I’m a pitch-count agnostic. Over the past five years, you’ve probably skimmed my missives on the subject. We think the number 100 has special properties because we use a base-10 numerical system. It’s likely that we use a base-10 system because our ancestors had ten fingers. If Antonio Alfonseca had been the fellow who populated our modern world, we probably wouldn’t freak out until pitchers approached 144 pitches. And we still wouldn’t know what the magic total that caused pitching injuries for specific players.
Bruce Bochy isn’t bad with pitch-counts, which might surprise some of you. Of the three young arms (Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez) only one has thrown over 120 pitches (Lincecum, 4/24, 122 pitches). Lincecum also has a start with 119 pitches, and Cain has one with 116, and those are the only other starts above 115 pitches. For the most part, the young pitchers range between 85 and 115 pitches. We really haven’t seen a good ol’-fashioned arm-slagging from Bochy this year (if we’re just looking at raw pitch totals, that is).
Here’s where we start to fidget, though:
Innings 1-3: .233/.306/.335
Innings 4-6: .228/.343/.324
Innings 7-9: .353/.421/.676
Innings 1-3: .250/.324/.372
Innings 4-6: .213/.296/.400
Innings 7-9: .326/.380/.628
Innings 1-3: .190/.269/.297
Innings 4-6: .254/.325/.295
Innings 7-9: .326/.388/.558
My anecdotal perception before seeing these splits: Young pitcher heads into the seventh inning, close to 100 pitches; young pitcher gives up walk/double/homer; young pitcher is removed for a kerosene-micturating reliever, who allows all sorts of inherited runners to score. The numbers kinda sorta back this up. There are small sample sizes with which to contend, of course. Still, if you look up some of the other top pitchers – I pulled Dan Haren, Carlos Zambrano, and Ben Sheets at random – the differences between the beginnings, middles, and ends of games aren't nearly as pronounced.
So what do we have here? Are Bochy and Dave Righetti bad at sensing when a pitcher is tiring? Is this a function of sample size that should be ignored as long as the pitchers aren’t throwing too many pitches?
Stirring questions, all. Lucky for me, I can just throw these things out there and let you do all the work.