Sunday, August 15, 2010


Ron Gardenhire was absolutely right.

And I'm writing this as the enemy. I've researched studies that "proved" pitch count lead to injuries, wrote about it in three parts, and concluded that pitch counts are BS.

But I'm surprised there is even any debate about whether Gardenhire should have pulled Kevin Slowey after seven inning of no-hit baseball. I assume that most of the venom is coming from people who dislike Gardenhire as a manager, and looking for some fuel for the fire. This isn't it. And again, this is coming from someone who thinks pitch counts are terribly overused. Here was my summary of that research:

The 100 pitch count “limit” was ingrained in people’s noggins before this study. The original PAP metric had sabremetrics lovers everywhere analyzing and criticizing managers for fragging their players' arms, present company included. The revised metric supposedly brought it even more credence.

It didn’t. The study of pitch counts appears to – as Bill James wrote a couple of years later – resulted in a dead end. The evidence shows that pitchers arms are no more affected in the short or long term by 125 pitches than they are by 100, and barely affected up to 139 pitches. And pitch counts like that almost never happen in major league baseball these days.

I’m not advocating pushing the limit to 180 pitches. But maybe Bert is right: we can trust the opposing batters to indicate to a pitcher when he is done, and rely a lot less on arbitrary pitch counts.

If Kevin Slowey wasn't battling tendinitis, or didn't skip a start, I'd fully support the flack that Gardenhire is getting. But if that wasn't true, I'm just as sure that Gardenhire would not have pulled him. In fact, I think it's funny that of all managers, Gardenhire is the one getting criticized for not giving his player a chance to get an individual accomplishment.

If anything, Gardenhire jumps through hoops to get his players those laurels. He juggles his bullpen to get his closer saves. He'll nurse starting pitchers in close games to the end of an inning, in the hope of getting his guy a win. He pays close attention to milestones his hitters are reaching, and he's extremely cautious about moving players around in the field or the lineup, for fear of embarrassing them.

There is NO WAY he wanted to pull Slowey. He admitted as much after the game. Even said he would "Boo" himself for it. Anyone who watches him manage must know this. It goes against his every instinct.

But you don't F with a pitcher with a sore elbow. Slowey threw a season high 114 pitches last week - and ended up missing a start. Extending Slowey to pitch past that number is a reasonable goal that both he, Gardenhire and Rick Anderson should embrace. But not coming off an injury. That's just nuts - and whether a no-hitter was in play or not is relatively irrelevant.

Gardenhire and coach Rick Anderson showed they are willing to take the heat - from fans, announcers and probably their own team - to watch out for the longer term interested of a team and for a young arm's career. By doing so, they showed foresight, caring, courage and leadership. And that should be celebrated, not criticized.


mike said...


walter hanson said...

You know years ago they made a movie about Joe Torre's first season as the Yankees manager and they did a couple of minutes about Cone's no hitter situation (he was pulled after seven innings also).

Torre made a good point to Cone in the movie. Even if he had a quick and good eighth inning he wasn't going to have a ninth inning.

Pulling Cone who was also coming off an injury was a good move.

What has fans so mad is that the pitcher he selected Rausch gave up a couple of hits.

Besides given the logic he used about something that I complained about earlier (not having both Liriano and Carl pitch against the White Sox) this is consistent with that decision.

Walter Hanson
Minneapolis, MN

TT said...

"The evidence shows that pitchers arms are no more affected in the short or long term by 125 pitches than they are by 100"

To the extent this is true, and I am not sure it really is, by "short term" you are not talking about the current game. Its pretty clear that most of the time pitchers are not as effective at 125 pitches as they are at 100. Which is relevant to this:

"we can trust the opposing batters to indicate to a pitcher when he is done"

I think this is the real reason pitch counts are used. The idea is to get pitchers out of the game BEFORE the batters indicate they are done. Bert is talking about an era when bullpens were largely composed of mediocre arms. But most teams now have bullpen pitchers who are going to be more effective than a tired starter.

I think if Slowey had not been coming off an injury, the decision might have been the same. Injury is an easy excuse for Gardenhire, rather than saying he took away Slowey's opportunity to throw a no hitter because he didn't have confidence in him. Without that excuse, he might have felt compelled to leave Slowey out there. But it would be against his better judgement and Slowey would have had a very short leash.

Its very unlikely Slowey would have got through two more innings. Imagine that he walks a couple more batters. Then Rauch comes in with the game on the line. This decision wasn't even a close call.

David said...

Nicely put, John. I think it's telling that, even considering the diverse approaches and opinions of Twins bloggers everywhere, Gardenhire's decision has been lauded. That's no small feat.

David said...

*has been universally lauded.

hoffrey said...

I'm so glad you and I have the same opinion on this.

Anonymous said...

The whole concept of pitch counts is academic because every team wants to get their late inning bullpen envolved asap.

richy starkey