Last week, Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw threw 132 pitches, recording all but the final out in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals. Not that long ago such a number would barely raise an eyebrow. If there was any debate after the game, it likely would’ve centered on why manager Don Mattingly didn’t let the Texan record the final out for a complete game shutout.
Except everybody in baseball circles loves to talk pitch counts. It doesn’t matter what side of the argument you stand on, say “pitch count” and you’ll get a spirited debate.
Tonight Kershaw (4-2, 1.40) makes his first start since throwing said 130 pitches in Milwaukee against the Brewers. The Wall Street Journal decided to examine the last 10 pitchers to throw over 130 pitches in a game, trying to draw some conclusions and if Dodgers fans — well, the ones who are still on board with the disappointing 17-25 squad which is the highest-paid in baseball — should be concerned about their 25-year-old ace moving forward as he looks for his third straight ERA title.
The WSJ’s list includes the likes of durable horses like Justin Verlander, but also pitchers who’ve been injured like Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter and recent disabled list member Roy Halladay. Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright made the list, too, for a start in September 2009 when he threw 130 pitches. He later had elbow surgery, but is back this season pitching to a 2.51 ERA.
The WSJ admits the sample size is small but does write:
To be sure, teams are more aware of high-pitch outings than ever. As recently as 2003, there were 26 starts of at least 130 pitches. In 2012, there were three. Kershaw’s is the only one so far in 2013.
For years the growing trend, at least on many tv broadcasts, is that once a pitcher hits the 100-pitch threshold in a given start he should be yanked from the mound with his arm the encased in ice and in bubblewrap. It just strikes me as odd that in almost all other aspects of sports (and life) we accept that people and their bodies are all different, yet we’ve come up with this idea that the arm, the elbow ligaments of every pitcher in baseball should be treated the same way.
If a pitcher throws 99 pitches in a start is he any more likely to injure his arm had he thrown 101?
People in baseball seem hell-bent on finding a “magic number” of pitches in any given start that will prevent arm injuries. It makes sense to study this since pitchers are a big investment and a key to winning, but no matter what, injuries are still going to occur regardless of the number you come up with for pitch counts or innings limits.
Anyways, your move tonight Clayton. Godspeed.
[Photo via Getty]