I will be in the minority here, and many will disagree with my sentiments and theories, but I believe pitch counts are a total farce. I believe Tommy John surgeries are performed when two weeks of rest would be a sufficient alternative.
Pitch counts were created by greedy agents who want their meal tickets to pitch as few innings as possible. What if I told you that I believe pitch counts could actually harm a pitcher and cause the needless surgeries? Do I have medical records to justify my belief? No, I do not. Am I a doctor? No, and I don’t even play one on TV. However, I have questions that I will ask for those of you who disagree with my theory.
1) Why is it that catchers don’t need reconstructive arm surgery? Granted, a catcher doesn’t wind up and throw the ball at top speed, but between warm up pitches and game day pitches, a catcher will throw a ball about 200 times a game. If he catches five games a week, that is 1,000 throws a week, excluding throws to bases.
2) Why did pitchers of the old days not have arm injuries at the alarming rate that they occur today? There is a very good chance that they did have arm issues, but technology did not reveal those issues. The point here, is that if they did have arm issues, THEY PITCHED THROUGH IT! Surgery was an absolute last option. Tom Seaver had 231 complete games in his career. Bob Gibson had 255 CG and averaged 17 a season. From 1968-1970 he averaged 305 innings, and he went 65-29 during that span. Steve Carlton had 254 CG in his career. The year he pitched 346 innings, he went 27-10. Juan Marichal pitched 321 innings in 1963 and went 25-8. The next season, he won 21 games despite the heavy workload from the previous season. In 1968, he pitched 325 innings while winning 26 games. The next season, he won 21 games.
Fergie Jenkins had four straight 300 inning seasons. He won 20 games all four seasons, and the following year he won 20 as well. And there are many others who have similar stats/seasons. Why did they not suffer serious arm injuries? By comparison, Pedro Martinez pitched 18 years and had 46 CG. In 1997/98 Martinez pitched 475 innings combined, the biggest two year innings total of his career. The next season, he went 23-4. Pedro’s injuries started to occur as pitch counts became more prevalent and his workload was cut back.
3) If you went to the gym, and worked out as hard as you could every fifth day, would you be more likely or less likely to sustain an injury than if you worked out hard every other day? The more you work out, the more your body gets used to the rigors and stress, thus avoiding muscle pulls and similar injuries.
4) When the Washington Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg, they put all sorts of restrictions on his pitch counts. The result: reconstructive surgery. How do we know that the decrease in innings didn’t negatively impact Strasburg? They shut Strasburg down last season to avoid losing him for an extended period of time…and in the process, they DID lose him for an extended period of time. I fail to see the logic.
5) Why do NFL quarterbacks not suffer similar arm injuries? They’re even taking hits while throwing footballs all week long.
Unfortunately, pitch counts are here to stay. Tommy John surgeries are also here to stay. In the 60′s, neither was part of baseball, and pitchers thrived. Today, both are in existence, and it costs pitchers 18 months of their careers. So we’ll continue to see stars go down to arm injuries. We’ll continue to see team’s aces coming out of a 2-2 game in the seventh inning, and being relieved by the team’s 8th best pitcher on the staff. Thank goodness those of us who are old enough were able to see pitchers pitch. Can you imagine Juan Marichal coming out of a tie game in the sixth inning in favor of Ron Herbel on a regular basis?