pitch counts and a 4-man rotation

I just want to open a discussion about pitch counts and a 4-man rotation. Concerning the first, is there any substantial reasoning behind a pitch count? Who set the 120 pitch limit? Concerning the latter, MLB changed from a 4-man rotation in the later 70’s and early 80’s to a 5-man rotation. Is there any evidence to support the change? Pitchers seemed to be doing fine before the change.

I have opinions of my own on these two matters primarily from experience, but I have not seen any scientific evidence to argue an advantage/disadvantage either way.

Very good questions … I’m looking forward to seeing what you all come up with, too…

The five man rotation was started in about 1981 by the Dodgers. They did it simply because they had five good pitchers. Most teams now shouldn’t use five men because all that does is take starts away from the one and two starters and give them to the four and the fives. It’s funny, in the playoffs when it really counts, teams don’t use five men. I wonder why? Maybe it’s because they want to win more games…

As for pitch counts, whatever number the pitcher begins to lose effectiveness is when they should be taken out. That’s why they pay the guys in the 'pen.

BTW all of these thoughts are influenced by Will Carroll’s book “Saving the Pitcher.” It’s slightly dated but it’s good. In the book there was a graphic about pitch counts and it showed where different pitchers average pitch count when there performance saw a dropoff (what pitch #). That was when it was the best time for them to be taken out.

Thank you for your reply Bakersdozen. I mentioned in my post about my experience as a player concerning my two questions. I can relate the two questions to my last two seasons in independent baseball.

My season in 2007 was a very average season numbers wise. I feel I had an inexperienced manager as far as running a pitching staff. All season I felt like was being pulled early in relation to the game and my pitch counts. I threw more than 120 pitches that season twice and was kept around 100 for the most part. My health was great all season with no soreness and I never saw a drop in velocity.

In comparison, my 2008 season was much different than the prior. My new manager was an ‘old-school guy’ who believed in a 4-man rotation with minimal restraints on pitch count. He didn’t focus on the overall load or running total, but rather the inning load. He felt that heavy pitch counts in a single inning were far more stressful than the overall total. Like I said, my 2008 season was much different. Over 21 starts I threw a total of 148 innings. About half of my starts were on a shortened three day rest. Again, I felt no soreness and never had a drop in velocity. As the season progressed, I began to feel stronger as I approached 120 pitches and I had several quality starts where my pitch count reached into the high 130’s and even into the 140’s. My numbers were also very different. My era was over one full point lower and for the most part every category was improved. Now I am not contributing shortened rest and fewer limitations on pitch count to a better season. I am merely comparing my health between the two seasons in relation to my two questions.

I know from talking to other players that there are some teams in independent baseball that utilize a 4-man rotation. One of those teams is the Gary Rail Cats in the Northern League. They use a 4-man rotation for their entire 96 game schedule. Gary has had one of the best pitching staffs over the past 4 years in the Northern League and has won a few league championships as well. I do know that with the 4-man rotation Gary uses they also keep a strict pitch count on their pitchers.

My experience and the Gary Rail Cats of the Northern League show positives for a 4-man rotation and lower limitations on a pitch count.

i think the five man rotation is stupid
the number 5 startes(sometimes 4) suck
i dont think pitcher needs a week of rest
wang, chamberlain, mussina, pettitte
kazmir, garza, sheilds, sonnastine
lowe, penny, kuroda, bannister
mlb teams waste money on #5 starters that could be a extra position player

pitch count has no purpose
a guy can throw 25 pitches an inning and still not give up a hit or run
i think a pitcher should pitch until he gets tired or looses effectiveness


the five man rotation is why no one will catch Nolan Ryan’s strikeout record

no one will break the wins record either

gwbdmb21,

To take your connection of positives linked to 4-man rotations one step further, think back to the World Series Champion 2001 Diamondbacks. All season they used a modified 4-man rotation. They threw Johnson, Schilling, Miguel Batista, and Brian Anderson. When they went through stretches of lots of games with little rest, they would throw Albie Lopez to give their starters an extra day of rest. As you can see, it worked out pretty well for them. I believe that that team had one of the deepest and most effective pitching staffs, even with the 4 man rotation. So basically, I also like to think that a 4 man rotation is a better concept than the 5 man. Just my 2 cents, hope to hear some more from other members on this one…

It’s not so much about the four or five guy sucking, it’s the fact that every start the four or five guy gets is one less start for the one and two guys. It’s literally sucking away wins from the team. When the team needs it most, they only use four pitches! Your ace pitches more, and your middling rookie sinkerballer hones his skills in AAA.

Perfect example is the playoffs.

Pitching just a few decades ago was, in a way, easier (or less difficult) to pitching now.

A few decades ago, you have maybe a few good hitters per lineup, higher mounds (before 1969), different bats and balls, fewer performance–enhancing supplements, etc.

Now, with the steroid era and the advancements in baseball, offense has exploded. I’m sure we all knew that. Obviously, this means pitchers throw far fewer innings. You can have 9 hitters in a lineup who can crush you. You might find yourself tuckered out after 6 innings.

I’m not sure if this has too much to do with the switch from 4–man to 5–man. It might just go along in the same way that pitching fewer innings does. Pitchers are, in a way, more stressed nowadays.

Good counterargument there. I still like the modified four-man front though…

how are pitcher stressed when they throw fewer innings
tell me how many players use steroids
this shouldnt be called the steroid era
look at the teams who barely have 4 good hitters(giants, mariners, royals, orieles?)

why dont managers relize this about the rotation

Kelv, this is a steroid era.

To give an honest answer to the question, I think alot has to do with money, and misconceptions. Players, minor league or big league, are investments, with millions of dollars involved. Therefore, restraints are put on the number of bullets a pitcher can throw in a game. When I played in affiliated ball the magic number was 100. Honest to goodness, we had pitchers taken out in mid-batter when a pitcher reached 100 pitches. Quick story for you guys. In low-A we had a pitcher working on a no-hitter, but he was punching out guys and working deep into counts. I can’t remember the exact pitch count, but through the sixth the young man had around 85-90 pitches. In a normal situation, if the kid didn’t have a no-hitter, he probably wouldn’t have went out for the 7th. The manager actually leaves the dugout and calls the active farm director to ask if his pitcher can go over a hundred pitches to attempt to complete his no hitter. This goes to show you not only the strict limitations put onto young arms, but also the fear of managers and pitching coaches have of losing their job if they go over the pitch limit. Again, money plays a huge role in this. If a pitching coach leaves his starter out ther for 125 pitches and he blows his elbow out on his last pitch, you bet your you know what that coaching staff is getting fired instantly.

Again, the purpose of the five-man rotation is to help protect arms by giving the pitcher an extra day. There are millions involved, and unless in a playoff hunt, or actually in the playoffs or world series, an organization is not going to take a “risk” on their investment.

Do I think it’s right or wrong? I don’t know, I don’t know a ton about the threshold of what a pitcher can handle. I will say that I don’t think pitchers throw enough in pro-ball. Not necessarily in the game, I’m talking about things like long toss and bullpen sessions. I actually think pitchers are “pampered” or “baby’d” way too much, especially at the highest of levels.

how are pitcher stressed when they throw fewer innings
tell me how many players use steroids
this shouldnt be called the steroid era
look at the teams who barely have 4 good hitters(giants, mariners, royals, orieles?)

why dont managers relize this about the rotation[/quote]

Kelv, you just chose the 4 worst offensive teams in the majors. Of course their hitting is going to suck!!! (forgot you too, Twinkies, although their middle is really good) Umm, for the # of steroid users, see MITCHELL REPORT and add a fair amount of minor leaguers and others who haven’t been caught.

Your logic doesn’t make any sense. What if I said, “Look at the teams who have barely 2 or 3 good pitchers. Phillies (starters, I say), Twins, Pirates, and Royals.” Does that reflect on the league? No - it just shows the worst.

I do believe that the Steroid Era is 1995 - 2008 (give or take a few years). It is winding down as McGwire, Bonds, Canseco, etc. are getting out of the league. I am not saying that there aren’t any steroid users out there – there are.

I think it has much to do with the strike zone and giving advantage to hitters…anymore the “zone” is belt to top of the knees so the pitcher has to be finer…throw in instant video analysis of what a pitcher has (Video rooms right down the tunnel so you can see your last ab in super slo-mo immediately). I think that is more part of it than “tired pitchers”…by the 3rd time through it’s either you better be the top of the tops or get a reliever to get another look out there or you will be lit. I wonder much about it as I was a child who used to watch some of the most epic duels in the sun…Gibson against Jenkins going for 10-11-12 innings in 95+ weather all through the summer…guys like Seaver and Carleton…they didn’t get relieved…if a manager even thought about it…well he just didn’t…pitch count? They didn’t have no stinkin pitch count…except 0-2…1-2, 3-2…
I do think that 200+ innings is something that is attainable regularly and on the whole…not injurious…if it was injurious, Maddux would be crippled…so would Glavine…on the converse I see a guy like Pedro who was typically on the DL before the All-Star break and usually back before the end of the year…idk…my bet is quality 4 man staffs could do it…I think the Cubs could very definately deal on Zambrano, Dempster, Lilley and Harden and get consistant quality starts…The Rays…D-Backs maybe…Blue Jays fer sure

Wow kelv,
pitch count has no purpose?
So your saying if a pitcher had 150 pitches yet still was effective you would leave him out there, tearing up his arm?!

[quote]wow kelv
pitch count has no purpose?
so you saying if a pitcher had 150 pitches yet still was effective you would leave him out there, tearing up his arm[/quote]

if hes not in pain yes
if i was the manager i couldnt tell if he was hurting or tired by the way he pitched if he is getting guys out
plus any pitcher would take theirselves out to prevent injury to themselves

[quote]Kelv, you just chose the 4 worst offensive teams in the majors. Of course their hitting is going to suck!!! (forgot you too, Twinkies, although their middle is really good) Umm, for the # of steroid users, see MITCHELL REPORT and add a fair amount of minor leaguers and others who haven’t been caught.

Your logic doesn’t make any sense. What if I said, “Look at the teams who have barely 2 or 3 good pitchers. Phillies (starters, I say), Twins, Pirates, and Royals.” Does that reflect on the league? No - it just shows the worst.

I do believe that the Steroid Era is 1995 - 2008 (give or take a few years). It is winding down as McGwire, Bonds, Canseco, etc. are getting out of the league. I am not saying that there aren’t any steroid users out there – there are.[/quote]

my posy was a responce to orange peels post
not just the quoted part

still why dont managers realize this about the fourman rotation

Just because a pitchers not in pain doesnt mean he is doing some serious damage!
Thats ridiculous man

if hes not in pain yes
if i was the manager i couldnt tell if he was hurting or tired by the way he pitched if he is getting guys out
plus any pitcher would take theirselves out to prevent injury to themselves
[/quote]

Not neccesarily true though kelv, I’ve seen a few instances where a player had chosen to suffer through injury rather than give up there spot on the mound. In one high school game, our pitcher had a shutout through 6 and after that inning, couldn’t pick up the ball anymore. Apparently, he had been throwing with a sprained wrist since the 3rd inning and such stress being applied throughout the game on that injury had resulted in a greater one. A pitchers pride is a tough thing to break and sometimes ones mental toughness can outlast physical pain and that can lead to dangerous territory. If i were a coach, theres only so much i’d let my players go through…

well i was think by my state of mind
i would take myself out after the first couple of pitches if i felt pain

Yeah, so would i but i swear some of the most stubborn knuckleheads i’ve ever seen have come from a baseball diamond :slight_smile: