Monday, June 28, 2010

Edwin Jackson and Pitch Counts

Will Carroll uses the occasion of Edwin Jackson's 149-pitch no-hitter to make a good point, which is a worthy quick read for anyone who is interested in the development of young pitchers and injury prevention.
Maybe A.J. Hinch lost his clicker or listened to John Smoltz. Maybe he chose history over health. We're going to hear every variation, from "about time we got rid of the pitch count police" to "what was he thinking?!" when it comes to Jackson's 149-pitch no-hitter. Jackson is not "young" anymore, and he's had a couple solid years after struggling to establish himself. So does this announce his presence or the end of his career? The simple fact is we won't know. If Jackson has a good outing next time, we still won't know. If he has a terrible outing next time, we still won't know. If he makes it through the season, we won't know. If you're sensing a theme, it's that despite all the money we're putting into pitching, we still don't know much about how the body deals with that activity. We measure pitch counts because it's an easy, consistent proxy for fatigue. If there's any exception to the rule about not talking to a pitcher during a no-hitter, we saw it this weekend as Ken Crenshaw spoke to Jackson a couple times. He might have said "want more Gatorade?" but Crenshaw is one of the more advanced and well thought of athletic trainers in the business. Still, there's no way for Crenshaw or any other trainer to objectively measure the in-game fatigue of a pitcher. Some use subjective testing, what trainers call "putting their hands on" and that's valid, but difficult. The ATC is trusting his senses and his memory, trying to compare something from minutes or weeks ago. As good as Crenshaw or someone like Mike Reinold of the Red Sox may be, they can't be perfect. There are handheld devices that could be used to measure, but as far as I know, no team is doing so. No team is using motion capture to test players' in-season fatigue and mechanical efficiency. Baseball is leaving its million-dollar investments on the field using only educated guesswork and gut feelings to protect them. Whether or not Jackson threw too many pitches is a symptom, not the problem.

1 comment:

Kevin Trainor said...

Thanks for the excerpt; too cheap to subscribe and read the whole thing. It is hard to believe that nobody in the major leagues has applied any of the bioscience progress made in the last fifty years to this problem, isn't it? Why don't we know why Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson pitched forever while so many other flamethrowers burned out early? Why have we actually gone backwards from the day of Earl Weaver?