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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Arthur: Fixated on pitch count, game not real baseball

Salami, salami, pitch count baloney.

I’ve been to my last Durham Bulls game. They don’t play real baseball, just a facsimile of it.

Case in point: Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Saturday, April 26. Bulls pitcher Mike Montgomery has a no-hitter going into the top of the ninth against the Scranton RailRiders. He gets the first batter out and then is yanked for a relief pitcher. The reason? He reached his pitch count, Manager Charlie Montoyo told The Herald-Sun’s Harold Gutman. 106 pitches, over his limit of 105. “I have a job, and he’s got a pitch count, and I follow my job,” Montoyo said.

The fans booed lustily. I’d have fired Montoyo before he got back to the dugout. And I’d have canned all his bosses who gave him those orders. They aren’t baseball people, they’re corporate drones.

...Now, you say, the pitch count is protecting your investment in the health of the pitcher. Got to save his arm for the big league team. Somebody must explain that to me. I don’t mean to belittle the strain on a pitcher’s arm. The twists and torque are beyond what the rest of us can imagine. But that’s why they don’t play every day. And today’s athletes have better nutrition, better training than ever, yet they are such delicate flowers they can’t hurl a complete game? And why was Montgomery’s pitch count 105? Why not 100, or 110? Is it such a science that they know exactly when he’s going to crack?  Balderdash.

This pitch count baloney is happening in the major leagues, too.  I once saw a no-hitter. July 4, 1983, at Yankee Stadium. Dave Righetti of the Yankees no-hit the Boston Red Sox. Magic moment. Fans roaring by the ninth inning on every pitch. One wonders if Righetti would be allowed to finish the game today.

Montgomery might have given up a hit to the next batter Saturday night. We’ll never know.  Fans were deprived of the drama of finding that out. So was Mike Montgomery, and he might never get the chance again. No-hitters are that rare.

What we saw Saturday night wasn’t a baseball game. It was a business meeting. I’ve seen enough of those.

Repoz Posted: April 29, 2014 at 07:25 AM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 07:57 AM (#4696408)
I think this is a legitimate complaint. It is hard for small city baseball fans to really immerse themselves in rooting for the home team the way a major league fan can, because ultimately the team's primary purpose is to serve its master, rather than to win.
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:02 AM (#4696411)
I don’t mean to belittle the strain on a pitcher’s arm. The twists and torque are beyond what the rest of us can imagine. But that’s why they don’t play every day. And today’s athletes have better nutrition, better training than ever, yet they are such delicate flowers they can’t hurl a complete game?


"I don't mean to belittle the strain on a pitcher's arm, but I'm going to do it anyway."
   3. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:04 AM (#4696412)
Dave Righetti of the Yankees no-hit the Boston Red Sox. Magic moment. Fans roaring by the ninth inning on every pitch. One wonders if Righetti would be allowed to finish the game today.
I imagine he would. He only walked four batters - his pitch count couldn't possibly have been all that high. Heck, Edwin Jackson threw a 149-pitch no-hitter in 2010.
I think this is a legitimate complaint.
It is, but it's also nothing new. If the author of TFA was surprised to learn that affiliated minor league teams exist solely to serve their MLB big brothers, he doesn't pay much attention.
   4. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:10 AM (#4696415)
I would absolutely pull a pitcher throwing a perfect game once he went over 135 pitches, but not before that. (Depends on the pitcher, how important he is, how injury-riddled his past is, and so forth; you can't have a hard-and-fast rule.) If he has to go over his usual pitch count then you can give him his next start off to recuperate, but when a guy has a shot at a once-in-a-lifetime event you have to let him go for it.

That's in the majors. In the minors... I don't know.
   5. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:26 AM (#4696417)
I'd have let him go but the manager was in a tough spot there. He's got a hard and fast guideline and I suspect no one has ever said "hey, if he's got a no hitter in the ninth let him go to about 115 or so."
   6. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:40 AM (#4696420)
Oh, I'm not saying I'd have let him go in last night's situation if I were the manager and didn't want to be fired. The manager was under a mandate from his boss to pull Montgomery as soon as he reached 105 pitches.
   7. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:48 AM (#4696424)
I had tickets to that game but didn't go as part of "gotta teach my kids a lesson" scenario. Ah well.

he doesn't pay much attention

He likely doesn't, both given his comments and that he's a freelance guy who I think was a political reporter, as opposed to a sportswriter.

By the way: THIS WAS A NO-HITTER ANYWAY (just a combined one, with Brad Boxberger).
   8. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:50 AM (#4696427)
I imagine he would. He only walked four batters - his pitch count couldn't possibly have been all that high.
9 Ks though.

Interesting that in his very next start he went 10 1/3 innings!
   9. BDC Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4696431)
One factor unmentioned in TFA: Montgomery is 24; it's his seventh minor-league season; he's started 130 games, 68 of them at AAA, without reaching the majors. Now, he might have a decade of big-league pitching in front of him, and you don't want to jeopardize that. But he's not some 18-year-old in a rookie league who's just learning how to get through a few innings of a pro game. Given the context, you'd hope that the guy would get the chance at a AAA no-hitter. (Though I certainly understand the manager's position.)
   10. Sleepless in Munich Posted: April 29, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4696434)
Yes, it sucks for fans that minor league teams play to develop, not to win. But that's the reality and the manager is correct to cultivate that culture.
Imagine the following scenario: The manager leaves the SP in the game to get his no-hitter. The next batter hits a long fly ball to the wall. The prized outfield prospect has two choices - either catch and crash or let the ball hit the wall for a hit. Do you want him to run into the wall? Of course not, and therefore the manager should not send the message that suddenly the results of this game have become paramount.
   11. Dale Sams Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4696438)
By the way: THIS WAS A NO-HITTER ANYWAY (just a combined one, with Brad Boxberger).


So in a combined no-hitter like that, do they go through the rigamarole of rushing the pitcher? Or does it become a less joyous event?
   12. Jeltzandini Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:21 AM (#4696467)
AAA attendance is generally pretty solid, so the fans have long since made their peace with the fact that the games they watch are a means rather than an end. It's cheap, it's fun, most people can sit much closer, and the baseball is skilled relative to everything but MLB and NPB. That there is nothing really riding on the actual result, and no pennant race that anybody cares about takes something away from the experience. But that's one of the reasons it's cheaper.

   13. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:27 AM (#4696473)
9 - Alternately, this is as close as he's been to the bigs - getting there is, assuredly, a hell of a lot more important to him than picking up the no-no.
10 - He'd crash into the wall. You try while you're in the game...
11 - I've watched combined no-hitters on TV (MLB only) - they still rush the mound and all, but a bit of the sting is gone.
12 - I don't know how completely minor league crowds internalize the 'means rather than an end' bit. That said, nice post.
   14. Scott Lange Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:44 AM (#4696482)
In 2006 I saw Julio De La Cruz throw a no-hitter for the single-A Clearwater Threshers. He was never a great prospect and was out of baseball by 2010, but he (and I) will always have that magic night. I'm a believer in preserving your pitchers' arms, but the incremental danger of one additional pitch past an arbitrary threshold of 105 is so slight that I would absolutely let a guy keep going with one out in the ninth, two outs away from a no-hitter.

As a sidenote, it was breast cancer night in Clearwater, and the players were wearing pink jerseys that were up for silent auction. Knowing he hadn't allowed a hit as the bids were due at the end of five innings, I went up and bid the most I could afford for the jersey of a pitcher four innings away from a no-no- $500. Somebody else bid one more time and took home that incredible souvenir for $525. Sigh. I did shout "magnifico Senor Cruz!!" as he was wandering around the field in a happy daze afterwards and get his attention for a handshake and an autograph of my scorecard, which was pretty sweet, but I would love to have won that jersey.
   15. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4696486)
“I have a job, and he’s got a pitch count, and I follow my job,” Montoyo said.

Ve vould haff a nice country if everybody chust followed orduhs...!
   16. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:51 AM (#4696487)
I had tickets to that game but didn't go as part of "gotta teach my kids a lesson" scenario.


If you really wanted to teach them a lesson you'd go by yourself and bring a baseball back that you can tell them you caught.
   17. BDC Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:23 AM (#4696512)
I'm trying to remember the name of the minor-league pitcher, maybe in the 1990s? who threw consecutive no-hitters and then threw a third in the same season or early in the next. Surprisingly hard to find on the Internet, though I did learn that Mariano Rivera threw a no-hitter for Columbus in 1995. That same year, Kyle Farnsworth was a reliever in a combined no-hitter in the Gulf Coast League. Maybe there's some elixir of longevity associated with minor-league no-hitters :)
   18. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4696522)
Tom Drees threw three AAA no-hitters in '89.
   19. zack Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4696533)
I've recently moved (back) to a AAA town, and I'm remembering that it's almost worse to be a fan of an AAA team than a lower level one. In AAA, you're still an affiliated team, meaning you depend on the whims of the big club, but you also are high enough up the chain to be stocked with long-time minor guys and big-league backups. The result is that many of the top prospects spend less time at AAA then they do at any of the other, lower stops on the ladder (Trout, 20 games at AAA; Harper, 21; Harvey, 7, for example). At least in the low minors you get to see the stars before they are stars, as pretty much everyone spends at least a half season in A+ and AA.
   20. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4696545)
The result is that many of the top prospects spend less time at AAA then they do at any of the other, lower stops on the ladder
Yeah, it was spectacular to be an Indians fan living in their AA city in the early 90s. I got to see Belle, Thome, Giles, Manny, Nagy, and a bunch of second-tier guys like Chad Ogea and David Bell.

If I'd been in the AAA city, I'd have been stuck with Sam Horn, Jeff Kunkel, Scott Scudder, and Matt Young.
   21. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4696546)
AA seems like the level that would be best to be at. You get players who are relatively close to the majors so they are bit known but they are far enough away that you usually get about a full season out of them.
   22. Ron J2 Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:16 AM (#4696560)
#5 Not that there's anything new about hard and fast guidelines to a minor league team that serve the interests of the big league club.

Earl Weaver talks about sending faked scoresheets to the Oriole brass. Not something you'd get away with today I don't think.
   23. Accent Shallow Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4696562)
Tom Drees threw three AAA no-hitters in '89.

And on the season had a K/BB ratio of less than 1.

Ouch.

(Three no hitters remains a fantastic accomplishment, regardless)
   24. BDC Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:18 AM (#4696564)
Drees, thank you, that's great. Glad the guy wasn't on a pitch count :)
   25. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:35 AM (#4696582)
So in a combined no-hitter like that, do they go through the rigamarole of rushing the pitcher? Or does it become a less joyous event?


For most of the participants, yes. But not necessarily for the catcher.
   26. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4696583)
At the major league level, winning the game is often secondary so at the minor league level I guess I'm surprised they even bother to keep score. Just end the game when everyone has gotten their pitches in for the day.
   27. bobm Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4696587)
[3]
Dave Righetti of the Yankees no-hit the Boston Red Sox. Magic moment. Fans roaring by the ninth inning on every pitch. One wonders if Righetti would be allowed to finish the game today.

I imagine he would. He only walked four batters - his pitch count couldn't possibly have been all that high.


No hitters with comparable Batters Faced, walks and strikeouts have 108-123 pitch counts.
                                                                                     
Rk           Player       Date  Tm Opp   Rslt  AppDec  IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
5        Dave Stieb 1990-09-02 TOR CLE W  3-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  4  9  0 123  75  92
13    Clay Buchholz 2007-09-01 BOS BAL W 10-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  3  9  0 115  73  93
21       Hideo Nomo 2001-04-04 BOS BAL W  3-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  3 11  0 110  69  95
22       Hideo Nomo 1996-09-17 LAD COL W  9-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  4  8  0 110  66  91
25   Kevin Millwood 2003-04-27 PHI SFG W  1-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  3 10  0 108  72  94
41    Dave Righetti 1983-07-04 NYY BOS W  4-0 SHO9  W 9.0 0 0  0  4  9  0          92


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2014.
   28. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:48 AM (#4696592)
AAA is a weird vibe. That said: it's got a higher calibre of play and the idea that people skip it is overstated.

I know that national SABR conventions are only destined for big league cities. However - if a minor league market were considered - the Triangle is where it's at. Two minor league teams (A+ and AAA), other levels within easy access, top level college ball (well, not this year), national training center for USA baseball (within walking distance of my new house).
What I'm saying is: hold the convention at my house; thanks.

--

Thanks for linking, SoSH (#25) - I'd forgotten about that...
   29. zack Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4696601)
I mean, I still go to Red Wings games, they're $10. But there are systematic issues that really drag down my enjoyment of the game at that level.
   30. smileyy Posted: April 29, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4696614)
The headline made me start contemplating a variant of baseball where the objective is to throw the fewest number of pitches to achieve 27 outs.
   31. Manny Coon Posted: April 29, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4696630)
Knowing that the pitcher was going to hit his pitch count, it may have been better to pull him at the start of the inning rather than after facing a batter, then it just looks like normal closer usage.
   32. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 29, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4696634)
29: admittedly, it helps that i'm a process guy - not a means person - anyway.
30: it would be terrible. think of the defensive hitting we'd see...
   33. Dale Sams Posted: April 29, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4696647)
I was looking at the gifs for that Seattle no-hitter..I assume Dee Gordon's close play was the last out. So I wonder if a manager of a team losing by a lot would challenge that play just to spite the no-hitter.
   34. bunyon Posted: April 29, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4696687)
The main point here is that there is a lot wrong with the idea that 105 is different than 110. I have no idea how this guy looked or what his history is, but two outs away? Let him go. Next hit, he's out of the game. A couple of walks or if he looks tired and drops velocity, pull him. But the hubris of thinking one understands pitching injuries has gotten crazy. When people first started paying close attention to pitch counts, it was a good idea and well worth trying. But the fact is, it's become an absolute, a crutch, just another way to push blame elsewhere. Certainly don't let the guy throw 180 pitches. Don't let him labor through a long 9th with walks. But if a guy is going well - and it sounds like he was - let him finish. Otherwise, if AAA results aren't important, pull him after 7 and 85 pitches. Much safer.
   35. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: April 29, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4696698)
Here in So Cal, we are extremely fortunate. I have 3 A teams within spitting distance (Rancho is like 6 miles from my house, San Berdoo is like 20, as is Elsinore, plus the Dodgers and Angels are within 40ish miles from us). All that said, despite having a Quakes hat, I haven't cared about who wins a minor league game. Well, I take that back, when I worked in the concession stand for the Riverside (then the A affiliate of the Mariners), I rooted for them in '95 cause playoffs meant I got to work extra and see free baseball. Honestly, even when the Dodgers were in San Berdoo, I went to games to get drunk on Friday nights (dollar beer night)*

*incidentally, I indirectly met my wife because of a dollar beer night in SB. My buddy and I got loaded up at the ball game and then hit the cowboy club across the parking lot after the game. An old friend of my wife's was smitten with my best friend and I was playing wing man. I started talking to this girl and we just totally hit it off and 9 years and 3 kids later.. that's the rest of the story..

**i would also like to add that my buddy knew that my wife's friend dug him just based on vibes, so we kept an eye on them all night. At some point in time, we went outside to smoke (god, I still hate myself for smoking) and we noticed their group. My buddy looks at me and says "dude, watch this, these girls are going to talk to us" and he pretends that his lighter won't work and asks someone in my wife's group for a light. I always remind my wife that we started our relationship based on a lie.
   36. BDC Posted: April 29, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4696704)
I've seen minor-league games at every level over the years, here and there, but by chance, everywhere I've lived and worked, the nearest ballpark has been major-league. As a kid, I lived a couple of miles from Wrigley Field; as a middle- and high-schooler, across the river from Connie Mack and the Vet (well before there was a team in Camden); then I lived in Queens and worked in the Bronx; and then Arlington TX, with some time back on Long Island a few train stops from Shea Stadium. It's a what-if to wonder if I'd have gotten into minor-league baseball. I can walk to a D-I college field and see games for free, but I rarely do ‐ that's probably more due to the season and the irregularity of the schedule, though, as well as the pull of major-league ball across town. I very rarely go to Ft Worth for independent games and never to Frisco for AA.
   37. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 29, 2014 at 01:42 PM (#4696717)
“I have a job, and he’s got a pitch count, and I follow my job,” Montoyo said.

The fans booed lustily. I’d have fired Montoyo before he got back to the dugout. And I’d have canned all his bosses who gave him those orders.


So he would've fired the manager for following the orders of the bosses he hired that gave the orders?
   38. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: April 29, 2014 at 04:20 PM (#4696925)
The main point here is that there is a lot wrong with the idea that 105 is different than 110. I have no idea how this guy looked or what his history is, but two outs away? Let him go. Next hit, he's out of the game. A couple of walks or if he looks tired and drops velocity, pull him. But the hubris of thinking one understands pitching injuries has gotten crazy. When people first started paying close attention to pitch counts, it was a good idea and well worth trying. But the fact is, it's become an absolute, a crutch, just another way to push blame elsewhere.


I don't think it's hubris so much as just an easy to understand, objective standard that can be easily applied by even the dumbest of managers. Managers are often terrible at knowing when a pitcher is tired. I'm sure it's a rule set by the MLB club who doesn't really care much about the integrity of minor league games. If you're going to err somewhere, you may as well err on the side of protecting your talent investment. It does seem like a ridiculous rule, but in dealing with unpredictable and sometimes flat out dumb people to carry out your wishes, I've found sometimes you need to make an arbitrary but inarguable, easy to understand policy.
   39. Chone Mueller Posted: April 29, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4696984)
It's a good thing this guy wasn't at the Birmingham A's vs. Montgomery Rebels game on May 11, 1967. A's pitcher, George Lauzerique, was pulled after seven innings of no-hit ball because his pitch count reached 97. How about those good old days when men were men...
   40. Walt Davis Posted: April 29, 2014 at 05:37 PM (#4697007)
A million internet bucks to the first person to name the last AAA complete game no-hitter without cheating. (Legal mumbo-jumbo: the decision as to whether you cheated is entirely the responsibility of the contest organizers.)

Heck, 37 internet bucks to the first person to name the last MLB no-hitter.

The manager saved the guy from a lifetime of pathetically bragging about his AAA no-hitter for the rest of his life.

PS I actually agree with the writer more than not -- give the guy a couple more batters. The point about arbitrary rules for managers is fine but higher-ups in other orgs also don't appreciate managers who don't know when to bend the rules a bit.

And I'll assume he pulled him after one batter so he'd get a nice round of applause ... instead sounds like the guy exited to a chorus of boos directed at the manager.
   41. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: April 29, 2014 at 06:24 PM (#4697034)
The manager saved the guy from a lifetime of pathetically bragging about his AAA no-hitter for the rest of his life.


More likely the manager caused the guy to be bitter about a stupid organizational rule that kept him from having a nice moment in his life he could have looked back on fondly years later.
   42. spycake Posted: April 29, 2014 at 06:45 PM (#4697043)
I remember a somewhat recent Twins minor league no hit bid where the manager/coaches called the big league GM for permission to go for it.
   43. I am the Can Posted: April 29, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4697048)
I was at the Braves-Mets game a couple of weeks ago where Harang had a chance to take a no-hitter into the 8th, and Fredi pulled him. Granted, it wasn't a very good no-hitter - he was coming off a couple of walks in the 7th, and had maybe five altogether. Plus, he was on 121 pitches or something like that, it was really cold and lousy weather, and the Braves had a long top of the eighth with a couple of pitching changes.

But the Braves were up 5-0, and it's Aaron Harang: how many chances is he going to get, and what are they saving his arm for, exactly, at age 35?

   44. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:06 PM (#4697108)
But the Braves were up 5-0, and it's Aaron Harang: how many chances is he going to get, and what are they saving his arm for, exactly, at age 35?


The rest of the season?

   45. JJ1986 Posted: April 29, 2014 at 09:14 PM (#4697116)
Marcus Stroman just threw 6 no hit innings tonight.
   46. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 29, 2014 at 10:37 PM (#4697181)
The Tom Drees story: Starring Tom Drees with Larry Himes as "Evil GM"

The White Sox rotation was a mess in 1989. It was pretty good in 1990, not so much in 1991. Drees peripherals weren't good at all, but he still put up an ERA substantially below PCL and team average all three years. You would think the White Sox could have given him a try.

Larry Himes may have been right, but sure comes off as a douche if he didn't bring anyone up that year as punishment as Tom says.

   47. PreservedFish Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4697203)
I don't know if anyone else above suggested this, but my answer is to allow the guy to stay on the mound, but instruct him to throw batting practice fastballs. Hey, maybe they hit them right at the fielders?
   48. PreservedFish Posted: April 29, 2014 at 11:29 PM (#4697204)
double

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