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_Whitetigress's avatar

Can you help me understand the strategy behind limiting young pitchers in the MLB?

Asked by _Whitetigress (4372points) August 21st, 2012

I’m particularly interested in the Strasburg limiting story. I know Mat Latos has been limited or was talked about being limited in San Diego about 2 years ago. But does this mean they will not pitch Strasburg in the playoffs? I really don’t understand this concept, is this new?

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4 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

I haven’t followed Strasburg this year.

This kind of pitch limitation strategy has been evolving for quite a few years now in MLB with nearly all pitchers. Most starting pitchers nowadays are on a pretty strict pitch count, generally about 100 pitches per game – assuming they haven’t been injured or shelled before that point, that they haven’t been pinch-hit for (in the NL), and that they haven’t become tired or cooled because of rain delays, their own team’s offensive explosion that has them waiting too long before the next inning, etc., and also assuming they aren’t about to make history sometimes by pitching a no-no or even a perfect game. Young pitchers without several years of Major League experience are limited even further (such as Joba Chamberlain in the AL, before he was injured this year – not specifically due to his pitching, though) so that they can build up to that kind of level and pitch for longer in the season and longer in their careers.

Only a few old-school pitchers are left, such as Roy Holliday, who wants and expects to go the distance every time he starts.

The reason for limiting pitches during the regular season games is because the season for playoff teams is now so much longer, for one thing, that it simply wouldn’t be smart for team management to allow the guys who got them to the playoffs to be burnt out by the time they start that second season. But it’s also about the pitchers’ career longevity. You want to have young pitchers work up to a point where they can consistently throw 100-pitch games over time and for many years, without expecting them to do that right out of the gate. This is especially true of fireballers like Strasburg. And that describes “most young pitchers” these days. Few pitchers start their careers as knuckleballers and crafty “spotters” who can trick batters with sinkers, wicked curves and pinpoint placement anywhere around the plate.

wonderingwhy's avatar

As @CWOTUS pointed out limiting pitch counts and innings when a young player is just getting into the majors isn’t really new, it’s just become more prevalent as teams focus on getting the most out of the player over the long haul rather than just the particular season in question. Though not everyone agrees with or implements it.

In Strasburg’s case he needed Tommy John surgery in 2010 and after rehab this season was his first full effort since the injury. The team and doctor agreed that it would be best for his recovery if he followed the same type of limited innings process Jordan Zimmerman did when he suffered the same injury, a process that seems to have worked well. The Nat’s are looking long term, they’ve said they’re just not interested in risking Strasburg’s career over a single shot at the playoffs. I think Davey Johnson will hold firm on, if not the exact number of innings, the idea of shutting him down regardless of the team’s position in the standings. It also didn’t help that early on (I’m not sure if this has changed this season) Strasburg’s mechanics were considered a risk for exactly the kind of injury he suffered – just one more reason to be careful in bringing him back.

Here’s a recent article and I’m sure the Washington Post has numerous articles and arguments covering all sides of it as well.

Ponderer983's avatar

I follow baseball religiously and I still don’t get it. I do, but I don’t. The Yankees did it with Joba Chamberlain and he had to have Tommy John surgery anyway. If someone can help you now, and possibly win a World Series, throw all inhibition to the wind and go for it! I doubt that the revenue from having a kid around maybe a few more years will generate more revenue for the team than if they win the World Series just once in his career.
@CWOTUS As I mentioned, Joba had Tommy john, but he was delayed in coming back this year because he dislocated his ankle.
Part of this thinking is that the Major League season is longer than the Minor league season, so the young pitchers are not used to throwing for such a long season and don’t have the stamina yet to pitch a full year. Though this only seems to be an issue when it comes to possible “star” pitchers. You don’t see your run-of-the-mill rookie starter on an innings limit. Favoritism I tell you lol!

CWOTUS's avatar

I think a key difference, @Ponderer983, as I alluded to at the end of my earlier post, was that what are often considered “run of the mill” rookie pitchers are some of the ones who will (or might) develop as the ones who hone the “craft” of pitching, and aren’t the fireballers that Chamberlain and Strasburg are.

In addition to “taking care of the franchise” by taking care of young talent, a lot of free agents make up their minds about which team’s offer to accept later in their careers based on how well they perceive the team does take care of the whole staff. If they think they’ll get good coaching, good medical advice and “best advice” in general from one team over another, it might make the difference in accepting a slightly lower offer for the return of a longer and more profitable career. The game is a business, after all. (Which is another reason that responsible – businesslike – owners don’t take the approach you seem to recommend and ‘use them up, wear them out, make them do, or do without’.) They want to win, obviously, but they want to be able to compete next year, too, without having to make expensive free agent acquisitions to replace the rookies and others they ruined this year.

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