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Nolan Ryan, Augie Garrido, and pitch counts

Here are a couple of quotes from this past week or so, in regards to Nolan Ryan and his program for improving the Rangers pitching:

Bill Conlin:

A month ago, Nolan Ryan, president of the Texas Rangers, sent a directive to the entire organization, banning use of pitch counts as a way to regulate how deep starting pitchers went in games.

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By the way, the season was 1974, when Ryan was 22-16 for the Angels, leading the American League with 202 walks and 367 strikeouts. He averaged 135 pitches for 41 starts. That insane workload ravaged his arm so severely his career only lasted 19 more seasons. Ryan was still throwing in the 90s when he finally retired at age 46.

 Jean-Jacques Taylor:

This organization wants pitchers who expect to go deep into games, routinely throw more than 100 pitches and finish what they start.

Really, it's that simple.

The days of babying starters are over. So are the days of six innings constituting an honest day's work. And they aren't ever coming back as long as Ryan remains in charge of the club.

* * *

They'll get stronger physically. Their muscles will adapt to the increased workloads. And if they can't, then maybe they can't – and shouldn't – start for these Rangers.

Here's a couple of quotes from the past day or two, in regards to Augie Garrido leaving Longhorn pitcher Austin Wood in a game this weekend for 169 pitches:

Keith Law on ESPN's Draft Blog:

By now you've probably read about the 25-inning game yesterday between the University of Texas and Boston College, which featured incredible performances by Texas reliever Austin Wood (13 innings, 169 pitches) and BC reliever Mike Belfiore (9.2 innings, 129 pitches) to keep the game scoreless into the small hours. However, we must not overlook the unconscionable decisions by Texas coach Augie Garrido and BC coach Mikio Aoki to expose two talented young pitchers to potential arm injuries, demonstrating not only poor judgment but willful ignorance of the connection between overuse and arm injuries.

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Sending any college pitcher, especially one with a pro future, out there to throw three or four times as many pitches as his arm is accustomed to throwing, and doing so when his arm is already fatigued from an outing the day before, is a firing offense. Both coaches should be terminated immediately before they get another chance to blow out anyone else's arm.

 And Evan Grant, yesterday:

 Kevin Millwood, obviously tiring in the 93-degree heat won an eight-pitch battle against Jack Hannahan to end the inning with just the one run scoring. Millwood must be done with 116 pitches. Well, unless Augie Garrido has taken over the Rangers. He let a kid throw 169 pitches. As somone up here said "A coach can’t buy a kid a cheeseburger without creating some kind of violation, but he can abuse his arm all he wants." Me, if the coaches won’t act responsibily, I’d have the NCAA legislate pitch counts.  I know Austin Wood probably didn’t want to come out of the game, but 169 pitches is just shameful.

So we should put Evan, Keith, Bill, and J-JT into a cage and let them fight it out until just one side is left standing, right?

Or better yet, let Nolan Ryan have a sit down with Keith and Evan to let them know the error of their ways, and understand that eliminating pitch counts is the way it should be, right?

This is what happens when the theoretical clashes with reality.  It is all well and good for J-JT and Conlin to proclaim that pitch counts are evil and that Nolan Ryan has done a great and wise thing by banishing them from the scene in Rangerland, but even if all pitching decisions around here are governed by WWNRD, the reality is that there's not really any conflict between Nolan's edict and what Law and Grant are decrying.

The dirty little secret is that even though sound bites on MLB Network, ESPN, local broadcasts, radio talk shows, and newspaper columns across the land proclaim that Nolan Ryan has eliminated pitch counts, that isn't what is really going on.  Neftali Feliz isn't going to throw a 169 pitch complete game for Oklahoma.  Martin Perez and Jake Brigham are on the same sort of tandem-starter schedule in Hickory that supposedly babies pitchers.  Managers and pitching coaches throughout the system know how many pitches their pitchers are throwing, and are, I'm reasonably certain, using that as a significant factor in determining how long a pitcher is going to stay in the game.

Because the idea that Ryan is "banning use of pitch counts" appears to be crap, for the same reason that people are up in arms about Austin Wood throwing 169 pitches...the number of pitches a pitcher throws matters.  It matters in the Rangers organization, it matters in the A's organization, it matters at every level of ball.

What Nolan appears to have been pushing is more flexibility on the upper still aren't seeing pitchers in the organization expected to go 140 or 150 pitches, but guys like Tommy Hunter, who have shown durability, are being allowed to cross the 120 pitch mark.

And while even Brandon McCarthy threw 124 pitches a couple of starts ago, he got an extra day of rest before starting again, and was pulled before 100 pitches on his next outing.

I don't guess it really matters, but it would be nice if people would stop the "Nolan Ryan is eliminating pitch counts" meme.  It doesn't jibe with what's going on, and if Nolan were really doing that, you'd hear a lot more of an uproar among those around the Rangers like you are currently hearing about Austin Wood.