For the first time, while watching the Boston Red Sox facing the Detroit Tigers during Dan Jones' birthday weekend, I noticed the pitch count tracker in the score box on NESN. Whether it was a new doohickey, the fact that I was deep into a 40 oz. of Olde English or because pitch count is a relatively new important statistic, I was drawn to it. I went on and on for a few minutes about it and then asked Dan to take a picture of his television for this post (thanks again Dan).
The Importance Of Pitch Count
A starters pitch count wasn't extremely important to the team or the fan until careers starting ending early, elbows were blown out and Bret Saberhagen became the bionic man. After digging around to find a timeline of the introduction to tracking pitch counts in major league baseball, I found an article from Novermber of 2004. They pointed out, as we have noticed, that the average pitch count for a starter is 100.
Baseball front offices and managers made the statistic important. Trying to prolong the health and effectiveness of their highly paid pitchers, all teams restrict starting hurlers to about 100 pitches. That usually gets them to the sixth or seventh inning.
Of course there are the exceptions to the rule. Most pitchers average pitch count is between 102-108 and a high of 118-123. The lower pitch counts show how effective or ineffective that pitcher was in his outing and the higher of the pitch counts usually show that a pitcher went very deep to complete his game during a no-hit or shut out bid.
The Excitement Of The Pitch Count
As the article from Baseball Digest said in 2004, the pitch count is here to stay. Tracking the pitch count can sometimes pull a starter too early and other times can force managers to make the wrong decision in a tight game. I wouldn't want to see fans obsessing over pitch counts, but how fun is it to see the opposing starter breaking 40 pitches in the second inning while you try to do the math in your head just to figure out what inning we could have him taken out by.