May 28, 2014


Occasionally, the White Sox radio broadcast will have an interesting side story.

Ed Farmer relayed a story when he was a young pitcher in spring training. He went to the Cubs came and met Fergie Jenkins. Jenkins knew Farmer had pitched a game against a AAA club the previous day. Farmer told the future Hall of Famer that he threw 6 innings, and struck out 12 batters. Jenkins then asked how many pitches did Farmer throw. Farmer thought maybe a hundred. Jenkins then remarked his last game he pitched 6 innings, but only threw 48 pitches.

Jenkins told him that strike outs are fine for high school or college pitchers. But in the major leagues, pitchers need to throw "outs." He called it being democratic; getting his fielders in the game early and often. Inducing a grounder on one pitch is better than throwing 6 to get a strike out.

Farmer said he learned a valuable lesson that day.

Teams still focus in on strike outs as a measure of a pitcher. General managers love power arms because they tend to have more strike outs on their resumes. However, power pitchers tend to break down faster than pitchers with less velocity but more control.

Steve Stone recently remarked that some starters have trouble in the first two innings of a ball game. He blames it on preparation. He said the average starter throws around 70 bullpen pitches to get loose. Some players, if they are coming off injury, may throw half as many thinking that they are saving their arm. But it takes two innings of tosses to get to throwing shape, thereby costing the team several runs to make up.

In addition to 70 pregame tosses, each pitcher has 8 warm ups per inning. A six inning starter then throws 118 pitches in non-game situations per game. So when a team is concerned about pitch counts at 100 for a starter, in reality that number is more like 200 plus.

If teams are really concerned about pitch counts and arm injuries, they should teach pitchers how to throw outs - - - induce fly balls or grounders - - - rather than strike outs.