Carleton: The high-pitch-count hangover

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on July 22, 2013:

A week ago, Tim Lincecum pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, striking out 13, walking four, and throwing—gulp!—148 pitches. He also drew a walk at the plate and scored a run. I’m sure recording the last out is a moment he’ll remember for the rest of his life, just as it was for Johan Santana, who last year pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history in a comparatively efficient 134 pitches.

Generally, pitchers don’t go more than 100 pitches in a game, but this was a special occasion. I used to use the same logic when I wanted to stay up late as a kid. The thing is that once you use the “special occasion” excuse and find out how much fun it is to stay up until midnight, it becomes easy to think of every occasion as special. There’s a re-run of that one episode of Deep Space Nine that was so cool? (The baseball one!) That’s special and worth staying up the extra hour. The next day, you feel a little groggier, but you get through, and it’s not like anything really bad happened. Right?

I have to imagine that a manager who has a pitcher nearing the 100-pitch threshold, but who really has good stuff that night, finds himself in the same basic position. Should he let the pitcher stay up late and face one more batter, or walk out to the mound with a glass of warm milk and tuck the pitcher in for the night?

Here at BP, the idea of pitcher abuse and extreme pitch counts has been previously discussed by Rany Jazayerli and Keith Woolner, but it’s been more than a decade since their work. Let’s re-visit the issue of pitch counts and the effects that a 140-pitch marathon might have on a pitcher and his performance the next time that he goes out to the mound.

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Originally published: July 22, 2013. Last Updated: July 22, 2013.