Jim Bouton wrote my favorite baseball book of all time, so he could say just about anything at this point and remain on my good side, but it was still nice to see him give the following answer when asked recently what he thinks “about today’s emphasis on pitch counts”:
I think it’s smart. If we’d had that in my day, I might have pitched more. I might have had some more 20-win seasons than I did. I pitched 249 innings in 1963, 271 in 1964, and in 1965, my arm was completely dead. That’s why I had to resurrect the knuckleball. I just couldn’t throw hard any more. There was no elasticity in my muscles. There was no life there, and it was because I pitched so many innings.
Every four days. Having to go eight, nine innings all the time. I had 23 complete games in two years. Now there aren’t 23 complete games on a whole pitching staff. I can see now looking back that it took too much out of me. I’m not 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. It took everything I had to throw as hard as I did, and it took its toll so I think the pitch counts are smart.
The default reaction for retired ballplayers seems to be “things were better in my day” regardless of the topic, so it’s refreshing for a 70-year-old former All-Star to suggest that perhaps limiting a young pitcher’s workload is a good thing.