Chris Sale throwing 115 pitches in his dominant, 15-strikeout start Monday has led to some talk about whether the White Sox were smart to let him stay in the game that long considering it was his ninth career start and came just weeks after temporarily shifting him to the bullpen amid elbow problems.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has a message for anyone questioning the wisdom of extending Sale’s pitch count that far, and that message is basically “you’re an idiot”:
Pitch counts are for people who have never been in the game. … We’re in the American League. We’re not in Little League. But nevertheless, people who bring up pitch counts are people who have nothing else to really know. And it just blows me away. They’re doing that to say, “God forbid if someone goes down, I told you so.” And these are people who are not in the arena and never really played, so what kind of validity does any of that hold? … Stick to whatever their hobbies are, these pitch count (guys).
There’s some truth to parts of that, of course, but the notion that only people outside of the game pay attention to pitch counts is silly. For better or worse every pitching coach and manager in the league makes decisions based on pitch counts, Cooper included. His point is that there’s no need to get worked up about one 115-pitch outing, but the thing is that those “pitch count guys” would almost surely agree with that as well.
It’s also worth noting that Cooper has been the White Sox’s pitching coach since way back in 2002 and Sale’s outing Monday was the first time since 2005 that he’s allowed a 23-or-younger starter to throw at least 115 pitches. Brandon McCarthy was the last 23-and-under pitcher to do that under Cooper and … well, coincidence or not his career has been filled with disabled list stints and arm problems since then.
And in the seven seasons between McCarthy doing it and Sale doing it the White Sox got 78 starts from a 23-or-younger pitcher and none of them involved throwing 115-plus pitches. Maybe that’s a coincidence or maybe–you may want to sit down for this–Cooper is paying attention to the pitch counts of young starters and using them to make decisions.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: