability to pitch."

    But Palmer doesn't necessarily think the game was better then.

    "The game has evolved," he said, "whether it's good or bad."

    Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, a 13-year veteran, said that young pitchers "are being trained to throw 90 to 100 pitches nowadays and that's kind of what they have in them. ... I just think that guys could throw 120 pitches, 130 pitches if they have the size to do that."

    Yet it doesn't appear that the clock will be turned back anytime soon, although Mazzone hopes it will be.

    "If they don't reverse it a little bit or use a little more common sense about it," Mazzone said, "then the quality of pitching will suffer overall."

  2. Turn Off Ads?
  3. #2
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    42,227

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Needless to say, he thought pitch counts were overrated as well.
    Only when you are facing the weak 1960's era hitters eh Bob?

    Jim Maloney was yanked in a the 5th inning once with over 150 pitches thrown, that has to be not good, it can't be good, it just has to be not good.

  4. #3
    Member Stormy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Posts
    6,987

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Only when you are facing the weak 1960's era hitters eh Bob?
    That seems more than a little dismissive and hollow (but maybe you were offering that as tongue in cheek). Regardless of the league-wide offensive production of the "1960's era" comparative to previous and ensuing generations, I don't think those overall NL numbers in any way diminish Bob Gibson's accomplishments.

    In the early portion of his career (1961-1966), he confronted and dominated a league consisting of the 'prime years' of such icons as Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, McCovey, Rose, Cepeda etc... in an NL which averaged 4.16 Runs per Game of production. Likewise, Gibson concluded his peak years (1966-1971) against a league comprised by the likes of Clemente, Stargell, Bench, Billy Williams, Tony Perez, (McCovey), Santo, Bonds, Lee May, Dick Allen etc... against an NL which averaged 3.98 Runs per Game.

    That era of NL output might not rival the boom of the 1950s, but there's no significant variance between it and the ensuing offensive production throughout most of the 1970-1980s. In addition, Gibson's ERA was nearly a full run lower than the NL 'league average ERA' during the span of his career, a further indication that he was going to suppress offensive production in any generation.

    I agree that pitch count is a paramount tool in the handling of pitchers, both young and old, and that it signals an evolution of the game (even if a potential byproduct is the creation of an entire class of 5-6IP starters). However, when you're talking to a guy like Bob Gibson, who was accustomed to successfully tossing 20+ Complete Games a year (even completing 28 of the 34 games he started in consecutive years), en route to compiling the 280-300IPs in his standard season, I can certainly understand how he developed a different perspective on the issue, and that it has nothing to do with facing 'weak 1960's era hitters.'

    I enjoyed the article, NJReds. Thanks.
    Last edited by Stormy; 07-01-2007 at 12:50 PM.

  5. #4
    nothing more than a fan Always Red's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Cincy West
    Posts
    4,925

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Good article, NJReds, thanks for posting.

    I think pitch counts are important to keep track of, especially the way they are being watched today (ie- from a responsibility or even liability point of view) . A certain pitcher can seem to run into trouble about pitch 90 or so, and another at 80 or so. And then there is the guy who can go 110-120 nearly every time, with seemingly no problem.

    It allows individualization of each pitchers game. But then, someone needs to be paying attention to the info to make heads or tails out of it.

    One point that Glavine makes that I totally agree with is that todays young pitcher is conditioned to throw 90-100 and that's it. I think that would lead to more injury, not less. If a pitcher was conditioned to throw far more, say 150 pitches, and then you got him out of there after 100-120, it would theoretically lead to less injury.

    The Japanese train their pitchers far harder than the Americans do in their game. I wonder how their injury rates compare? I tried to do some basic research with that about a month ago and could not find anything on it. If any one knows an answer, please post!

    Another thing to remember is that the mound was higher back in the 60's, and the pitcher had more of an advantage then, than he does now.

    I think this is a fascinating topic, and it's my opinion that they are not any hard and fast rules or answers yet. Genetically, some guys can literally throw all day, and some guys just are not built for that. The future will be in identifying those who can, and maximizing their ability to eat innings, and taking those who cannot shoulder that kind of load and putting them in the BP, early on,

    Arbitrarily cutting a guy off at 100 pitches is wrong. Some guys need to be sat down at 80, and some can throw 140 (or more) on occasion. It's too bad there is not more historical info on pitch counts from the early days of the game, because we would have a better grasp on it now than we do.

  6. #5
    breath westofyou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    42,227

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormy View Post
    In the early portion of his career (1961-1966), he confronted and dominated a league consisting of the 'prime years' of such icons as Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, McCovey, Rose, Cepeda etc... in an NL which averaged 4.16 Runs per Game of production. Likewise, Gibson concluded his peak years (1966-1971) against a league comprised by the likes of Clemente, Stargell, Bench, Billy Williams, Tony Perez, (McCovey), Santo, Bonds, Lee May, Dick Allen etc... against an NL which averaged 3.98 Runs per Game.
    For every Koufax there was a Willie Davis, for every Marichal a Hal Lanier, in the span of 1963-1968 there were 36 regulars in MLB who had over 150 games played and a slugging percentage less than .400 and a on base percentage less than .300. in the years of 1953-1958 there were 4. The game had swung drastically to the other end of the spectrum in the years between 1953 and 1968. It's true Gibby was great, but the league as whole was weaker and it stems from expansion and the reaction to increased offense.

    On December 3, 1968, the Baseball Rules Committee voted to lower the height of the pitching mound from fifteen to ten inches and to require that all pitching mounds be sloped gradually so that pitchers will not appear to be firing from a steep cliff to the batter below.

    Not known to many was also the redefining of the strike zone.

    1969 - “The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes a natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at a pitch.”
    This redefinition was a result of stagnating offense and pitching dominated contests, it also was a reaction to a prior strike zone change that was instituted against the rise of offense in the first few years of the 60’s.

    1963 - “The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the top of the batter’s shoulders and his knees when he assumes his natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at a pitch.”
    The key lies in the first paragraphs accent on “the top of his knees” where the second only says “knees” thus leaving some ambiguity for the officials creating the Strike Zone when a player steps into the box

    In 1961 the home run race involving Maris and Mantle plus the hitting of Cash and Gentile staggered many of the old timers who were in the upper echelon of the baseball management. In an attempt to “even” things out they decided to attack the hitters at home, so they adjusted the strike zone after the 1962 season

    This small but significant addition to the rules helped freeze the offense in the game faster than the Cassadines could freeze Port Charles.

    Thus pitch counts can be higher because you have less dangerous hitters with diminished on base skills, it's easier to not bear down when you have to face Hal Lanier instead of JJ Hardy. I appreciate all players comments, but not every player is Gibson, just like not every hitter is not Albert Pujols today.

  7. #6
    Member Stormy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Posts
    6,987

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Thanks, woy. That's a great post. I'm surprised that the strike zone redefinition of 1969 didn't equate to a more lasting surge in offensive production. Aside from the quick offensive spike in 1970, R/G and team ERAs basically quickly reverted to similar levels to those of the mid-1960's (though not to the extremes of 1968), and with fairly minor variance, remained that way until the more recent boon commenced in the early 1990s.

    In terms of Gibson, it is somewhat interesting that he boasted very similar numbers on both sides of the divide, during and after the aforementioned rules amendments (though, again, nothing akin to the excess of 1968). Thanks for the post.

  8. #7
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    34,336

    Re: Article: History of the Pitch Count

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Only when you are facing the weak 1960's era hitters eh Bob?

    Jim Maloney was yanked in a the 5th inning once with over 150 pitches thrown, that has to be not good, it can't be good, it just has to be not good.

    Homer might have gotten to 150 today in the 5th if he'd been left in.
    The Rally Onion wants 150 fans before Opening Day.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rally-...24872650873160


Turn Off Ads?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Board Moderators may, at their discretion and judgment, delete and/or edit any messages that violate any of the following guidelines: 1. Explicit references to alleged illegal or unlawful acts. 2. Graphic sexual descriptions. 3. Racial or ethnic slurs. 4. Use of edgy language (including masked profanity). 5. Direct personal attacks, flames, fights, trolling, baiting, name-calling, general nuisance, excessive player criticism or anything along those lines. 6. Posting spam. 7. Each person may have only one user account. It is fine to be critical here - that's what this board is for. But let's not beat a subject or a player to death, please.

Thank you, and most importantly, enjoy yourselves!


RedsZone.com is a privately owned website and is not affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds or Major League Baseball


Contact us: Boss | GIK | BCubb2003 | dabvu2498 | Gallen5862 | LexRedsFan | Plus Plus | RedlegJake | redsfan1995 | The Operator | Tommyjohn25