The other day someone was telling me about this freshman left-handed pitcher who threw consecutive complete-game victories on his school’s sophomore team. Good for him, I said. Then he tells me that in both games the pitcher threw 120-plus pitches.
In a newspaper I read about a sophomore pitcher. He was just getting acquainted with varsity competition when he threw eight sterling innings and 126 pitches in a no-decision.
Comb through the PBR daily game roundups in all our coverage areas and you routinely read about pitchers gutting through nine innings of work, in less-than-ideal conditions, early in the season.
Every year I am astounded by the lack of mindfulness about pitch counts. Especially early in the season, when the weather isn’t good, when the wins aren’t as consequential and, most importantly, when the pitcher is still getting his sea legs underneath him.
It’s absurd to think that a single game - ultimately meaningless in the big picture – is really that important to keep trotting a pitcher out there when a coach knows that the kid’s pitch count has exceeded dangerous levels. Even if a coach doesn’t care about the individual, and only about the team’s success, you would still think he could see the forest from the trees, which is, if he overthrows his pitcher, he may be broken down when he needs him most – in the playoffs.
Maybe the coach doesn’t keep pitch counts? If that’s the case, he shouldn’t be coaching.
There are many coaches out there who are sticklers about pitch counts. That no matter the situation, whether the kid is working a complete-game gem, a no-hitter, whatever, he’s coming out of the game once his pitch number reaches a certain level. I’ve seen it many times when the coach will take out his ace because of a high pitch count, and the next pitcher blows a five-run lead. The team loses, but the coach can sleep easy that night (probably won’t, though) because he was protecting the kid and had the bigger picture in mind.
And when I say bigger picture, I’m talking about the kid’s future and the team’s ultimate success come late May, early June.