FanDuel - WFBC

May 21, 2010

Nolan Ryan's Crusade: When Nolan Ryan says pitchers can throw more, he speaks from experience: In 1989, at age 42, he threw 166 pitches for Texas in a loss to the Royals. It's the second-highest total by a nonknuckleballer since STATS LLC began tracking pitches in 1988.

posted by mjkredliner to baseball at 12:10 PM - 14 comments

This is another one of those cases where the scouts side of the scouts v. nerds argument badly mis-states the nerds' case. I'd put the nerds case as, "Some pitchers' arms can only tolerate 100 pitchers per start. Other pitchers can tolerate more. Some can tolerate much more. The problem is no one knows how to tell the groups apart."

posted by yerfatma at 12:44 PM on May 21

When Wayne Gretzky says players can make amazing blind passes to streaking wingers, he speaks from experience.

When Ted Williams says batters can hold off on pitches only inches from the outside of the plate, and drive pitches over the plate, he speaks from experience.

When Barry Sanders says running backs can jive and juke around any defensive players in their way, he speaks from experience.

When Michael Jordan says basketball players can dunk from the foul line, he speaks from experience.

posted by grum@work at 01:35 PM on May 21

"Backing away from the pitcher's limits too far doesn't make a pitcher less vulnerable; it makes him more vulnerable. And pushing the envelope, while it may lead to a catastrophic event, is more likely to enhance the pitcher's durability than to destroy it."

This was always my argument. Conditioning for this starts at a very young age, and youth/H.S. coaches baby the "Stars" arms. Simply speaking......these guys just don't have the conditioning. It wasn't that long ago that closers were almost unheard of, and there were fewer relievers. Guys threw complete games in a smaller rotation. I guess you can blame money for most of it. These arms today are worth an awful lot of dough......and the contract is guaranteed.

posted by kcfan4life at 01:48 PM on May 21

Which explains why Ryan's 383-strikeout mark won't be broken and why there won't be 25-win pitchers as long as there are five-man rotations.

It also seems to me the pitchers of yesteryear, pitching more innings under a four-man rotation, with "closers" pitching more than one inning, were far better performers than today. On top of that, how many teams blow games when a starter goes 6 or 7 strong innings before a manager moves into situational mode?

posted by jjzucal at 02:21 PM on May 21

This was always my argument. Conditioning for this starts at a very young age, and youth/H.S. coaches baby the "Stars" arms. Simply speaking......these guys just don't have the conditioning.

Counterpoint from my local paper yesterday:

In a 6-3 victory over Norman North in a May 12 state tournament contest, Dylan Bundy had a pitch count of 112. In two Saturday meetings with Jenks, his combined totals were 10 innings, 181 pitches and 20 strikeouts.

"No, I don't regret letting him go 181 pitches," Denver Bundy said. "We trained for that number of pitches. (However), we didn't train for such a long delay between the two games. That wasn't good."

In three games played within a span of four days, Dylan Bundy threw 293 pitches.

His 293rd pitch was a 92 mph fastball.

"Every inning, (Bundy) reassured us that he was OK," Owasso coach Larry Turner said. "I had (Owasso senior) Ryan Wilson talk to him between innings, because sometimes a guy will say things to a teammate that he wouldn't say to a coach. Dylan said he was OK, and believe me, we checked every inning."

Dylan Bundy's response: "A lot of people talk crap about coach Turner. I'm the one who decided that I could throw that much. My dad and I had talked about it. I was up for it."

"You can put in there that it was my choice," Dylan added. "Not coach Turner's or coach Stump's (Rams pitching coach Jason Stump). Long games and proper rest make you stronger."

I don't have a dog in this fight. My baseball career was short-lived and pretty forgettable. I just thought I'd toss this into the discussion.

posted by Ufez Jones at 02:40 PM on May 21

to yerfama's point, some pitchers are better suited to throwing 166 pitches than others. By the time one gets to the majors I would think that coaches would have a pretty clear understanding of which pitchers can handle more, but so many variables play into each game that any hard fast rule is bound to cause trouble. What is the temp and humidity? Obviously, a cold damp day might be cause for concern, just as a very hot humid day might.

How has the game progressed? Too many pitches in one inning might shorten the day for someone that could normally throw 150 pitches. Has the pitcher been throwing a lot of fast balls? The list goes on...

In regard to Ufez's link...I always cringe a bit when a see a father and/or coaches pushing a high school kid too far. Sure, the kid said he was fine, but what kid is going to voluntarily take himself out of a game. They always want the ball, and the coach is there to make the smart decisions, not leaving it up to a 17 year old to do so.

From further down in the link: Dr. James Andrews, a Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic surgeon who is regarded as the nation's leading authority on elbow and shoulder issues, says the overuse of young arms results in a dramatically increased risk of injury. Andrews recommends a single-day pitch limit of 105 for players in the 17-18 age range, and 95 for players in the 13-16 age group.

"In three weeks the last two weeks of April and the first week of May I did 36 Tommy John procedures (the surgical reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow)," Andrews said on Wednesday. "Most of them were high school kids. That's unbelievable. That's a major operation.

"We're seeing more of that type injury now in high school than we do in the pros and college. It used to be just the opposite."

posted by dviking at 03:54 PM on May 21

Back in the day, pitchers also used to work more quickly and innings were done with faster. There are multiple benefits to the pitcher on the mound in working more quickly - and the opposing pitcher spends less time sitting in the dugout with his warmup on. Especially in the AL, where he's not going to get an at bat anyway.

I'm glad Ryan is trying to toss out some of the overthinking and letting these guy rip. All the arms are insured, and if they have shorter careers, they'll still have lots of dough and they'll still be better off than brain damaged NFL guys like Ted Johnson.

posted by beaverboard at 09:04 PM on May 21

Time was when kids developed their arms not by throwing but by working. Kids from rural areas chopped wood, mended fences, and worked the farms, while kids in the cities and suburbs hoed the garden, cut the lawn (with a push mower), and worked other labor jobs. This developed their bodies without unduly straining the throwing muscles, and by the time they did start to throw, they were more ready to work. Kids now are throwing competitively as early as 10-years-old. In spite of all the cautionary tales, young kids are still trying to snap off curve balls, with or without dad's or the coach's knowledge. It's a different world now. I think someone who threw fast balls almost exclusively could survive with consistently high pitch counts, but such pitchers are few. The way closers are used now has more to do with introducing a fresh arm at the end of the game than it has to do with proving how many innings you can get. Someone needs to acquaint Nolen Ryan with the game as it is played today.

posted by Howard_T at 09:08 PM on May 21

All the arms are insured, and if they have shorter careers, they'll still have lots of dough and they'll still be better off than brain damaged NFL guys like Ted Johnson.

Most of the "arms" don't have big time contracts when they are young. Some of them might get a one time signing bonus for a few hundred thousand, but if they are out of baseball at age 24 and have only made a million dollars, what do they do with the next 40 years of their life? 90% of them don't have any other useful skills, other than the physical ones that have now been destroyed.

It also seems to me the pitchers of yesteryear, pitching more innings under a four-man rotation, with "closers" pitching more than one inning, were far better performers than today.

I think that's a classic case of "things were better in the old days" thinking. Three of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game have been in the last 20 years (Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux) and another one that matches up with "old timers" favourite, Sandy Koufax (Pedro Martinez).

The major difference between today and "back in the day" is that the worst hitter on a team in 2010 is probably 3 times better than the worst hitter on a team in 1960 (or 1950, 1940, etc). There aren't as many "easy outs".

posted by grum@work at 09:36 PM on May 21

There aren't as many "easy outs".

Exactly. And the approach to the game has changed. It's not acceptable to have everyone swinging at the first pitch any more. For me, the classic statement on this was when former Sox closer Dick Radatz was on WEEI ranting about one-inning closers. He went on and on about how he pitched 3/4/5 inning saves all the time prompting an enraged "Dennis in the car" to call in and say, "And then your fucking arm fell off."

One of the zillion reasons I love Dennis Eckersley.

posted by yerfatma at 08:28 AM on May 22

... if they are out of baseball at age 24 and have only made a million dollars, what do they do with the next 40 years of their life?

I hate the way some kids pitch their arms out in their youth. But if you can't figure out what to do with your life at age 24 with a million dollars in the bank, that's nobody's problem but your own. The guys I feel for are the ones who hover near the majors deep into their 30s and never make it.

One of my favorite Rangers is Nick Capra, who only got into 45 Major League games in his career. On his last callup at age 33, he got no at-bats that season and scored one run. It was a squeeze play that decided the game. He cried tears of joy during the postgame interview, as if he knew it would turn out to be his last appearance in the bigs.

In the minors, Capra amassed 1,854 hits in 17 seasons.

posted by rcade at 08:33 AM on May 22

But if you can't figure out what to do with your life at age 24 with a million dollars in the bank, that's nobody's problem but your own.

Of course, they don't get a million dollars. They get around $700,000 after taxes and commissions. Spread over 40 years, that's not much to live on.

posted by grum@work at 10:16 AM on May 22

I don't get the excess of sympathy. A talentless former pitcher with $700K in the bank is still way ahead of most 24 year olds. He could pay for an entire Ivy League education and still have several hundred thousand, or start a business or just invest the money while he develops a new career. If he earned 5% return, he could pay himself $35,000 a year without touching the principal.

What's the worst-case scenario for a million-dollar bonus baby who doesn't make it? Just about any of them could go back to school for a teaching degree and end up coaching baseball at a high school, if that's what they wanted. They'd have enough money in the bank to survive the lean years -- I know someone who's an assistant high school coach paying his dues, and it's a hard salary to raise a family on.

posted by rcade at 01:50 PM on May 22

Yeah, guess what - I'm not in the same career I was when I was 24 either. And there was a distinct lack of a signing bonus to eat from when I was 'released'.

No - if you have to quit at 24, I'm sorry if you don't get to retire. Life is tough, get a helmet.

I think the differences are that kids are probably over-training/working their shoulder while it's still growing and throwing hellacious breaking stuff really early on. It's a harder game now.

IIRC Ryan's regime was so much more focused on his legs and lower body. But guys like him and Randy Johnson are sorta the exception to most rules aren't they?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:56 AM on May 23

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