Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Now We're Worrying About Innings Pitched Caps?

I saw Ken Davidoff's column on Mike Pelfrey's complete game today, and he asks the same question that I asked The Franchise while we were eating dinner at Sandro's last night - why is Pelfrey still pitching in a game that the Mets salted away in the bottom of the seventh inning?

Mind you, I wasn't necessarily saying Pelfrey needed to be removed. He was well under 100 pitches as the eighth inning began (he finished the game with 108), so the Pitch Counters couldn't have been too concerned. You know that I like complete games and I'm not a big believer in the theory that the 100-pitch "limit" is a one-size-fits-all approach to managing pitcher fatigue.

Davidoff's focus was on something I mentioned last night - that Pelfrey was on pace to blow past the 183 inning cap that some people believe is necessary for a young pitcher's development. From the article:

Pelfrey, who did dominate the Astros, has now pitched 163 innings this season, after totaling 152 2/3 last year in the minors and majors. Most teams now adhere to the notion that a young pitcher shouldn't exceed his previous year's innings total by more than 30. With 30 games left, Pelfrey's turn is set to come up six more times, which means he's on pace to blow by the recommended 182 2/3 innings. And that's even before we count the postseason. To this, the Mets are essentially saying, "Fuhgeddaboutit."

Ken, you said it yourself - teams adhere to a "notion" that a young pitcher shouldn't exceed his innings pitched total by more than 30 from the previous year. There is absolutely no evidence that this notion is actually effective in preventing pitcher injuries - or even reducing the likelihood than an injury might take place. In an age where we monitor pitch counts and now we monitor innings pitched from the year before, pitchers still seem to find a way to blow out their arms. Perhaps these "notions" should be sent back to the trash bin and new theories for preventing pitcher injuries should be explored.


James Allen said...

I've been trying to find articles about this very subject and, for the most part, I find articles that simply question the notion of strict pitch counts. (Like here.)

The implication, of course, being that pitch counts are pretty much thought of as the end all be all of everything by many people without any empirical studies and it's up to all the doubters to offer up the data. A bit ass backward, don't you think? The evidence for is anecdotal, numbers are arbitrary (why 100? because it's nice and round, that's why, I mean, what if we counted in base 8 or something?) and, the most annoying thing to me, one size fits all applications are made, as if all pitchers are identical Chryslers. It's argument by assertion, plain and simple. I mean, Christ, where'd this 30 inning thing come from? Why 30? Why not 28 or 33? At 31 innings his arm falls off? Does the number of appearances matter? The weather? Overall days off? Spring training? Simulated games? Throwing in the bullpen? Batting practice swings? Pickoff throws? The type of pitches? There are so many damned vaiables that to boil everything down to one magic number is just wishful thinking for ballclubs who are so damn afraid of making a "mistake." To do a proper study would take the analyzation of data from hundreds or thousands of careers, not just the cherrypicking of Nolan Ryan or Fernando Valenzuela.

As it stands, pitch counts are a useful, but small piece of information.

And, oh yeah, Ken Davidoff is being a bit of a douchebag by implying that the Mets are hurting Pelfrey by letting him potentially go past the 30 inning magic threshold, a notion he has apparently swallowed uncritically. And his use of the word "Fuhgeddaboutit" to describe the Mets attitude is the height of smug douchebaggery.

Deb said...

Pitch counts, schmitz counts. Or is that Schlitz counts... do they even MAKE Schlitz beer anymore?

But anyway, back to the subject at, uh, hand, so to speak. I think it's good to let a young, strong guy like Pelfrey pitch as much as he can pitch. May as well toughen these kids up earlier, because old habits die hard, as those of us of a (ahem) "certain age" know all too well.

And after many years of watching the game, I have to wonder if the cautionary tactics teams take with pitchers these days don't actually contribute to the amount of injuries we see.