Jeff Passan on the pitch count problem and how cultural convictions are ruining Japanese pitchers

Jeff Passan writes about 16-year-old Tomohiro Anraku thowing 772 pitches in one week during a high school baseball tournament in Japan.

During the final game Wednesday, Anraku, whose fastball reached 94 mph earlier in the tournament, labored to crack 80. It was his third consecutive day starting a game and his fourth in five days, and those came after his first start of the tournament, in which he threw 232 pitches over 13 innings.

When word of Anraku’s exploits filtered out from Koshien Stadium, the reaction depended on proximity. Nearby, in the Japanese baseball culture that equates pitch count with superiority, Anraku was a hero. Far away, in an American baseball culture that has seen more elbows and shoulders blow out than ever before, Anraku was the picture of excess. For a man who bridges the societies, Anraku represented something much more unsavory.

Read the Yahoo! Sports story.

Baseball 2013: Here come the flamethrowers

More fastball pitchers are throwing at speeds reached by few a decade ago. Why are pitchers throwing faster and what does it mean for baseball?

In the 2003 season, there was only one pitcher who threw at least 25 pitches 100 mph or faster (Billy Wagner). In 2012, there were seven, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

In 2003, there were only three pitchers who threw at least 700 pitches 95 mph or better. In 2012, there were 17. There were 20 pitchers a decade ago who threw at least 25% of their fastballs 96 mph or faster. Last year there were 62, including Carter Capps, the Seattle Mariners’ 22-year-old right-hander, whose average fastball travels 98.3 mph, tying him with the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera for the top spot in the game.

Read The Wall Street Journal story.

Why are strikeout rates soaring?

There were more strikeouts in 2012 than at any other time in major league history. Why?

Strikeout rates have been trending upward for most of the past century, but what has happened in recent years seems to indicate something more. Big swings often result in home runs, yet homers peaked in the majors in 2000, three years before steroid testing began. It could be that the generation of hitters raised in the glow of chemically fueled sluggers still tries to hit like its heroes.

Read The New York Times story.

Japanese 16-year-old pitching prospect throws 772 pitches in 9 days

From the Baseball America story.

Tomohiro Anraku’s intense workload has sparked discussion in Japanese media and social media about whether it’s right for a coach to use a 16-year-old pitcher this way. In the U.S. baseball community, even those who believe that pitchers should throw a higher volume of pitches are uneasy with Anraku’s workload and lack of rest. Some major league scouts and front-office personnel have been fuming, calling Anraku’s usage dangerous, reckless and abusive.