Big Z and pitch counts _ how do you feel?

Big Z and pitch counts _ how do you feel?

Posted by Bruce on Thu, 05/29/2008 - 20:05
You had to really look to find Carlos Zambrano on Baseball Prospectus' leader board under "Pitcher Abuse Points." That was, until last night. Zambrano threw a season-high 130 pitches in the Cubs' 2-1 victory over the Dodgers. With that pitch count, he moved up from 39th to second in PAP. Baseball Prospectus, at baseballprospectus.com, awards zero abuse points for pitch counts under 100. From there, points go up exponentially in categories based on number of pitches. Zabrano's 130-pitch effort was a Category 4 pitch count as far as the Baseball Prospectus people are concerned. Gil Meche leads the majors in PAP, followed by Zambrano. When Dusty Baker was manager of the Cubs, it wasn't uncommon to see Zambrano's name in the top three all year. Until Wednesday, Zambrano's top pitch count this year was 114. The 130 represented his highest output since 2005, under Baker. Here is what current manager Lou Piniella said this afternoon about Zambrano's big effort over 8 innings last night: "It was cool. He was throwing the ball well. I would have been booed out of the park if I took him out. Carlos wouldn't have been happy if I took him out. It was the right thing to do to keep him in the ballgame. We left him in there. We'll shorten him up a couple times now. I think last year the highest pitch count we had him in a game was 127. One hundred and thirty pitches, for a big, strong kid from Venezuela, it's not...once in awhile...I'm not talking about four or five times in regularity. Once in awhile, the game dictates that you need to do that. Last night dictated it, and we let him do it. We let Dempster work out of the seventh inning the other day. We've been letting our starting pitchers throw more pitches. We said we would. That's why we watch it so closely early part of the season, so that when we got into these type of situations, we could take a little liberty with it." That sounds about right. Piniella has been good about both monitoring pitch counts and using off-days in the schedule to give his starters an extra day. We know that "back in the day," every pitcher on every team threw 150 pitches a game and was just fine. That's not really true, but the sentimentalists and a lot of old-time players would like to have you believe it. But recent studies have shown that excessive pitch counts, repeated over and over (and especially among younger pitchers), can harm their effectiveness in subsequent starts and harm their health long term. So what did you think of Z going 130?
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