Yesterday in this space we discussed the 100-pitch mark for starting pitchers in big league baseball. It is becoming more and more rare for some to hit the century mark in pitch cout. The Orioles have just 11 games this year where their starter went 100 or more pitches. Yet they still rank 12th in MLB and seventh in the AL as their starters average 88.9 pitches per game.
There are just six teams in MLB that average 90 or more starter pitches per night at the All-Star break and the leader is the Chicago White Sox at 94.1. No MLB team even averages 95 pitches per game from their starting rotation.
The White Sox lead the majors with 33 games with a hurler going 100 pitches or more this year, per Stats Perform. Philadelphia is next with 27 followed by San Diego and Toronto with 25 and Atlanta with 23. At, the O's rank tied for 19th. Colorado is last with just two such games and Tampa Bay has second fewest with five.
O’s manager Brandon Hyde discussed in this space yesterday the trend throughout the industry where, and he said, “for some very good reasons” teams don’t train pitchers on the farm to throw this many pitches. Some pitchers have to learn to get deeper only when they get to the majors.
“I’d love to push these guys as far as they possibly can go. Yeah,” Hyde said recently. “You know, it’s a lot easier to do when you are up 6-1 than in a 3-2 game when you walk the leadoff hitter in the sixth or seventh inning. Every circumstance is totally different and things change on a night-to-night basis. But I go into a game, excluding Tyler Wells last year, saying I’m going to take our pitcher that day as far as I can possibly go to try and win the game. Thinking that way.”
Right-hander Kyle Bradish agrees that young pitchers don’t get pushed deep often on the farm and have to learn to do it at the highest level, in MLB.
“Definitely," said Bradish. "And since Covid guys were on more strict innings limits. And like in the minors, even with the Angels for a year I would start and go my five innings and they brought in other guys. There are a lot of other things that go into it in the minors. When you first get up here you have to adjust to getting through the sixth, seventh and even eighth. I don’t remember the last time I went seven that wasn’t up here.”
Bradish went 103 pitches – his only game of 100 plus this year – on June 25 versus Seattle, giving up two runs over seven innings. In a close game with the Orioles leading 3-2, Hyde let him have the seventh inning. Even though he walked the potential tie run with two outs, he stayed in and got the last out of that inning.
“The outing when I had 103 pitches I was still throwing well and he felt confident in running me back out there for the seventh. But this is how the game is going,” he said, trending away from managers letting that happen.
Here are the MLB individual leaders in 100 pitch games:
11: Kevin Gausman (Tor), Lance Lynn (CWS), Zack Wheeler (Phil)
10: Mitch Keller (Pitt), Spencer Strider (Atl)
While the Orioles have no pitcher with more than three 100-pitch games as Tyler Wells and Dean Kremer have three each, the Birds do have six pitchers that have hit the century mark. Only Oakland has more with seven pitchers doing that.
Lefty Cole Irvin a pitcher with 73 career MLB starts, agreed pitchers are not being pushed very hard on the farm and that is by all 30 clubs.
“I have an issue kind of with the way we monitor pitchers, especially those developing. I think guys could learn how to pitch if they got to that 100 to 120-pitch level. In my mind. Just in terms of you create some consistency, good or bad. Long-term you learn how to maintain your body with that many pitches.
“The game has changed so much and I don’t know when that 100-pitch barrier came into play. I want to say it probably started around the time we started to see specialized relievers. When you had guys facing one guy at a time. That strategy may have dictated the trend of today’s game.
“And that is what it is, a trend, whether you agree with it or not. For me there are plenty of guys over the history of the game, that got better as the game wore on. That seventh, eighth, ninth - they wanted to finish and that extra adrenaline came in. Didn’t matter the pitch count.
“But when you are going every five days and maybe there are few off days, maybe that’s just, I don’t know what the phobia is. And that is a personal opinion, not knocking any teams.”
Irvin said even kids have pitch counts as teenagers.
“I coach kids in the offseason and always check and ask what their pitch counts are. But these kids have rubber arms. As long as they are not spinning pitches at 12, 13 years old, they can throw fastballs and changeups all day.
“And my fascination is learning about the Japanese style of throwing. They throw all year, no breaks. Maybe there are some breaks and I just have not read too deep into it. But I am very much a traditionalist. Successful teams have in the past had starters that were throwing 115, 120 pitches. We are not in the age of 140 to 200 pitches anymore, I understand that.
“A personal goal for me is 200 innings and I am capable of it. Last couple of years I was close, I was 181 last year and I missed about four starts.”
But in the game now a 200-inning pitcher is a workhorse. Last season just eight MLB pitchers reached that mark with just one surpassing 205 and that was Sandy Alcantara of Miami at 228 2/3 innings.
Among the O’s 11 games of 100 pitches this year, beyond Wells and Kremer with three each, Kyle Gibson has two while Irvin, Grayson Rodriguez and Bradish have one each.
It wasn't that long ago however, that O's teams were throwing 100 pitches much more often than now. Per Stats Perform, here is the list for every full season since 2015.
2015 - 65
2016 - 71
2017 - 76
2018 - 44
2019 - 22
2021 - 9
2022 - 15
2023 - 11
“I think we all want to pitch as many innings as possible,” said Gibson. “Very rarely have I been asked by a manger how you doing after the sixth and I say I think I’m done for the day. The competitor in you really doesn’t let that happen. There have been times when I had to tell them I’m going through something physically that day and that’s good for now.
“But even though it’s not the standard anymore, we all still view that seventh, eighth, ninth inning, as that’s where we want to be. You want to be in the game when the game is on the line. We don’t get that option very often.
“The few times I have been able to do it, there is nothing like it. You can feel those moments and they are really exciting," he said.