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Pitch Counts

Pitch Counts

One of the greatest, most illogical blasphemies occurring at all levels of baseball is the notion of limiting the pitch count.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that a pitcher’s pitches in a game should be counted, and that the count can help a manager decide whether it’s time to pull a guy out. What confounds me are two major issues: the 100-pitch limit and conditioning athletes to stay within that limit.

For the first hundred years of baseball, the term “pitch count” did not exist. Every game, a team would have their best available pitcher for the day start the game, and keep throwing until he was pooped. Starters were expected to also finish, and even the #3 and #4 men in the rotation would go at least to the seventh inning, guaranteed. (Oh, and by the way, NO ONE used a 5-man rotation until the 1970s.) Through the years, thousands of pitchers threw and threw and threw, many for 250 or 300 innnings or more in? a season. And they did it without the benefit of today’s medicine (and drugs).

In the late 1960s, Mets’ manager Gil Hodges started counting pitcher’s pitches. It was unheard of at the time, but it was a good idea. Unfortunately, somewhere between that idea and today, a whole lot of “experts” decided that no pitcher should throw more than 100 pitches in a game, and today no starting pitcher is expected to go beyond the sixth inning.

Despite the geniuses coming up with these asinine, unfounded rules, we still have pitchers injuring their arms, and to me, arm injuries seem a lot more common than before. I’m convinced it’s because pitchers don’t pitch enough.

There is no reason a healthy young man, with good mechanics, throwing fastballs the majority of the time, can’t throw 140-160 pitches per game — especially with four days’ rest between starts. However, the key is to condition the pitcher to reach that plateau. It can’t be done immediately; a sound throwing program will build up to that goal over an 8-10 week period. But, once a pitcher builds up to that level, and maintains the conditioning program throughout the season, he should breeze through 150 pitches or more during? a game, without tiring.

Check back soon, as I’ll post a typical program to reach this level.


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