Use and Abuse

In recent GameThreads we've had some vigorous discussion of pitch counts, spurred mostly by familiarity with the work of Rany Jazayerli and Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus and a resulting general caution about the workload of starting pitchers. The main question has been whether Hillman's use of Bannister and Greinke in recent starts has subjected them a greater probability of decline or injury, and the answer — with the proviso that all pitchers are always subject to injury — is no, there is no reason to anticipate a greater likelihood of trouble.

Other writers have responded to the BP study with additional research that may be of interest to folks who have seen only the BP material. So for further reading on this topic for those inclined to this sort of thing, I've collected several links here for convenience that I've mostly provided elsewhere in now days-old GameThreads.

1) Bill James's chapter on Abuse and Durability in the Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers, which is a direct response to the BP work. Excerpt:

Surprising as it may be, and surprising as it certainly was to me, the pitchers identified by Keith and Rany as "abused" performed consistently and dramatically better in subsequent seasons than did the most-comparable pitchers. Not worse, not even "as well", which would have been sufficient to question the method, but better — consistently, and by wide margins.

The book this comes from is fascinating; this chapter stands apart from its main content, so even if this stuff seems dry to you it's still worth a look. Amazon's got it here and even allows you to read a few pages of the relevant chapter on the durability of pitchers. Click their "Search Inside!" link, search for Abuse and Durability, start on page 449, and read as long as Amazon will let you. Then I highly recommend that you buy a copy for yourself from your bookseller of choice.

2) Painting a Fake Tunnel on a Blind Alley by Don Malcolm at Baseball Think Factory. If you think the exchange here at Royals Review on this subject has been combative, you may not be ready for Malcolm.

3) What Pitch Counts Hath Wrought by Steve Treder at The Hardball Times. Excerpt:

 ...the modern pitch count obsession is something I've been perplexed about for years, and I'm very glad to see such prominent voices as James and Malcolm saying what ought to be said. The extreme focus on counting pitches in the modern era has not only meaningfully reduced the proportion of pitching that is performed by every team's best pitchers -- thus increasing the proportion pitched by the worst -- it has done so while producing no noticeable reduction in pitching injuries.

4) Don’t Fear the Reaper by Walt Davis at Baseball Think Factory, which points out some flaws in Treder's article above. Excerpt:

 An important finding in Steve [Treder]’s analysis is that the current low seasonal pitch count trend began in 1984, twenty years ago. This was long before anyone came up with PAP. And unless there was some secret sabermetric revolution 20 years ago, the move to low seasonal pitch counts was the result of “old school” thinking (or “new old school” thinking).

So while there’s much to criticize in BP’s work on pitch counts, it was folks like Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa, Chuck Tanner, etc. who created the low seasonal pitch count environment.

5) What Pitch Counts Hath Wrought: Part Deux, Treder's follow-up at The Hardball Times, in which he addresses earlier flaws and reasserts the known facts about injuries: no decrease in spite of reduced pitching workloads.

6) The Book: Playing The Percentages In Baseball, by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin, touches upon a wide ranges of topics briefly but effectively. It's one of my favorite books of the last several years, on any subject. It touches upon pitch count limits in a section called Physical Limits, starting on page 185. You can find the book here at Amazon, but sadly there's no electronic version available there. Excerpt:

Pitch count levels may be useful for other purposes. For example, perhaps a string of high pitch count outings might have a long-term effect on a pitcher. But, on a game-by-game level? We don't think so.

So there you have a brief overview of the ongoing discussion. Everybody who is losing sleep about Banny and Greinke: I believe you have what's known as fan anxiety. It doesn't ever go away, but if you read some of the links above, you may be able to distract yourself from it temporarily.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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