Regarding pitch counts: Lackey vs. Verlander

With all the discussion during the ALCS broadcast about pitch counts, Peter Gammons looks at the 2013 season performance of John Lackey and Justin Verlander as their pitch counts increase.

They both have held opposing batters to a .219 batting average after 100 pitches but Verlander’s home run rate sees a steady increase from 1.4% (1-50 pithches), 2.7% (51-100 pitches) and 3.8% (101+ pitches). Unlike Verlander, Lackey’s home run rate decreases over time but it also starts at 3.9% (1-50 pitches) and eventually drops to 3.1%.

Read the Gammons Daily story.

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Clayton Kershaw on pitch counts

Clayton Kershaw threw 124 pitches, the third highest total of his career, in the Dodgers 6-1 win in Game 1 of the NLDS in Atlanta.

“It’s the postseason. You can kind of throw pitch counts out the window,” Kershaw told Craig Sager on the TBS broadcast after the game. “This is what you get taken out early for earlier in the season, for games like this.”

Maybe that’s true, but Kershaw went 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in his next two starts against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Coincidence?

Read the SB Nation story.

When 772 pitches isn’t enough

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Jones has written an amazing piece of sports journalism exploring Japanese baseball culture, with a focus on the overuse of 16-year-old Tomohiro Anraku, who threw 772 pitches over five games in nine days. For now, Anraku is the greatest teenage pitcher in Japan. How long will his arm stay healthy?

In America, nagekomi, like throwing 772 pitches in a single tournament, would be considered child abuse. Scientists would debunk it, and surgeons would decry it. But in Japan, nagekomi is important. It’s maybe even essential. It is many things all at once, but mostly it is an exercise in remembering, and it is beautiful.

Read the ESPN The Magazine story.

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.

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.

Former Atlanta Braves hitting coach Leo Mazzone knows why so many pitchers are getting hurt – and it ain’t because of high pitch counts

LeoMazzone

Widely considered one of the best pitching coaches of all time, Leo Mazzone, who last summer famously deemed the Nats’ Strasburg shutdown plan ‘pathetic,’ has strong opinions on how to take care of pitchers. These quotes are from an interview he did on KFNS 590 AM in St. Louis on March 29, 2013.

“What professional baseball is doing now with pitchers clearly does not work because baseball has set a record for DLs and arm surgeries. We were proud of the health of our (Braves) pitching staffs. We rarely missed starts and we only had a couple of Tommy John surgeries on the Bobby Cox-Leo Mazzone watch.”

“That was because we tried to teach pitchers to throw more often with less exertion. Now they say not to throw or you can’t do this or that. When they go out, they throw as hard as they can because they are not throwing as much.”

“It is basically common sense and that is how you take care of a pitcher’s arm. You better be able to read a pitcher’s mechanics or read his body language. If you have to have a number for an inning or a number for a pitch count to determine whether you leave somebody in, then you shouldn’t be coaching.”

What about long toss?

“Long toss is anything further than sixty feet, six inches. If a pitcher can learn how to make his pitches do something without maxing out his effort, he creates longevity. I had our guys throwing more often but with less exertion. The critics would say I had them throwing too much. No, I’m controlling the effort. If they can learn how to do that, they lower the risk of arm injury.”

“This ain’t old school. If I wanted you to run seven miles in a week, would you feel better if you ran one mile a day to get your seven miles or if you ran your seven miles, took four days off, and did it again. It is common sense.”

Does the type of pitches they throw have an effect?

“It isn’t a particular pitch that hurts your arm. It’s a fallacy that if you throw a split it hurts your arm, or if you throw a slider when you are younger. That is a bunch of BS. What hurts your arm is when you max out on every pitch you throw.”

“A starting pitcher has to learn the amount of effort to put forth on a pitch to get the end result that he wants. That comes in trust in one’s self. How do you acquire that touch? You have to go down to the bullpen and work on it a little. Nothing crazy. I wanted to teach them how to change speeds and get a little touch on their fastball, get a good feel for their pitches. It was my job to regulate their effort.”

Listen to the interview (Segment 4).

Photo by Keith Allison