Below is a simple example of how I used pitch counts to do my job. Granted this is a simple, very simple example.
I’m going to use one pitcher in my example and how I would have set up and managed, inning by inning, with all supporting data that I had.
Pitcher: Weeks, Allen W.
Pitching inventory and effectiveness base :
Starter, quality for five innings, likes hot weather,
home game effective, away game variable, better
during night games, less so morning/midafternoon,
needs four days complete rest, temperamental/moody,
early 30’s, potential hamstring problems from last
Serious performance/confidence problems seem to
occur if trouble is encountered around the 2nd and 3rd
Pitch count guide: 1st – 14max 2nd – 10max 3rd – 10max
4th – 24max 5th – 25max
CAUTION MAX – 83
A = FB high left 80% high right 50%
Low left 90% low right 40%
Change-up high left 80% high right 80%
Low left 80% low right 50%
I know Weeks has had his normal days off. He’s reported to the trainer and the other support staff with no problems, no sprains or pain. He’s
Good to go for today, healthy – physically.
I know the club that we’re facing. I’ve studied their coaching staff’s method of planning a lineup, I know the history of the potential lineup that we’ll be facing early, and I know who can self-destruct if the calls don’t go their way. As to calls at the plate, I’m pretty comfortable with the right and wrong pitches this guy will give us – IF he’s inclined to do so. If not, I stay away from trying to bait or buy strikes.
In the second part of the order – batters 4 and 5, both LH, are exceptional at hitting down and away. Unfortunately down and away is Week’s best FB and CU. If his slider and CB aren’t on early, he’ll have to use the other parts of the plate – THEY KNOW THIS.
We’re playing a nighter, it’s hot and humid, no breeze – so Weeks should be fine.
Weeks came into the lockers and started tossing his stuff around. Possibly a few words with somebody, may be moody if calls don’t go his way – watch him in the first two innings closely.
His battery mate was going to be Williams – but, he and Williams had some words lately, so Blake will catching tonight. Blake is good for Weeks. Blake’s a joker, can work Weeks out of jam if necessary.
Weeks seems to be holding his performance percentage nicely, except for his slider – it’s all over the place with no effectiveness. Just one of those days I guess. I’m not going to confront him on it – let it go. Perhaps because Williams was his bullpen catcher – not sure.
Faced 4 batters, went to his strong suit 90% of the time, tried the slider and didn’t do that bad. Fitting in early is probably the reason. Came out of the inning facing the top of the order. Only two batters caught up to his FB and pulled it foul. He kept the lineup off-balance with his CU, FB to his strong suit, and CB. Only used the CB (curveball) twice – as set up.
He came out of the 1st inning with 9 pitches, that 4 under his max – doing well, no signs of pressure.
This is where – if he runs into trouble, it’s in the mid to bottom of the order. He fans the first two batters, third runs a pitch count of 11 just for him – kept fouling off. He insisted on going to the slider and walked that batter. The next batter, LH, walked – Weeks had trouble with the outside of the plate, per his bullpen effectiveness indicated. The next batter on the first pitch fouled behind the plate and was caught by the
Weeks came out of that inning with a total pitch count of 22 for that inning alone.
But, let’s see how the big picture is doing:
He’s working with a manage count of 1st inning=14 pitches, 2nd inning = 10 pitches. So thus far, Weeks is up to a 24 managed estimate. He’s actually racked up 1st inning = 9 pitches, 2nd inning = 22 pitches, for an actual total of 31 pitches. So, Weeks us over his allotted estimate of 7 pitches.
Now if I see that Weeks is feeling pretty good, no physical or mental issues, I’m not going to bring to anyone’s attention the 7 over and above actual Vs. planned. Besides, it’s only going into the 3rd inning, and everyone knows Weeks sometimes gets into a jam around this time – but his history bears our his ability to work through it 90% of the time.
On the other hand, if Weeks was 24 pitches over his planned estimate, I’d be whistling a different tune.
Weeks seems to have settled in. His strike zone is as planned, his pitches called for seem to mate the batting order, and his total pitches coming out of the 3rd was 10 pitches.
So at the end of the third his plan was for a pitching count total of 34 pitches, and his actual count is 41 – which is 7 more than his planned.
But, although we’re over in total, his tendency to do what he does, pans out, but he recovered and is holding his own.
REMAINDER OF THE GAME
Inning upon inning, Weeks is watched for those same know quantities that make him what he is.
Now, if going into the 5th inning, Weeks was still 7 or 8 pitches over his planned limits, he’d be allowed to go and finish the 5th. On the other hand, if Weeks was say 24 or more over his planned limit at the 5th, even if he looked fresh as a daisy, still clocking the radar like a banshee, out he’d come.
Because now I’m using a planned reason for judging my pitcher’s work.
I’m not relying on what I see totally, but what my judgment tells me using pitch counts as an ingredient for planned Vs. actual – for this individual only, for this inning by inning only, for this game only, for the time of year only (preseason/prime/post season). Also, this individual was observed with respect to temperament, bullpen duty wise, and a host of other things that makes the planned estimate worthwhile to use in the first place.
So, for this individual, with his ups and downs, inning per inning I had one of many tools at my ready – adding to my ongoing learning curve of this pitcher and my own professional experiences.
This example was an oversimplication just to give you some idea of one method – I repeat one method, of using pitch counts.