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Bruce Jenkins on the Rangers, Mike Krukow, and pitch counts

Bruce Jenkins has a column up that has a couple of items of note...

First, on the Rangers and Vicente Padilla:

The Texas Rangers have to get Vicente Padilla out of their rotation before he ruins a promising season. This is an exciting, first-place team, but there was Padilla (3-3, 5.57) in his usual head-hunting fury against the Yankees last night, hitting Mark Teixeira twice and generally stinking up the place. Padilla draws no respect from the opposition, he hurts his own team, and with Josh Hamilton (sports hernia) possibly out for a period of months, the team needs to pull together -- without hotheads . . .

So if Josh Hamilton were healthy, we could live with Padilla, but without Hamilton, the Rangers needs to not have "hotheads"?

And then there's the latest screed against pitch counts, with Jenkins boot-strapping on the comments of Mike Krukow:

Mike Krukow had some scathing, spot-on comments about pitch counts yesterday on the Gary Radnich show. Krukow plays it close to the vest during telecasts, honoring the game's trend toward caution and protecting young arms, but he revealed his true feelings with Radnich, ridiculing the notion of effective pitchers being replaced after 100-odd pitches and calling it "the stupidest thing I've ever seen."

As if on cue, there was a scene at Dodger Stadium last night that showed exactly what Krukow was talking about.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are really struggling right now. They'd like to think they're a lot better than their record shows, and there's no better place to make a statement than L.A., where the Dodgers are threatening to run away with the division. Dan Haren, last night's starter, is pitching as well as anyone in the game. Through seven innings, he was working on a masterful two-hitter and had a 5-1 lead.

If manager A.J. Hinch had been watching the game, instead of monitoring Haren's pitch count (110), he would have left him in the game for a dominant, influential victory. But no, 110 means curtains in today's game. Haren's gone. Off to the clubhouse before he even sniffed a crisis. The move might have been explainable if the Diamondbacks had a decent bullpen, but they've been a joke in that department most of the season. Sure enough, Tony Pena started the eighth, the revitalized Dodgers mounted a rally, and by the time Pena and rookie Daniel Schlereth finished making a mess of things, the Dodgers had a 6-5 victory.

As Krukow told Radnich, the way you become a winning pitcher is by finishing a game, working your way through a batting order three or four times. Anyone can win the first couple of matchups, but once you've figured out how to out-perform that guy every time, especially when it counts, you're a better pitcher and a better man. Krukow said he routinely had 150-pitch games during his career, clearing 190 a couple of times in college, and that if you decide to stick with a pitcher who has it all going, after 110-120 pitches, "It's not going to hurt him, OK?" said Krukow. "It's just not."

The worst of it is, Hinch probably won't even think twice about his decision. He and a thousand other managers will take the paranoia route every time. That's how you lose games, respect and any chance of making an impression in this division.

One of the commenters points out the flaw in Krukow's argument:

What's ironic is that Krukow was never good enough to pitch deep into games. Go right now Bruce and check his game logs: you'll see strings of games where he only pitched 4 to 6 innings with an occasional 8 or 9 inning outing - year after year, save for one - the season he won 20 games. And that season of exceptionally high workload marks his last year of being an effective starter. He was never the same again, and was soon done as a player.

Krukow wasn't a very good pitcher -- he was a low-K, middling walk guy.  If you apply tangotiger's pitch count estimator to his lines during his heyday, it doesn't appear he was ever going more than 110-120 pitches. 

And Hinch, of course, is a front office nerd who was hired by another front office nerd to replace a real baseball man, which means that Jenkins and his ilk aren't going to cut him any slack anyway.

In any case, it is worth noting that we have pitch counts for the final two years of Krukow's career, covering a span of 28 starts.  He threw more than 100 pitches four times in those 28 starts, with only one game involving a pitch count higher than 108 -- a June 25, 1988, outing in which he threw 123 pitches, his last start before a stint on the d.l. that sidelined him until mid-August.