I'm in the increasingly shrinking boat of baseball gurus who believe that pitch counts are overrated (actually, I'm pretty sure that boat only consists of me and Nolan Ryan). Managers, pitchers and general managers have instituted strict pitch counts limits on pitchers in the major leagues and minors. The general consensus is that, by limiting a pitcher's pitch count, they are reducing the risk for injury. I think it actually raises the injury risk.
Disclaimer: I have never been a pitcher in my lifetime. Other than playing the "Guess Your Speed" game at a Pennsylvania amusement park, I have never thrown any type of pitch on a baseball diamond.
And, unless anyone wants to give my mid-70s-mph fastball and developing but mediocre splitter and knuckleball a tryout, I probably never will.
But I'm in the increasingly shrinking boat of baseball gurus who believe that pitch counts are overrated (actually, I'm pretty sure that boat only consists of me and Nolan Ryan).
Managers, pitchers and general managers have instituted strict pitch counts limits on pitchers in the major leagues and minors. The general consensus is that, by limiting a pitcher's pitch count, they are reducing the risk for injury.
I think it actually raises the injury risk. If it doesn't do that, it lowers the pitcher's effectiveness if he does go over the limit.
Now, I'll admit that there is no reasonable way to prove this. I would have to scour through hundreds of box scores from at least the past 10 years. Even though I dig through baseball media guides and records almost every night when I get home, I still don't think I could come up with something by the end of the year, much less month.
There are other factors, too. Weather conditions, the home plate umpire, the opposing team — those are all variables in this pitch count theory.
I'll look at box scores from the 1970s and '80s, and while pitch counts weren't "officially" tracked back then (the MLB started tracking them in 1999), it's easy to tell that pitch counts weren't nearly that big of a deal back then. One of the ways to tell is by the complete game numbers.
For example, back in 1971, there were 546 complete games in the NL alone. In 2011, there were 80. In the AL? 537 in 1971, 93 in 2011. Sure, there are other factors in this as well. Managerial strategies change, for example, and we've become more reliant on the LOOGY (the left-handed specialist) or a pinch-hitter. Me, I'm a fan of the double switch.
I also attempted to look at pitch count numbers from the last 30 years. Surprisingly, over the past 20 years, the pitch counts haven't really fluctuated (I could only really go back to 1989, because before that, they're pretty sketchy). For example, in 2011, the average number of pitches thrown by a starter was 97. In 1989, that number is 94.
However, I refer you back to the complete games: 483 complete games were thrown in 1989. 173 in 2011.
My view on the pitch counts? They're bogus. Let the pitcher's effectiveness dictate how long he stays in the game. Also, let's allow pitchers to condition their bodies in the way they feel appropriate. If long-toss works for them? Go right ahead. I'm sure Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn didn't have their managers regulating their conditioning every day.
I would love to be a baseball coach someday. I wouldn't mind if it was in the majors, the minors or even an independent league. I'm a fan of old-school baseball. Let our pitchers pitch.
Alix Kunkle is the news editor of the Leesville Daily Leader in Leesville, La. He can be reached at email@example.com.