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Pitch Counts

No, this won’t be another rant about the responsibility (or lack thereof) that college coaches have towards balancing saving their own hides by pleasing the alumni base by winning as many ballgames as possible in the short-term with respecting the overall health and potential loss of future professional earnings of student-athletes supposedly under their care. (Man, how’s that for a run-on sentence? My high school English teacher must be rolling in her grave…). Nor will it be a treatise on how often evidence showing high pitch counts (especially pitch counts over 120) as dangerous to a pitcher’s long-term health and short-term performance is ignored by a certain segment of the population, a group that still believes in the infallibility of many of the arm shredding techniques of yesteryear. (Not only a run-on sentence, but also awkwardly worded…I’m on a roll!). No, none of that – not today, anyway.

All I’m trying to say is that high pitch counts absolutely have to be considered when teams stack their draft boards each year. Nothing more, nothing less. To that end, let’s take a quick look after the jump at a few of the big names stretched beyond a “safe” number of pitches this past weekend…

Victor Black (below the radar a tiny bit, but a real live arm without a ton of miles) threw 126 pitches for Dallas Baptist against Texas A&M last Thursday. Mike Leake (138 pitches) and Kyle Gibson (124), both future first rounders, had busier than necessary weekends. Other potential late first/supplemental first/second round arms with excessive workloads this past weekend include Kendal Volz (134), Brad Boxberger (134 – estimate), Sam Dyson (139), and James Paxton (132). Leake, Gibson, and Dyson (a pitcher still recovering from a major arm injury for Pete’s sake!) have all gone over 120 pitches three times this year. Boxberger and Paxton have each only gone over the 120 pitch mark twice, but this is the fifth (fifth!) time for Volz. How can Volz not get knocked back a few spots on a team’s draft board based even on this simple fact alone? It may be worthwhile to go back and see past heavy collegiate usage to compare it to early professional arm troubles. The Rice guys (Savery, Townsend, Niemann, Humber…and going back a few years, Baugh and Matt Anderson) are the classic example of this, but I wonder if there has been more formal research done on the subject. By the way, all information on pitch counts was obtained from the absolutely positively wonderful Boyd’s World – now that’s a site that I need to link to on the sidebar.

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