NY Sports Dog: Let's Talk Starter Pitch Counts

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let's Talk Starter Pitch Counts

In a recent article in the USA Today, Gary Thorne talks about how Nolan Ryan is changing the way the Rangers think about pitch counts.

Under the leadership of club president Nolan Ryan, the Texas Rangers have embarked on a pitching experiment that could be called "back to the future on the mound."

The experiment may also have a major impact on the use of the dreaded pitch count which has been in vogue for perhaps too long in MLB

Ryan has banished the use of the pitch count in determining how long a pitcher stays in the game through out the organization.

Of course, every pitching coach will know that count, but that is no longer the criteria for when to pull a pitcher. We are primarily talking starters here, a role Ryan filled to HOF standards, going deep into games.

If a pitch count had been around when Ryan pitched, he would have been out in the third or fourth inning of most games with all the strikeouts and walks.
With that information in hand, I decided to take a look at how the Mets starters have fared thus far to see if we can answer the question, "are they working hard enough?"

Johan Santana
- 4 Games, 403 Pitches, 100.8 Per Game
Apr 6: 99 (W) 5.2 IP
Apr12: 98 (L) 7.0 IP
Apr 18: 102 (W) 7.0 IP
Apr 24: 104 (W) 6.0 IP

Mike Pelfrey - 3 Games, 287 Pitches, 95.7 Per Game
Apr 8: 104 (W) 5.0 IP
Apr 13: 88 (ND) 5.0 IP
Apr 25: 95 (W) 5.2 IP

Oliver Perez - 4 Games, 374 Pitches, 93.5 Per Game
Apr 9: 100 (L) 4.1 IP
Apr 15: 90 (W) 6.0 IP
Apr 21: 92 (ND) 4.2 IP
Apr 26: 92 (L) 4.1 IP

John Maine - 4 Games, 392 Pitches, 98.0 Per Game
Apr 10: 83 (ND) 5.0 IP
Apr 16: 105 (L) 5.0 IP
Apr 22: 111 (L) 5.2 IP
Apr 27: 94 (W) 6.0 IP

Livan Hernandez - 3 Games, 270 Pitches, 90.0 Per Game
Apr 11: 99 (W) 6.2 IP
Apr 17: 92 (ND) 5.0 IP
Apr 23: 79 (W) 4.1 IP

Nelson Figueroa - 1 Game, 91 Pitches, 91.0 Per Game
Apr 19: 91 (L) 6.0 IP

Totals: 19 Games, 1,817 Pitches, 95.6 Pitches Per Game

The obvious answer to our question, "are they working hard enough?" is no. But there is more--it can also be argued that Jerry Manuel has had an early hook and is something of an "over-rely on the bullpen" manager.

There have been several games in which the starter was moving along effectively, only to get pulled from the game a batter, an inning, or more, too soon.

Now obviously Jerry has his reasons, and they go far beyond my basic analysis here. My belief is that a major league starter should possess the ability to extend themselves at least into the 110-120 pitch range, and that a starter bears responsibility for saving his bullpen when he is able to.

In the Mets first 19 games, only John Maine has thrown as many as 110 pitches, and in 13 of the 19 games, the starter has failed to even reach the 100 pitch mark.

While there's no question that in many of those games an ineffective starter has forced the team to go to the bullpen early, that has not always been the case. We can look to John Maine's most recent game to see the early hook for a starter having a great game with a low pitch count.

At the end of the day, the Mets starters are simply going to have to extend themselves into the 7th and even 8th innings of games for this team to consistently win in 2009. We saw a tired and rundown bullpen in 2008, and my fear is that the early signs are pointing toward a similiar fate in 2009.

Now let me add a little more fuel to this debate.

JJ Putz is on pace for over 85 innings. The most he has thrown in his career is 78.1, and remember he is coming off injury.

Sean Green is on pace for 90 innings. This is the guy that was overused last year, and he broke down because of it.

The pundits talk about not overworking your starters early, but it's just as important to not overwork your bullpen early.
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Mack said...

Sadly, this is the horse we bought to run the race...

Obviously, I have no problem with Santana, and IMO, Pelfrey and Maine will settle down... but that's it... neither Livan or Ollie are going to work out this year.

All the Mets can do is:

1. activate Redding the micro-second they can

2. decide who Redding replaces. either Ollie or Livan

3. put that person in the pen as another long man to relieve the pressure on the pen

4. go shopping for an SP4 or 5 a la Peavy or someone like that, by packaging together a deal like the Santana deal...

5.. the only other option... this year... would be Figgy, which would quite a hoot, especially after the way he was treated 2 weeks ago.

Neither Holt or Niese is anywhere close to ready


Dave Singer said...

Great stuff Mack.

I think for the most part we're OK, especially if we get Perez straightened out.

That said, the Green and Putz numbers are really worrisome.

Both guys have been overused.

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