Friday, May 28, 2010

The One Where We Discuss Pitch Counts

Much has been made of the use and effectiveness of pitch counts in baseball. The way MLB is currently managed, it seems nearly all teams enforce the pitch count out of fear their multi-million dollar walking investments stay healthy.  But does it all really matter?

Glad you asked anonymous reader. The Wiz Wit is taking it upon ourselves to hash out this pitch count hubbub. Our good friend Mike is on board to take the side of pro-pitch-count. Yours truly is here to show you why pitch counts make about as much sense as without dick and fart jokes.

And away we go...

We’ve broken this subject down into three questions. Statistics prove that the human mind is subconsciously made up after processing pieces of information in multiples of three.* Bet you didn't know that.

1. How important to the game are pitch counts and do you think they keep pitchers healthy?

Chris - Pitch counts aren’t important because they don’t make sense. It’s an arbitrary number plucked outta the air. To a degree, keeping a pitcher on a count is a good idea for YOUNG player. Their arms are fragile. Like snowflakes or babies’ heads. You have to be careful not to burn out a young arm. Also, if a guy is going from a relief role to a starting gig, his counts should be monitored only until he stretches his arm out to take on the pressure of a full game. Otherwise, couldn’t you throw your arm out on the 15th pitch of the game just as easily as the 103rd? It’s more about proper mechanics than a blanket number of 100. You can stuff your pitch counts in a sack mister.

Mike - In the grand scheme in the game of baseball, I don't feel that pitch counts really add or detract value to the sport. I do however, feel that a pitch count can greatly improve a pitcher as an individual ball player. I feel keeping a pitcher within an acceptable pitch count can best suit their specific pitching role, and will greatly improve their effectiveness, overall arm strength, and longevity in both a season and a career.

2. Do you think Roy Halladay in particular has been affected by high pitch count workloads in games this year?

Mike - I believe that he has seen a workload of this magnitude his entire career. He has shown that he can make 30+ starts and average about 100-115 pitches per start in any given season. But this year, I fear his workload is trending towards an amount he hasn't experienced in over 6 years. To carry that workload into the post-season for the first time in his career makes me worrisome.

Chris – Fuck and no. Halladay is the last person I’m worried about throwing a ton of pitches. It’s what he does. It’s what he’s always done. And it’s what he prepares his body for year in and year out. Besides, Roy Halladay is not a human. He’s actually mostly made up of endoskeleton and rhinoceros bits.

3. Anything can be tweaked for the better - how would you improve the use of 'pitch counts' in baseball?

Mike - Specific pitching roles should have a general range of pitches that a manager feels is acceptable for effectiveness. Closers, MR, LR and Starters all vary in that degree. I don't think pitch counts should be so black and white.  If Hamels hits 109 in the 7th inning with 2 outs and 1 on with a 1-1 count, he shouldn't immediately be pulled in fear that a 110 pitch count is too much for him to handle. Being sure that each pitcher is limited to his comfort level of pitches each time they head to the mound will increase their chances of a follow up stellar performance.

Chris – I agree each pitcher should have his own specific count. I look at it a tad different thought.  Pitch counts should be derived from three specific things. 1). Most importantly - the type of pitches thrown. A guy that predominantly throws fastballs is putting a lot less stress on his arm than the one who throws a ton a of sliders. That is a fact**. 2). Pressure situations – pressing when making pitches inning over inning is going to have an effect on your mechanics and increase the chance blowing it for your team. And uh… maybe some ligament damage or something. 3). Probably the hardest to gauge, but figure out when your pitcher loses himself in games. If John Lackey (he’s the first overpaid and terribly awful pitcher I thought of) loses his mechanics at 80 pitches, cap him at that. You know he’s a ticking time bomb and will only hurt your opportunity to win. Plus, you have to deal with the fact you signed John Lackey for $80 million. Dummy. Now it’s up to Baseball Prospectus or some other sabermetrics nerds to devise a formula for this. I’ve helped the world of baseball enough.

There you have it folks. We can only educate you so much. It’s up to you to decide which side you fall on. Mike made some good points and had some good ideas, but with the advantage of writing last, I will unfairly call myself the victor – or be the reason your favorite pitcher is sitting in Dr. James Andrews’ office with a torn rotator cuff.  Anywho… feel free to sound off in the comments.

*[This is not at all true. I completely fabricated that statement, making up each word as I went along.]
**[This is an actual, documented fact.  I didn't make that one up.]


  1. I think everyone tends to overlook the fact that pitch counts are an indication of how well you are pitching. If a pitcher throws 200 pitches you can bet your ass his ERA and WHIP aren't looking too good.

    I don't think that pitch count should be used to set a max for a player, but it is definitely a useful tool in evaluating whether a guy should stay in the game. But it might just be best to look at the ball to strike ratio, mechanics, location, movement, and....the scoreboard.

  2. I wonder how pitch counts translate to women's softball...oh wait. Nevermind. I don't give a shit about women's softball. My bad.

  3. It's kinda like the child labor debate of the industrial revolution. Can children work 60 hours a week? Yes. Should they? probably not. But in this analogy, Roy Halladay is a starving 7 year old African child supporting his 13 brothers and sisters, he better get his ass to work if he wants to eat. Eating=Championships if your keeping score at home.

  4. This talk of pitch counts would have Robin Roberts spinning in his grave if he'd made it 'til Memorial Day.