Pitcher Abuse Points

Pitcher abuse points are an attempt to measure overuse. They’re based on the idea that once a pitcher reaches a point of fatigue, each additional pitch significantly increases the risk of injury due to fatigued muscles not handling the stresses of pitching combined with the deterioration of mechanics.

The metric has evolved over time. Initially, it assigned one or more abuse points to each pitch over 100 per game with higher pitch count ranges getting more points per pitch. Then the metric evolved such that each pitch over 100 was counted as 3 pitches (i.e. was tripled). Finally, it was decided that the higher the pitch count goes over 100, the more of an impact each pitch has so the metric evolved such that the number of pitches above 100 was cubed instead of tripled. This is where the “P-cubed” name comes from. By the way, 100 was adopted as the magic number that most pro pitchers could get to before showing signs of fatigue. Obviously, the actual number differs from pitcher to pitcher but this was used as the average.

Now, one important point to note is that there seems to have been only limited studies as to whether the P-cubed number translates to injuries or anything else important. If you search, you’ll find articles that are quick to point this out. But you’ll also find that there seems to be quite a few folks paying attention to this metric. Intuitively, the concept makes sense. But there are too many vairables in the injury equation and it’s hard to establish any direct correlations. So, take this with a grain of salt. It is still an interesting idea.

The following article provides good background for the original pitcher abuse points metric:


And this is a follow-up article to the one above:


This is a recent assessment of pitchers in the big leage. Guess who 2 of the top 3 pitchers in abuse points are… Wood and Prior. Prior also had a high P-cubed number in college.


An interesting article on new Red Sox pitcher Matsuzaka and his abuse points:


Thanks Roger!!! 8)
Very interesting stuff, I chuckled reading the comments on Maddux…1998 sounded like I wrote it.

It is an interesting article.

Personally, I don’t understand the 100-pitch limit for grown men … I’m with Leo Mazzone’s belief that pitchers should pitch more, not less. The fact that there are more pitchers having surgery every year leads me to believe that limiting pitches has little effect on their health — and may even be detrimental.

I guess the author lost the office pool … Livan Hernandez went on to average around 210-220 innings for the next seven years.

BTW the pitch counts for Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver were often in the 150-185 range … food for thought.

Livan is actually a special case because he does not pitch anything close to max effort. He will pitch some games sitting at 82,83; then dial it up when necessary. This style has made him perhaps the most durable pitcher in the big leagues as well as decreasing his injury risk.

Livan is actually a special case because he does not pitch anything close to max effort. He will pitch some games sitting at 82,83; then dial it up when necessary. This style has made him perhaps the most durable pitcher in the big leagues as well as decreasing his injury risk.[/quote]

Excellent point … thank you for that.

More pitchers should consider pitching this way … if you go back to the “old days” — when pitchers finished what they started — this cruise-control method of pitching was more the norm and not the exception (though, Ryan’s “dialed down” speed was still around 95!).

It seems that ever since radar guns became available to everyone, pitchers have been focused on max effort. Shame, because as we know (or eventually learn), there’s a lot more to pitching than top velocity…

Everybody is different. Pitch counts are a useful tool and they can be modified to some degree if someone demonstrates a rubber arm like Scott Shields. Even so many a pitcher considered to be durable has gone down due to an excessive workload. An awful lot of the pitchers on that PAP list have had surgery.

What works for Hernandez won’t work for all other pitchers and the fences are closer, the mound is lower, the hitters are bigger and better trained than in the past. Pitchers today necessarily throw harder even when they are “cruising” but although their bodies are typically bigger than the pitchers of the past they don’t have that much more capability to withstand the stresses of pitching.

One of the first things hard throwing pitchers are taught in the minors is to dial it back so they can develop command so saying that all or even most pro pitchers are throwing at max effort is incorrect.

Very true, everybody is different. I think pitchers from previous eras were generally more efficient than today’s pitchers. Roy Halladay has had some great “old school” starts the past couple of years where he has pitched complete games in under 100 pitches.

Since most pitchers in previous eras were not worried about the radar gun, they were more inclined to induce contact and let the hitter get themselves out, which happens a lot more than pitchers realize. That’s the thing that coaches in the minors try to teach: throw the ball over the plate, let it move a bit, get the hitter out in 3 pitches or less.

As far as guys “dialing it down,” Livan is just one example. Maddux, Glavine, and Moyer are other guys who are pitching into their 40s by clearly not max-effort throwing.

The real interesting thing that PAPs cannot take into account is relief pitching. I think relieving is the worst as far as pitcher abuse goes. Relievers have to pitch back to back days, often get warmed up without going into the game, and most of the time they don’t have time to “dial it back” when they get in there. It’s close to max effort at all times. Judging relief fatigue is very difficult and is one of the things many people are trying to study at this point.