I just got done reading the article posted by Tim Kurkjian on ESPN.com (check it out here Baseball's magic number: 100). Within this article Kurkjian covers the issue of pitch counts and it's current magic number of 100 pitches for pitchers in today current game. Pitch counts are in place to protect players arms, but maybe even more important to managers trying to protect their jobs. Managers that limit players to pitch counts can save themselves the blame if their players do end up getting injured. Managers ultimately are the one's who call the shots and in this case are held responsible for the period of time they leave their pitchers on the mound. As soon as a pitcher is fatigued or injured and misses time, the first question is whether or not the player was asked to throw to many pitches in his previous outings. Kurkjian made it clear that a pitch today is thrown with more stress and intensity due to the shrunken strike zone and increase of strength and speed of the batter's they are facing (perhaps due to steroids in some cases).
I noticed the increased amount of attention broadcasters pay towards a pitchers pitch count as the innings progress. This amount of attention by the media places a lot of attention towards players that end up going over 100 pitches. Broadcasters, fans, and analysts will all begin to break down and analyze a players pitch count in fine detail if they head on the DL. This puts pressure on managers to not encourage or allow high pitch counts. As starters are very aware of their limited pitch count, it encourages to them to throw each pitch with higher intensity and physical effort. I believe pitch counts are necessary to keep pitchers healthy and allow pitchers to go out there and make every pitch count.
How does pitch counts affect the game?
The game has evolved to require teams to carry multiple pitchers in their staff. The role of middle relief (set-up men) has become of increased importance. I think in some ways it makes the game very exciting and intriguing to watch. As the game play's itself out, I find myself wondering when the next pitching change will take place while constantly analyzing match up's. Since starting pitchers go anywhere from a couple of innings to six or seven on average, the strength and depth of a bullpen often determines how well a team does throughout the duration of the season. Personally, I find those innings of relief-work to be the most interesting to watch as managers determine their strategy and approach to get the opposing hitters out. Often times, many relief pitchers are only brought in to face one batter and to get one out (if they are successful). I think the stress of pitch count's has increased this aspect of the game since starters are beginning to leave games earlier then before. I enjoy trying to make my own decisions on when pitching moves are needed and if a manager should decide to make a move, I watch to see if it's a success or utter failure.
The amount of attention placed on a pitcher's count makes it tremendously hard to throw a complete game in today's game. This is why Roy Halladay's ability to finish so many games makes him one of my favorite pitchers. I'm tuned in as he is currently on the mound for perhaps the last time as a Blue Jay against the Seattle Mariners. As an Angel's fan let's see if Roy can shut down the Mariners!
How do you feel about the increased emphasis on pitch counts determining how long a pitcher stays on the mound? (Good/Bad/Undecided?)
1 day ago