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Thread: Pitch Counts & Arbitrary Relief

  1. #1
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    Pitch Counts & Arbitrary Relief

    I've mentioned this elsewhere in the past several years, but as long as I'm thinking about it, I'll mention it again, here in the Statistics forum.

    I'm so tired of the way 21st Century pitching is managed. For 100 years, the pitcher stayed in the game until he was ostentatiously tired and needed to be relieved. For the past ten or twenty years (beginning with Tony LaRussa), pitch counts have dictated when a pitcher comes out, come hell or high water. A relieved pitcher now has virtually nothing to do with how well he's pitching!

    For just one of many instances, R.A. Dickey of the Mets was throwing a shutout Friday night. He went through 7 innings and was arbitrarily pinch-hit for because he'd thrown 101 pitches. The guy was throwing a shutout! ...and he's a knuckleballer!!

    When I was a kid, I vividly recall games when a pitcher was having trouble in the fifth or sixth, and a reliever came in to finish the remaining three or four innings. That formula worked for a century. Now, I don't mind if statisticians wish to keep track of how many pitches a pitcher throws from game to game and throughout his career, but I am just so sick to death of this arbitrary relieving of a pitcher who's still entirely on his game, just to take a chance on a reliever who may or may not have his stuff that particular day.

    Am I think only one who's fed up with this no-longer-new "tradition"?

    P.S. And if this tradition is to continue, what keeps the NL from adopting the DH? Without much of a pinch-hitting strategy remaining -- not to mention the everyday interleague play that begins next season -- why doesn't the Senior League finally catch up with the rest of the baseball world?
    Last edited by milladrive; 04-18-2012 at 05:02 AM. Reason: typo
    Put it in the books.

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    Put it in the books.

  3. #3
    The Pirates have been bringing in relievers seemingly at will recently. They had to pull Karstens against Arizona on Tuesday due to a shoulder problem in the first and pulled James McDonald the next day after 4! He gave up 3 H, ER, BB, had 2 SO! I was at the game last night, they pulled Morton last night after 5 and he had the bottom of the order coming up. It was a 2-1 game and his line was: 4 H, 2 R, ER, 3 BB, 2 K. The defense was not helping him and he was pitching fine. The bullpen (Hughes) blew the game. Think that bullpen will last til the mid-summer? Doubt it. But they must bring in the reliever. They just must.
    Last edited by bluesky5; 04-21-2012 at 02:09 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by milladrive View Post
    The same thing that keeps having pitchers pulled at times you think is crazy. There’s owners that write checks, and they ain’t allowing their team to be managed based on what folks on baseball bulletin boards think. To them is a business, and they don’t like the idea of risking their most valuable assets just because 50 years ago pitchers threw more innings.
    The pitcher whos afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scorekeeper View Post
    The same thing that keeps having pitchers pulled at times you think is crazy. There’s owners that write checks, and they ain’t allowing their team to be managed based on what folks on baseball bulletin boards think. To them is a business, and they don’t like the idea of risking their most valuable assets just because 50 years ago pitchers threw more innings.
    How about just ten years ago. And it worked for 100 years. And for 100 years, there were a lot fewer injuries. So, these investments you speak of are apparently more at risk now than they were just ten years ago. Ergo, I don't accept this explanation in full.

    Now, if we wish to talk about Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley, I think we can go from there.
    Put it in the books.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by milladrive View Post
    How about just ten years ago. And it worked for 100 years. And for 100 years, there were a lot fewer injuries. So, these investments you speak of are apparently more at risk now than they were just ten years ago. Ergo, I don't accept this explanation in full.

    Now, if we wish to talk about Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley, I think we can go from there.
    I think organized youth baseball has done a lot to limit pitchers arm strength.

    Quote Originally Posted by scorekeeper View Post
    The same thing that keeps having pitchers pulled at times you think is crazy. There’s owners that write checks, and they ain’t allowing their team to be managed based on what folks on baseball bulletin boards think. To them is a business, and they don’t like the idea of risking their most valuable assets just because 50 years ago pitchers threw more innings.
    True, relief pitching seems to have gained popularity as more money came into the game. Sparky Anderson was the first to really use his bullpen extensively, in a modern sense that is. I doubt it was at the bidding of his owner tho. Just his observation/strategy and it caught on due to his teams successes. I think Billy Martin's decimation of the early 80's A's staff did a lot to further the acceptance of Anderson's tactics.

  7. #7
    Some CG Info.
    Last to 10 - Sabathia, 2008 Indians and Brewers
    15 - Schilling, 1998, Thanks for trying Curt, the Phils were 75-87
    20 - F. Valenzuela, 1986
    25 - Rick Langford, 1980 A's
    30 - Catfish Hunter, 1975 NYY

  8. #8
    When we were 15 me and my one buddy played JV - March to mid May, Legion - early May til early August, for 2 "teener" (13-15 year olds) - early May to mid July (all 7 inning games).

    He started for all these teams. He started 28 games (pitched around 40) from the beginning of our JV season until Legion playoffs the first week of August. We lied to the coach of our one "teener" team, which was just out of our school district in an anthracite league, about how much he pitched back home and vice versa. In that league he completed all but one start, I know he started more than half our 19 regular season games and all 3 playoff games. He never had anything abnormal, just regular soreness. He threw a lot starting in January every year. He was a true baseball junkie like me. Our senior year he threw around 175 pitches on a Saturday night game late in the year. When the game went past midnight (and into a new week) he moved back in from third and threw 4 more innings and we won in 13. He went to Millersville on a scholarship but never did anything. Ever since that summer I was very skeptical of how pitchers were handled. Practice makes perfect. Best summer ever. Played like 90 games.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by milladrive View Post
    How about just ten years ago. And it worked for 100 years. And for 100 years, there were a lot fewer injuries. So, these investments you speak of are apparently more at risk now than they were just ten years ago. Ergo, I don't accept this explanation in full.

    Now, if we wish to talk about Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley, I think we can go from there.
    Well, perhaps from your perspective there were fewer injuries, but were there really fewer injuries, or were they either not recognized or simply not reported? When the best pitchers were making a lot less money, and there was no player’s union, it made for a totally different mindset. Warren Spahn tells of when he 1st went to the majors, his salary was $250 a month. For that kind of money, was he going to risk complaining about a sore arm?

    History: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/19...accept-dodger/

    Owners have always listened to the GMs and coaches, and to a great extent those guys would just speak the baseball dogma. But those owners didn’t get rich by being stupid. If someone showed them proof that something was putting any of their assets at risk, they wouldn’t have ignored it. But even at that, with no free agency or union to force certain things from happening, they’d have run many of them into the ground because there were always more in the pipeline.
    The pitcher whos afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

  10. #10
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    You need to realize a few things:

    Pitch count is being used as an aid to assess a pitcher's fatigue through X innings, not in general. 100 pitches through five innings is much more tiring than 100 in seven. The number is set as a benchmark of how efficient the pitcher is going to be in later innings and in games beyond. Simply allowing the pitcher to tell you when he's tired can be dangerous and misleading, since many starters would rather try and go the distance.

    Knuckleballers are scary because they can break down at any time. In Dickey's case, he was up 4-1. If you kept him in the eighth, he could easily break down and walk two guys in a row, especially because he isn't a very good knuckleballer. Then you run the risk of tying the game.

    100 pitches today is not equal to 100 pitches twenty years ago. Batters have become machines; they foul off dozens of pitches, capitalize on mistakes like never before, and are very aware of the small strike zone of today's game. Thus, pitchers must compensate by throwing harder or exerting themselves to make a pitch break more than usual. Even if a pitcher is a natural workhorse, he is working himself more because of today's superior batter. Managers are aware of this, and they are afraid of keeping pitchers past 100 for fear of injuring guys. Millions of dollars are at stake.

    A lot of people, perhaps including yourself, think of stars like Seaver, Spahn, or Carlton when they think about today's pitching endurance. This is an incredibly small sample size based on elite pitchers. Plenty of others were pitching who had trouble completing games or didn't last long because they forced to do so.

    If every other team is basing itself on lesser pitching, the one team that decides not to is losing an advantage. It is tiring pitchers when other teams are using stretching the workload across the board. Come August, this would be very troublesome.


    I too have some problems with today's pitching management, but not to the point where I think we need the management of 20 years ago. It isn't possible.
    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
    100 pitches today is not equal to 100 pitches twenty years ago. Batters have become machines; they foul off dozens of pitches, capitalize on mistakes like never before, and are very aware of the small strike zone of today's game. Thus, pitchers must compensate by throwing harder or exerting themselves to make a pitch break more than usual. Even if a pitcher is a natural workhorse, he is working himself more because of today's superior batter.

    I too have some problems with today's pitching management, but not to the point where I think we need the management of 20 years ago. It isn't possible.
    Agree with all but this. 20 years ago isn't ancient history. Halladay throws more CG on avg. per year than a lot of guys 20 years ago. 30 years yea. But I don't think much has changed in terms of reliever use since '92. Almost, if not all the 3 inning relievers were gone by then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    Agree with all but this. 20 years ago isn't ancient history. Halladay throws more CG on avg. per year than a lot of guys 20 years ago. 30 years yea. But I don't think much has changed in terms of reliever use since '92. Almost, if not all the 3 inning relievers were gone by then.
    Halladay is one pitcher. He is also elite who works efficiently enough to get through 8+ innings usually with 110 pitches.
    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

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    Money and health have always been at stake. At the risk of flying in the face of some of the names already mentioned, but by using the logic being discussed here, there'd be no Kid Nichols, Mordecai Brown, Ed Walsh, Christy Mathewson, nor Cy Young. There'd be no Walter Johnson nor Grover Alexander. There'd be no Lefty Grove, Hal Newhouser, Whitey Ford, nor Warren Spahn. There'd be no Bob Feller, Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, nor Nolan Ryan. Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Randy Johnson all would have questionable HoF careers. And this is just to name a few of the "elite" of their times.

    Hey, the cream always rises to the top, no matter in what era they pitch or hit. It's always been survival of the fittest since the game was invented and evolved. The simple fact remains that managers now micromanage their pitching (even moreso after the starter has been removed). Removing a pitcher because of what might happen is, imho, silly. Unless there's a reason to pinch-hit for the guy when behind in the game with runners on base and needing a viable bat, there's simply no need to remove a pitcher for no reason other than a milestone and/or a potential stat op for another pitcher.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrus4189Cobb
    100 pitches today is not equal to 100 pitches twenty years ago. Batters have become machines; they foul off dozens of pitches, capitalize on mistakes like never before, and are very aware of the small strike zone of today's game.
    What I find just as interesting is that after those 100 pitches, we often see pitchers come in for one or two batters, only to be replaced by yet another pitcher who may or may not be on his game that day. It becomes like musical chairs, only with pitchers. Batters now work the counts purposely to get the starter out of the game. Without that "milestone," I believe batters would revert to that more aggressive hitting we once saw.

    And incidentally, for those of you who don't watch him on a weekly basis, R.A. Dickey is, imo, a damn good knuckleballer. He started throwing it in earnest in 2010, when his ERA+ skyrocketed to 138. It had never been above 100. His 2011 ERA+ was 112. In both years, his IP were higher than ever before in his career. This year's sample is still too small to make a conclusion for 2012, but watching him pitch has been nothing short of pure magic. The guy's found a new niche, and because of that, he may feasibly be able to successfully pitch in the Majors well into his 40s.

    P.S. Thanks for those stats, bluesky5. Although I believe it was Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley who started the trend. It was Eckersley who found a new career in a role they dubbed "closer," and it was LaRussa who first began carrying more than 10 pitchers on his 25-man roster, often running it up to 13, and, as I mentioned, often using one pitcher per batter once the starter was removed. Unfortunately, it caught on with every other team, depleting the benches and coming very close to a state of collusion. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated recently had a good column on this "groupthink":

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...nts/index.html
    Put it in the books.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    I think organized youth baseball has done a lot to limit pitchers arm strength.
    This is something I can definitely agree with. I look at guys like Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana (to name just two), and I can't help but wonder where the trouble started. You probably have a point by speculating it started at an early stage of their training as young pitchers.
    Put it in the books.

  15. #15
    That was a good article. Wish it was more in depth.

  16. #16
    Relief pitcher has to be the most inconsistent position in sports. Even most "closers" are unable to be consistent for more that 2-3 years at a time. Positional overturn from team to team has to be astronomical compared to every other position in pro sports, including special teams players in the NFL. I really don't understand how it can be justified to carry 6-7 relievers other than the closer. Who should be working more than one inning a game. It's almost laughable if I didn't find it so pointless and pretentious.. and it didn't ruin ball games.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    That was a good article. Wish it was more in depth.
    Yeah, me too. He asks a lot of very good a very poignant questions, but offers very few answers.

    Quote Originally Posted by bluesky5 View Post
    Relief pitcher has to be the most inconsistent position in sports. Even most "closers" are unable to be consistent for more that 2-3 years at a time. Positional overturn from team to team has to be astronomical compared to every other position in pro sports, including special teams players in the NFL. I really don't understand how it can be justified to carry 6-7 relievers other than the closer. Who should be working more than one inning a game. It's almost laughable if I didn't find it so pointless and pretentious.. and it didn't ruin ball games.
    I totally and utterly agree with that post.
    Put it in the books.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by milladrive View Post
    What I find just as interesting is that after those 100 pitches, we often see pitchers come in for one or two batters, only to be replaced by yet another pitcher who may or may not be on his game that day. It becomes like musical chairs, only with pitchers. Batters now work the counts purposely to get the starter out of the game. Without that "milestone," I believe batters would revert to that more aggressive hitting we once saw.
    The use of relievers for certain situations is strategically oriented, made easier by the mass accumulation of statistics in recent years. This has nothing to do with durability. Some of it is asinine, some of it is reasonable.

    I agree with your point about batters purposefully tiring the pitcher, but this strategy isn't new either. It is unclear when batters are or are not purposefully working the pitcher because no matter what, they're going to be facing someone. Just because someone is coming in for relief doesn't mean you're going to fare better. (I'm not arguing anyhting here just expanding on the thought).

    I'm of the school of thought that the five-man rotation hurts pitchers more than it helps. There is too much of a break between starts, making their arms "stiffer" from less in-game use. Then there is the issue of injury treatment, where pitchers are sent to the disabled list for blisters. Pitchers aren't allowed to simply pitch. Managers believe their arms will dissolve if they work "too hard," something that irritates me to no end. But in the end, it's about money. So much money is thrown at even the worst pitchers, from their salaries to clubhouse expenses to minor league training, that managers would rather baby them then treat them as expendable resources.
    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
    The use of relievers for certain situations is strategically oriented, made easier by the mass accumulation of statistics in recent years. This has nothing to do with durability. Some of it is asinine, some of it is reasonable.

    I agree with your point about batters purposefully tiring the pitcher, but this strategy isn't new either. It is unclear when batters are or are not purposefully working the pitcher because no matter what, they're going to be facing someone. Just because someone is coming in for relief doesn't mean you're going to fare better. (I'm not arguing anyhting here just expanding on the thought).

    I'm of the school of thought that the five-man rotation hurts pitchers more than it helps. There is too much of a break between starts, making their arms "stiffer" from less in-game use. Then there is the issue of injury treatment, where pitchers are sent to the disabled list for blisters. Pitchers aren't allowed to simply pitch. Managers believe their arms will dissolve if they work "too hard," something that irritates me to no end. But in the end, it's about money. So much money is thrown at even the worst pitchers, from their salaries to clubhouse expenses to minor league training, that managers would rather baby them then treat them as expendable resources.
    Excellent post. I can't disagree with any of it (especially the point of starters being hurt more by going out there every fifth day instead of every fourth). In fact, the whole post makes a great deal of sense. I do realize, based on those words and what you've previously written, that you don't necessarily approve of this micromanaging of relief pitching and pulling starters who still have their stuff that day. Despite that SI article not answering many questions, it does reveal to a good extent the total disregard of how well a starter is doing when he is pulled from the game. Indeed, including the forced role of "closer," it all seems to come down to dollars and cents (or nonsense, if you will).
    Put it in the books.

  20. #20
    I think by consensus and by design, starters are better pitchers than relievers. Yet as Tom Tiger has pointed out, relievers as a group have a lower era because of the way they are used (3.69 to 4.06 in 2011 MLB).

    The interminable queue of relief pitchers annoys me as much as anyone, but it is hard to fault managers or gms for using a strategy that gets higher level production out of lower level players.

    This is one of those cases where what's good for one side is bad for the game, and a rule change might help.

    Whether or not a huge bullpen is the best use of a limited roster is another question.

  21. #21
    This is interesting, but I want to comment on relief pitching. What I find amazing is the lefty specialist. Sure a lefty is more likely to get a lefty out than a righty, but why don't they leave the lefty to face the righty? If managers and GMs, today, are supposedly relying on stats, a lefty who has a .300 batting avereage against by righties is still going to get an out 70% of the time.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
    … I'm of the school of thought that the five-man rotation hurts pitchers more than it helps. There is too much of a break between starts, making their arms "stiffer" from less in-game use. …
    I happen to have the privilege of having one of the people most responsible for the 5 man rotation becoming so popular in the ML, and I once tried the same logic on him that you used here. The result was, I was told quite plainly but politely that I didn’t know jack about the workload of ML starters, how they should prepare themselves between starts, but mostly how much that extra day of rest affected their performances at the end of the year.

    You may be correct, but I’ll trust someone who was a 20 year pro pitcher, an 8 year scout, and a 12 year ML pitching coach’s judgment about whether or not the 5 man rotation makes sense or not.
    The pitcher whos afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

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