Dusty Baker, pitch counts and pitcher injuries

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Jeff Fletcher at AOL takes a closer look at the conventional wisdom that Dusty Baker is the angel of death when it comes to young starting pitchers:

There is no way to prove conclusively why any pitcher gets injured, so
the claims of pitcher abuse by Baker will forever be just theories. It
is indisputable, though, that Baker has had his starting pitchers
consistently throw more pitches than the norm.

Pitchers on Baker’s teams have thrown more pitches per start than the
National League average for pitchers on other teams in 14 of his 16
seasons. The difference is just about five pitches per game over his
career, but he has had two years in which his pitchers threw at least
10 more pitches, on average, than the rest of the league. One of those
was 2003.

Fletcher is pretty thorough in his reporting here, providing all of the pro-Dusty and con-Dusty I can recall hearing over the past decade or so.  It’s definitely worth a click-though and a full read.

My view: Dusty catches a more flak than he probably deserves for the specific injuries that have occurred on his watch. Some have suggested that Mark Prior’s allegedly perfect mechanics were actually far from it and inevitably led to his injuries. As Fletcher notes, Kerry Wood had an injury history before Baker drove him hard, and simply watching the torque he put on the ball back in the day was enough to make your arm hurt.  Fletcher notes other examples of pitchers who suffered injures under Baker that likely had little to do with their pitch counts.

That said, the fact is that we simply don’t know enough about the link between pitch counts and injuries to where Dusty can be excused for the consistently and significantly higher pitch counts his pitchers are forced to endure. I can’t say that Dusty Baker killed Mark Prior’s career, but I can’t say he didn’t either, and there’s no evidence that Baker every gave much thought to the matter at the time.

If I’m running a team and I’m investing tens of millions of dollars in precious pitchers, that’s simply unacceptable to me. 

Cameron Rupp, who criticized Odubel Herrera for bat-flipping, flipped his bat on a home run

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Earlier, Craig wrote about the negative reaction within the Phillies’ clubhouse after outfielder Odubel Herrera A) flipped his bat on a fly out, and B) failing to run out a dropped third strike. Manager Pete Mackanin was one of Herrera’s critics, unsurprisingly, but so was catcher Cameron Rupp.

Via the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb, Rupp said that the Phillies’ frustration with Herrera is “not a secret.” He said, “Pete is the manager and what he asks us to do, we’re supposed to do. It’s a team thing and one guy can’t just not follow the rules. It’s not the first time. It has happened before and that’s something we don’t want to see. We want him in the game. He’s a good player. It’s hard for us. He’s a grown man. He has to learn on his own. We can only say so much.”

Though Rupp didn’t directly say his criticism of Herrera pertained to bat flips, we can logically deduce it as such. Herrera doesn’t commonly fail to run out dropped third strikes, but he does commonly flip his bat, particularly on non-homers.

Rupp had a good game against the Astros on Wednesday night, blasting a pair of two-run home runs. The problem? Rupp flipped his bat. In a 9-0 game.

The MLB.com video doesn’t really give a chance to see the full extent of Rupp’s flip, so here’s a .gif from Chris Jones:

And just in case anyone feels I’m interpreting the situation through a biased lens, Phillies beat writer Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice also saw it the same way.

We should probably expect Mackanin to bench Rupp for the next two games like he did Herrera, right? What’s that, you say? Certain players were more likely to be criticized for expressing emotion and perceived lack of hustle? Really makes you think.

Nationals to promote top pitching prospect Erick Fedde

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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Nationals will call up top pitching prospect Erick Fedde to start in place of Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg left Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks due to “some nerve impingement.”

Fedde, 24, was the Nationals’ first-round selection (18th overall) in the 2014 draft. The right-hander is the No. 3 prospect in the Nationals’ system, according to MLB Pipeline. Between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, Fedde has a 3.72 ERA with a 69/21 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings.

The Nationals still seem hopeful that Strasburg won’t need a stint on the disabled list. Saturday, of course, will mark five games since his last start which happens to be half of the minimum disabled list stint. The Nationals could always DL him retroactive to Monday. (Update: The Nationals will indeed place Strasburg on the DL, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.)