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.