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MLB: As Pitch Counts Fall and Dollars Rise, Are Current Pitchers Babied?

“Throw ’til you blow” used to be many major league teams’ motto. Now, they are teaching the complete opposite. Pitch counts are used in every single game, for every single pitcher. The days of the four-man rotation are over. Some teams go to a six-man rotation as the long season progresses.

Complete games have fallen by the wayside, and an “innings-eater” is now the exception, not the rule.

Teams were not always this careful with their starters. Nolan Ryan, arguably the greatest pitcher of the modern era, threw 259 pitches in a 12-inning complete game in 1974, the most ever recorded in baseball history.

259 pitches would be 2 1/2 games for a current major league pitcher. We rarely see a pitcher throw more than 120 pitches unless special circumstances present themselves (for example, the pitcher has an opportunity to throw a no-hitter or perfect game).

One of the biggest reasons current pitchers are having their pitches and innings counted is that pitchers are getting paid more than ever before. For example, the average player salary in 1972 was $34,092 . Thirty years later, in 2002, the average player salary jumped by more than $2 million to $2,385,903.07

Normal human beings are going to be much more careful with a million-dollar investment than a person would be with an investment of thousands of dollars.

Pitching has also become more specialized than ever. Relief pitchers’ roles were not as specialized as today. And when relief pitchers came in, it was usually for more than one inning.

Today, we have lefty specialists who come in to get left-handed batters out. We have your closer, only used in save opportunities, and never used for more than one inning. We have your mop-up man, the only pitcher in the bullpen that specializes in pitching multiple innings. The problem is, the mop-up man only sees action in 15-inning marathons or blowout debacles such as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ recent 20-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Training has also led to a number of injuries amongst baseball pitchers. Every time you pitch a baseball, one of the most unnatural motions to the human body, you create tiny micro-tears in your throwing arm. Every time you lift weights, micro-tears develop in the muscles stressed.

Pitchers before the 1980s did not train with weights all that much, they simply threw. And pitchers threw a lot. Milwaukee Braves great Johnny Sain tried to throw as much as he could. Leo Mazzone, one of the best pitching coaches known today, recommended the four-man rotation and throwing a bunch. Exercising the arm is the best way to keep the arm healthy, and more pitchers are exercising unnecessary parts of their body, leaving them fatigued, and possibly injured.

Biomechanical study and kinesiology have led us to the discovery that arm injuries can be easily caused, and they are preventable by, in essence, babying pitchers.

Doctors recommend pitch counts. Doctors recommend high scrutiny of pitching mechanics. Doctors recommend specializing pitchers. Doctors recommend low amounts of innings.

A number of reasons have caused the “babying” of pitchers. And it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

So “throw ’til you blow”, time for you to go. 


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Peg-Leg Pirates Blog: Milledge to Leave When Tabata Comes Up?

It is certainly a matter of when, not if, the Pittsburgh Pirates will bring their top prospects up this year.

The three prospects the Pirates will likely bring up are Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, and Jose Tabata.

Lincoln will likely be brought up first, as the Pirates are in need of a starting pitcher right now. Charlie Morton has done horrible, and you cannot use spot starters forever. Injuries have also left the Pirates’ starting rotation in tatters.

Alvarez will likely be the second prospect brought up, as he is a former No. One draft pick, and Pirates fans are eager to see what he can do at the major league level.

His job this year will be to put fans in seats at PNC Park.

Alvarez will likely not have to battle with Andy LaRoche for the starting third baseman job, simply because of his power at the plate and reputation.

Unless the Pirates bring up all three at the same time, Tabata will likely be the last player to be called up from Triple-A Indianapolis. He is the youngest of the tremendous trio, and he is not as mature as Alvarez or Lincoln. 

Also, Tabata will have to compete for a spot in the outfield.

The Pirates’ outfield consists of left fielder Lastings Milledge, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, and right fielder and first baseman Garrett Jones.

McCutchen and Jones are here to stay.

McCutchen is a fan favorite, and he dazzles fans, teammates, and opponents alike with his hitting, speed, and spectacular defense.

Jones has the most power in the Pirates’ lineup. He is a disciplined hitter and plays extremely good defense for such a big guy (Jones is 6’4″, 230 lbs.) Even though Jones has not gotten off to a particularly fast start, he is here to stay.

Lastings Milledge, whom the Pirates acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals last year, may be the one to go when Tabata is called up.

It is unlikely Milledge will be sent down to the minors, as he is a major league quality player. Milledge can become a free agent after this season, as his contract is a one year deal. He can also be traded, and that may be the most likely scenario.

The Pirates are noted for trading (relatively) big names for a bundle of prospects, and Milledge just may be the next one to go.

Although, Milledge has done fine for the Pirates in his short tenure with the club, it is unlikely that he will stick around for long when Jose Tabata is called up.


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Spectacular Surgeon James Andrews Gains Fame For Operating on Athletes

Dr. James Andrews is a simple man. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and you wouldn’t expect him to be worldly renowned.

But he is very famous. Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon, is known as one of the best surgeons for knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries.

Because knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries happen nearly every day in sports, Andrews has operated on many famous athletes. He is responsible for salvaging Drew Brees’ career by operating on his shoulder. He has worked on Jim Thome. He has worked on Freddy Garcia. The list of players who had their career extended by Andrews goes on and on.

Some very famous athletes would be unknown as professionals if Andrews didn’t operate on them. Imagine if Roger Clemens’ career only lasted two years, and he is now selling cars in Texas rather than undergoing a steroid investigation throughout the Northeast. Well, that almost happened. After two years with the Red Sox, Clemens had his career nearly end when he had a serious shoulder injury.

And who saved Clemens? Andrews did.

Imagine Mariano Rivera, now a future Hall-of-Famer, being an unknown person who you wouldn’t particularly notice walking on a street in the Bronx. That almost happened also. All of Rivera’s saves and wins came after Andrews reconstructed his right elbow.

Injured pitchers seem to worship Andrews, as they almost always go to him for a second opinion on their UCL or rotator cuff. Andrews has saved a lot of baseball players, including Little Leaguers.

You know that pitch count rule that your kid’s coach is always complaining about? It wasn’t your nearest pharmacist who developed that rule. 

James Andrews developed pitch counts for Little Leaguers in order to save youngsters’ arms.

He has researched a ton more than your nearest orthopedic doctor. Andrews founded the American Sports Medicine Institute. With the work done at ASMI, Andrews has developed the Little League pitch count rule, long toss programs, and much more to help prevent injuries to youth pitchers.

Largely because of Andrews, sports medicine is a highly practiced and highly funded business. Andrews seems to know the latest discoveries in sports medicine, including Tommy John surgery.

Tommy John surgery was not invented by Andrews, but he pretty much perfected it. John Smoltz and Rivera have both enjoyed long, productive careers as pitchers after Andrews operated on their elbows.

Two future Hall-of-Famers saved with the same operation by the same guy?

Not a bad resume to have.

Andrews has pioneered sports medicine, and has salvaged many pitchers’ careers. He doesn’t brag about his work, and he only tries to get better.

But I know pitchers all over the world are thanking James Andrews for his help.



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