I won’t rehash my feelings about pitch counts. I haven’t changed my stance since I wrote this post.
In the days since, Bruce Jenkins of the Chron wrote a two-part cranky-grandpa complaint about pitchers these days getting mollycoddled, improperly waxing their moustaches, and not throwing enough. Grant had a fine take on Jenkins yesterday, and Andrew Baggarly chimed in today, so I won’t add much more except to say that Jenkins is doing journalism a disservice.
He has some good points. Pitch count is an interesting, important topic that needs more debate. But Jenkins swaddles his arguments in rhetoric more fit for a political convention. “Restore dignity!” “Fear has replaced common sense!” “Follow your instincts!”
The articles are ostensibly a counterpunch to the robotic groupthink of pitch counts and bullpen roles, a development I agree is riddled with stupid, rigid orthodoxy. But scratch the surface more, and you’ll see that Jenkins is no free thinker. He hates curiosity. It’s for losers, and it’s also funny when the starting quarterback stuffs the chess team president into a hall locker. Here’s the heart of Jenkins’ argument: “People can sit around adjusting their spectacles and analyzing, but they have no idea how it feels to actually compete.”
Jenkins adds nothing to the debate. He tells us no one throws complete games anymore, but he doesn’t want to deal with the unknowns. He cherry picks a few famous names — see? Juan Marichal and Vida Blue never had arm problems! — but this is not reporting. Perhaps as a columnist Jenkins gets slack that reporters don’t, because any editor semi-familiar with the topic should have sent this back for more work. (Shame on you, too, Chron sports editor Glenn Schwarz.)
In an examination of The Pitch Count Era, as Jenkins calls it, you’d think he would interview Dr. Jim Andrews or his colleagues in Birmingham, Ala.; or find pitchers from the 1950s, ‘60s, or ‘70s who blew their arms out early and get their opinions; or note that for previous generations, baseball was the only game, there were far more minor league teams, the pool of young pitchers was nearly bottomless, and teams had less incentive to coddle up-and-comers. They were disposable commodities.
Jenkins’ work, as is often the case, is intellectually dishonest. He dismisses arguments about how the game has drastically changed by writing this:
As much as anything, though, the pace of the game has changed. I once asked Leonard Koppett (the sage historian who passed away in 2003) why games of the past were so routinely played in two hours. "They didn't have lights," he said. Pitchers worked quickly, batters went up there hacking, only a minute or so passed between half-innings, and it was all very tidy. Pitchers are infinitely more deliberate today. They require more pitches to get through an inning and the hitters, as a whole, aren't nearly as aggressive. In the era of on-base percentage, it's downright heroic for a batter to be up there taking pitches for a 3-and-1 count.
Ah, yes, the good old days when batters swung at 3–1 pitches a foot outside, the way men do. Pitchers now are deliberate. Hitters aren’t aggressive. It’s like everyone’s out there reading books or something.
Jenkins has good points sometimes. But he proves himself unwilling to do the hard work — yes, it’s possible to do hard work with your mind, too, sometimes while wearing spectacles — perhaps for fear of undermining his strongly-held convictions. It’s easier to talk to Jack Morris, who had to be removed from games with a crowbar, to confirm that yes, things were better back then. It’s sad, and it’s bad journalism.
With all that, I’ll only say one thing about Tim Lincecum throwing 132 pitches last night. The Giants have an off-day tomorrow, so he’ll have five days of rest before his next start. I’ll bet that factored into Bochy’s decision.