Tuesday, July 01, 2008

When Pitchers Were Pitchers (And Mays Was Mays)

It was 1963. Marichal vs. Spahn.


Dan Brekke said...

One of the nagging pro sports questions of our time: What happened to the durable starter of yesteryear. Kate heard Jim Palmer talking about a pitcher who was working with a 100-pitch limit, and he said that if someone had ever suggested such a thing to him, he would have said, "Great -- but what do I do abut the fourth, fifth and sixth innings?"

Maybe some exercise physiologist/muscular-skeletal mechanics experts are studying this question, but you start to wonder whether there might have been some sort of physical advantages to throwing more pitches rather than fewer. I saw an article recently in which Mickey Lolich claimed to have thrown 180-some pitches in a game once; in the '68 World Series, he was brought back for a third start on three days' rest with the idea that he'd pitch five innings; but the way the game went, he pitched the whole thing and won. In our era, the experience of Mark Pryor seems much more common: I think it's rather commonly assumed that his workload at the end of the 2003 season killed his arm. You just wonder.

Pete said...

It's interesting to compare pitching and running. Most people who don't run much -- and even many who do -- assume that more running equals more injuries. But my own experience and the experience of many others is quite different. Clearly, some people are simply blessed with muscles, joints and connective tissue that can take enormous punishment. But others -- like me, I theorize -- are able to build durability. Eight years ago, a 10-mile run would leave me knees in a world of hurt; now it's no issue. And then there are all those ultra runners who do several marathons a year plus 50-milers and 100-milers. I know at least a few who worked their way up to those levels of training and racing.

What's frustrating in baseball is that nobody seems willing to explore how to build durability. I bet a significant proportion of today's pitchers could be giving their teams many more innings than they currently are -- if only the teams had the courage to figure out how to do it. In their caution, are they actually leaving money (innings) on the table?