Prior to tomorrow's game we'll be posting the final NL Central interview. I had planned to post it this evening, but I thought I'd throw something else together.
Anyone who has read much of anything of mine over the years knows that I'm not one of those people who goes nuts over pitch counts. That doesn't mean I don't pay attention or that I don't think there are certain things that should be done. I do. My opinion is that you take the starter out after 3 times through the order unless he's an elite pitcher. That's basically the idea and I don't want to dive too much into it because it's not really important.
In today's 6-3 Opening Day loss to the Pirates, Ryan Dempster had what I'd call a so-so start. At times he looked excellent and he made a couple huge mistakes. In the end, Dempster allowed 6 runs in 6.2 innings. Mistakes happen. These won't be the only ones Dempster makes this season and the ones today aren't any more or less important than ones he'll make down the road.
In those 6.2 innings Dempster threw 114 pitches. The previous three seasons Dempster threw 91, 98 and 95 pitches in his first start of the season. It was rather cold today at Wrigley Field. It's been cold early in the season before in Chicago. I was kind of surprised to see that in 2009 Dempster's second start he threw 110 pitches. The following year he threw 114 in his second start. Last year he threw 120 in his third start and 111 in his next.
Not being injured in the past doesn't mean he's going to be injury free in the future, but it's clear he's thrown high pitch counts very early in the season in the past. My initial reaction was probably a little too negative. I'd have preferred Dempster not throw over 110 pitches today, but I generally don't like to see pitchers on the mound at 110 pitches anyway.
It's not because of the potential of injury down the road. It's because by that time pitchers are almost always working on the order the fourth time and the offense has a significant advantage at that point. I also understand that managers would don't tend to take that into consideration even though it's something Greg Maddux has talked about many times. So it's clearly something that is talked about amongst the players and/or coaches. I think managers prefer to use their starters in fear of their bullpen or in fear of having to use too many relievers in the future.
It's probably not a good idea, but I don't think it should have irritated me either. Dempster has handled it in the past and was certainly near or above 100 pitches in his next to last start in Arizona. I hope we don't see him throwing over 110 pitches in several consecutive starts, but until that happens I think I overreacted.