Remember when the Boston Celtics John Havlicek was the best sixth man on those championship teams back in the 1960s and 1970s? Maybe it is time for baseball to look to something similar, as in a sixth starter. Then maybe they could stretch that magic pitch count of theirs to enable the starters to get to the eighth inning. That will give them an extra days rest to do all those fancy things they do between starts. Like riding the ellipticals and doing Yoga or what ever those genius conditioning experts have come up with. Maybe they could try running more like pitchers used to do when they would average 135 pitches in a game. Get rid of the pitch count.
Last night Luis Severino went eight innings, four hits, no runs, one walk and seven strikeouts. He threw 114 pitches 73 for strikes. The chances of any bullpen blowing a three run lead were a lot less than if he came out in the sixth or seventh inning. And holy smokes, they didn’t have to rush him to the hospital to reattach his arm to his shoulder!
These guys can do this. You know, throw like Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, and John Smoltz. They are a part of the same species of humans who evolved into baseball pitchers that developed strong arms. Every time I hear “Oh the Mets have a staff of young strong arms,” it makes me laugh. Today “strong arm” means 95 plus on the radar gun. To me, strong arm is nine innings and 125 pitches.
In Severino’s game, you could see, hear and feel the tension as Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill described the situation in the top of the eighth inning as he approached 97 pitches. The paramedics were in the tunnel ready to sprint onto the field.
The camera shifted to the dugout as we saw different shots of Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild staring intently out at their pitcher. Should they pull him? “Oh if he puts a runner on then they will have to pull him.” came the talk from the broadcasters. Should they get the team psychiatrist to help Girardi make this decision? The ribbon in Times Square was holding people in their tracks as they followed the breaking news. This was going to be like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon news! I mean, give me a break!
The guy was still throwing 98-mph fastballs with command. I say sit back, crack open another beer and enjoy baseball the way it used to be. I think the experiment with pitch counts is over. It doesn’t prevent arm injuries, if anything it causes pitchers to pitch in a way that will cause their arms to explode and require some kind of exotic surgery. Babying Stephen Strasburg didn’t keep him from surgery. When they know they are on a pitch count, they just throw as hard as they can for as long as they can. No more pacing themselves and saving that 98 heater when they need it. If Joey Chestnut can stretch out his stomach to down 69 hotdogs in ten minutes, major league pitchers can stretch out their arms to throw nine quality innings.These guys are throwing 98-100 mph in the first inning! When they reach their magic number of pitches, they are done. I always thought they were done when the game was over or they couldn’t get anyone out.
I get it, this is the entertainment business and all of this drama is supposed to keep us on the edge of out seats. I don’t know about you, but there seems to be enough stress in our lives in this world we live in everyday. Just let me sit back and relax to watch a ballgame. There was nothing wrong with it for 100 years. How about: Beer, hotdog, scorecard, and “Play Ball.”