Tagged: Kerry Wood

Pitch Limiting (and 6 hits in 9 innings)

Congratulations to Adrian Gonzalez.  He became just the 67th player in all of major league history to have 6 hits in a nine-inning game.  There are almost 4 times as many no-hitters.  There have been over 4 times as many cycles.  Six hits in nine innings is truly something special.  Particularly for someone as underrated and (mostly) unnoticed as Adrian Gonzalez.

Now it’s definitely time to talk about Joba.  Everyone (myself included) really thought he had turned it around after the All-Star Break.  Even after his start against Boston I didn’t really think much about a downward turn.  It’s Boston.  Those games are different than any other regular season game.  The Yankees and Red Sox always beat up on each other and the pitchers usually come out with higher ERAs.  But then last night he had another mediocre performance.  What worried me more than his statistics, though, was the fact that he didn’t find that groove that he was in before the Boston series.  Previous to that, he had been pitching quickly, rarely shaking Posada off.  Last night, he and Posada looked like they were reading scouting reports for two different teams.  They never found that rhythm that was allowing Joba to pitch so well earlier in the second half and it showed.  Who knows when Joba’s next start will be, so we may have to wait quite some time to see if he can find that groove again.

This brings me to my next point.  Innings limits/pitch counts.  They suck.  Completely.  We all understand that teams are just trying to save young arms for the future and develop their soon-to-be aces slowly.  But it’s ridiculous that the Yankees are going to take out their clear-cut number 3 starter (and possibly even number 2, I think it’s close between Joba and Burnett) just because he’s a “future” star.  Believe it or not, this is a guy that once threw 12 shutout innings with 21 strikeouts in American Legion ball.  Look at how Texas has turned around it’s pitching since Nolan Ryan led the charge to take pitch counts and innings limits out of their system.  Those guys are pitching incredibly this year.  This year’s staff has allowed the fewest runs per game for a Rangers team since 1990.  That was when Nolan Ryan wasn’t the President of the team, but was still pitching on the team.  Almost 20 years ago.  That was the last time they had pitching this good.  And the names haven’t really changed all that much since last year.  They’ve just allowed their pitchers to pitch instead of worrying about getting yanked when they get to 100 pitches.  What a concept…pitchers pitching until they’re ineffective…like the old days.  Different guys have different limits.  Those limits should be tested and used, instead of giving every youngster an automatic limit of 100 pitches. 

Here’s a favorite example of mine.  Kerry Wood averaged a shade under 105 pitches per start in 26 starts during the 1998 (his rookie) season.  He was 21 years old at the time.  They shut him down for the last month of the season because of elbow soreness and then gave him one start in the postseason.  After that, he had Tommy John surgery and the rest is history.  What I want to focus on here is the 105 pitches per start.  Just 5 more than the magical 100 pitch limit imposed so often nowadays, yet he still ended up with elbow problems.  Obviously, he was pushed past his limits in his rookie season.  This doesn’t mean that 100 is an almighty number, it just means that the Cubs worked Kerry Wood too hard.  They should have been working to find his limit while he was in the minors and used that once he was in the bigs.

Now let us take a look at CC Sabathia.  The workhorse.  A beast of a man.  In his 21-year-old season (his second in the bigs) CC averaged 102 pitches per start over 33 starts.  He pitched 210 innings that year.  He has started at least 30 games in all but one year of his first 8 seasons (this one not included).  Obviously, that means he has never had major arm problems like Mr. Wood.  The Indians just found CC’s limit, slowly stretched him out, and developed him into a dominant starter that can throw 120 pitches in a game.  (As a side note: in his rookie season CC started 33 games and averaged about 94 pitches per start.  Notice the progression from 94 to 102, and now beyond.  This is the textbook way to develop a starting pitcher.)  Even at the age of 21 (same age as Kerry Wood) CC was able to handle a large workload.  Every pitcher has his limits, and teams just need to find those limits (while young guys are in the minors) and use them.  Not the generic 100 pitches and you’re done.