In the midst of a good season it has been a great couple of weeks for the Milwaukee Brewers. Going into last night they had gone eight and two in their last 10 games, own a comfortable 7.5 game lead in their division, and they’ve added at least one big bat in Eduardo Escobar.
And then there’s the Cubs. I have often said that fulfillment in life is found not only in one’s own success but also in the failures of others. (I’m thinking of having that etched on my tombstone. That or “It’s not so much the heat; it’s the humidity.”)
The Cubs have done the equivalent of burning down their own restaurant to get the insurance money. (A poor analogy, I know. That sort of thing would never happen in Chicago!) At last week’s trading deadline the Cubs unloaded (among others) three of the main reasons fans bought tickets: the beloved players Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. To rub salt in the wound, they all hit home runs for their new teams over the weekend. And the insurance money? The Rickets family, who owns the team, will save $150 million in salaries.
Anyway, all that happiness — both positive for the forces of truth and justice and humiliating for our foes — hit a road bump last night. The Crew took a 4-0 lead and a no-hitter by starter Adrian Hauser into the seventh inning, only to see it all blow up. They lost 8-5 in extra innings.
It all turned south as soon as Manager Craig Counsell pulled Hauser who, despite not allowing a hit, had walked five and thrown 104 pitches. The Brewers’ COVID-depleted bullpen proceeded to melt down, allowing five runs in that inning, assisted by a Willy Adames error that scotched a sure double play.
Wednesday morning managers could question why Counsell pulled a pitcher that hadn’t allowed a hit and then put the game in the hands of a shaky pen. His answer was those 104 pitches. It has become absolute baseball law to yank a pitcher after he’s tossed 100.
But why 100 pitches? Turns out the origin of that rule comes from a 1999 study by a pair of orthopedic surgeons. As reported in Fox Sports, that study found that more pitches often led to more elbow injuries and the docs recommended that starting pitchers be limited to about 100 tosses, as a rule of thumb.
That’s it. One study and a general recommendation. In a game that has become analytics crazy, the 100 pitch rule is only a little more than a superstition. It doesn’t take into account the game situation, the status of the bull pen, the rest the pitcher has had and will have before he pitches again, his age and fitness, his injury history and probably a dozen other factors you could add.
Why deny a guy the chance at a no-hitter simply on the basis of one 20-year old study? Why take out a pitcher who, despite some walks, was still going good and throwing hard, especially when most of your best relievers are unavailable?
The reasoning behind limiting pitches is fine. You don’t want to unduly risk injury to a valuable arm, both in the interests of the man who owns the arm and the team that has the arm under contract. But a hard and fast rule to limit pitchers to 100 pitches is just a shade above arbitrary.
Welcome to the 168th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!