Nolan Ryan Rangers

The “let pitchers throw more” folks are full of beans

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Every time a promising young pitcher goes down with a serious injury some old timer comes out of the woodwork and says that the injury proves that guys are being coddled, that pitch counts are the devil’s work and if we went back to four-man rotations, 300+ innings pitched a year and real stirrups and wool uniforms everything would be OK.  They did it with Strasburg. They’re doing it now with Harvey.

The latest is Terrence Moore of MLB.com:

… pitchers used to throw forever. I’m talking about in the Major Leagues, in the Minor Leagues, in Little Leagues and in sandlot leagues. And let’s get that ridiculous example out of the way in Walter Johnson. After he made his Major League debut in 1903, he pitched 200 innings or more 18 times in 21 years. He even went nine straight seasons throwing 300 innings or more. Two-hundred innings once was the standard for starting pitchers during a given season. Now, not so much …  how are these pitch counts working overall these days when it comes to keeping guys in the lineup? Ask Harvey.

All of these things follow the same pattern: they note recently diagnosed injuries, ignore injured pitchers of the past and use massive exceptions to the rule in the form of Hall of Fame-level superstars when it comes to trotting out examples.

Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan are freaks in the best sense of the word. They were hard throwers who never broke down and pitched forever and ever. That’s why they are, quite literally, exceptional. As in: they are exceptions to the rule which posits that pitchers get hurt. Why does Terrence Moore write garbage when William Shakespeare did not? Why are writers these days not all like Shakespeare? See how that works?

Even more significantly, Moore and his old school brethren fail to recognize that, these days, pitcher injuries are diagnosed whereas, in the past, they rarely were. Guys who pitched all the way up until the 1970s were fine and then they “just lost it” or “their arm gave out.” They continued pitching as junkballers and knuckleballers or they were relegated to one of the hundreds upon hundreds of minor league teams, affiliated or not, and just gutted things out all the while never having a good answer to the question “what happened, Smokey? You used to zip it in there?”  How many of them tore UCLs or rotator cuffs or capsules or what have you? Tons, I’m sure. It’s not like someone invented the UCL in 1978. We just couldn’t diagnose those injuries.

Finally Moore and his ilk fail to recognize that guys throw much harder today with much more violence done to the arm and shoulder. Nasty hard sliders and split-finger pitches and cutters and what have you, with overall velocity — like all measurable athletic acts — improving and increasing as time goes on. How many third and fourth starters in the 1940s hit 93 on the gun? How many threw ungodly breaking stuff? That’s the threshold for even making it to the bigs these days and as such way more guys are doing way more violent things to their arms.

I don’t know if pitchers should throw more between starts. Or if we’re too soft with some guys who are mechanically sound and suffer no ill effects. Or if pitch counts matter less than innings or matter more. Like I said the other day, I don’t think we know much more about how to save a pitcher these days than we ever have and some are gonna get hurt no matter what we do.

But I do know that Moore and the old folks who think like him are just guessing here when they say pitchers should be treated like Mickey Lolich was treated in the 70s, and they’re guessing while being willfully blind to the differences in the game of old vs. the game today.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.