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May 30 2007

Stop and think about that.

Doing my best to think about that.  Really I am.

I don't know what causes arm and shoulder injuries for pitchers.  Pitching, no doubt, but it's more complicated than that.  I don't feel real bad about not knowing, either, cause I apparently have a lot of company.  The answer is surely that it's different for different pitchers -- capturing the exact combination of variables for any individual that would let you know how many pitches they can throw without being hurt may be close to impossible.

Over the past few week or so since the injury, several people have suggested that Brett Myers was used in much the same way as other closers are used by their teams.

Forgetting for a minute the pitching with a seven-run lead in the ninth thing, I must confess that I don't follow how other teams use their closers that closely.  But it seemed like Myers was doing more than his share in the Phillies' pen this month.  The window I thought was most unusual was the four games between May 12 and May 15.

On May 12 against the Cubs, Brett Myers entered the eighth inning of a game that the Phillies were winning 11-7.  He pitched the eighth and the ninth, striking out five while throwing 35 pitches. 

He got May 13 off.  May 14 he pitched the ninth in an 8-6 game and got the save.  May 15 he got four outs, entering the game with two outs in the eighth and getting the win on the walkoff home run by Ruiz.  On May 16 he pitched for the third straight day, entering the game in the ninth with the Phils up 6-2.  Myers made 35 pitches on the 12th, 14 on the 14th, 24 on the 15th and 13 on the 16th.

That pattern of usage seemed like it was probably unusual -- the closer throws a lot of pitches, 35 in this case, gets a day off and then throws three days in a row.  I wondered how often it happened, so I set off to look at the pitches thrown by Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner and John Smoltz for this season and the past two seasons.  That wasn't going to work since Smoltz was back to being a starter, so for his numbers I used the last three seasons he was a full-time reliever, 2002-2004.  The specific question I had in mind was, for those years, how often has one of these three pitchers thrown at least 30 pitches in relief, then gotten one day off followed by pitching three days in a row.  And the answer was none.

In 2007, Mariano Rivera has not had an outing in which he threw 30 or more pitches.

In 2006, he threw at least 30 pitches in five different games.

On April 26 he threw 38 pitches.  He pitched April 27 (7 pitches), but then not again till April 30.

5/20 he threw 34 pitches.  He next pitched on 5/23 (21).

6/28 he threw 33 pitches.  He next pitched on 6/30 (11) and then not till 7/5.

8/20 he threw 30 pitches.  His next outing was 8/27 (32).

8/27 he threw 32 pitches.  He next pitched 8/30 (14).

In 2005, Rivera threw at least 30 pitches six times.

On 4/6 he threw 38 pitches.  He didn't pitch again till 4/9.

On 5/6 he threw 50 pitches.  He didn't pitch again till 5/9.

On 6/15 he threw 30 pitches.  He then threw 13 pitches on 6/17, eight pitches on 6/19 and 23 pitches on 6/20.

On 8/10 he threw 31 pitches.  He then threw on 8/11 (26), 8/13 (27) and 8/15 (18).

On 9/11 he threw 37 pitches and didn't pitch again till 9/14 (18).

On 9/25 he threw 36 pitches and didn't pitch again till 9/28 (9).

John Smoltz was last a full-time reliever in 2004.  In 2004 he threw more than 29 pitches in an appearance three times.

On 7/11 he threw 32 pitches.  He didn't pitch again till 7/17 (13).

On 7/19 he threw 31 pitches.  He next pitched on 7/20 (12) then on 7/22 (19).

On 9/22 he threw 31 pitches.  He next pitched 9/24 (15) and then on 9/28 (13).

During 2003 he threw more than 29 pitches in a game twice.

On 7/23 he threw 33 pitches.  He then threw on 7/24 (7), 7/25 (23) and 7/28 (11).

On 9/27, in his last appearance of the season, he threw 30 pitches.

During the 2002 season he threw more than 29 pitches twice.

On April 6 he threw 37 pitches.  4/7 (25), 4/8 (18) and 4/10 (12).  Very close to what Myers did, but not quite.

On May 5 he threw 32 pitches.  5/7 (12) and 5/9 (17).

Billy Wagner has thrown more than 29 pitches twice this season.  On April 24 he threw 40 pitches.  He next appeared on April 28. 

He threw 32 pitches on May 25 and 21 on 5/27.  He then got another day off before throwing 18 pitches last night.

In 2006 he threw more than 30 pitches in a game six times.

On 4/11 he threw 32 pitches.  He next appeared on 4/12 (15), then 4/14 (16) and then 4/17 (16).

On 5/3 he threw 31 pitches.  Next 5/5 (30) and then 5/12 (19).

On 5/20 he threw 31 pitches.  He then went on 5/21 (31), 5/23 (17) and 5/24 (13).  Very similar to what Myers did except with the one off day in a different place.

On 6/13 he threw 31 pitches.  6/15 (12), 6/19 (21).

On 6/25 he threw 31 pitches.  He didn't pitch again till 7/1 (13).

I find the 2005 season for Wagner fascinating because of who his manager was.  Charlie Manuel.  During the 2005 season, Manuel called on Wagner, coming off an injury, to throw 30 or more pitches in a game just twice.  On 5/15 he threw 35 and then threw 16 on 5/17 and ten on 5/19.  On July 19 he threw 43 pitches and then didn't pitch again till July 22.

This made me wonder about Manuel's use of Tom Gordon last season.  In 2006, Gordon threw 30 or more pitches five times.

On June 26 he threw 33 pitches.  He next pitched 6/29 (4).

On July 4 he threw 36 pitches.  He threw nine on 7/5 and then didn't pitch again till 7/8.

7/25 he threw 41 pitches.  He pitched 7/26 (17), 7/27 (15) and then not again till August 1.  Not what Myers did either, but that's one I'd try to avoid as well.  Three days in a row including a 41-pitch outing.

8/12 he threw 31 pitches and didn't pitch again till 9/7 cause he went on the DL.

On 9/27 he threw 34 pitches.  He next appeared on 9/30 and threw 17.

So Manuel used Gordon to throw at least 30 pitches in 2006 far more often than he used Wagner in 2005.  One thing that did strike me about Gordon's '06 usage was that the high pitch count outings started later in the season than they did for Myers.  Gordon first made more than 29 pitches in an appearance on June 26 of last year.  The Phils were 35-39 coming into that game, which they lost to the Red Sox in extra-innings.  Myers got hurt on May 23 after throwing 30 pitches three times already on the season.  Also not to be forgotten was that Gordon broke down at the end of last season, spending time on the DL and throwing to a 5.32 ERA after the All-Star break.  In 2006, Gordon had a 2.03 ERA in the 32 games before his first 30-pitch appearance on June 26 and a 4.76 ERA in the 27 games he pitched in between June 26 and the end of the season.

Myers was in the Phillies' pen for 34 games this season.  During that time he threw at least 30 pitches three times.  If he had thrown 30 or more pitches in an outing that often over the course of an entire season, he would have thrown 30 or more in a game 14 times.  Of the eight full seasons for the closers we looked at, two full seasons for Rivera and Wagner, three for Smoltz and one for Gordon, the high mark in number of outings of at least 30 pitches was six.  That includes the two full seasons the closer was managed by Manuel.

Myers clearly threw more pitches in his relief appearances than other NL closers this season.  In his 18 appearances as a reliever, Myers threw 378 pitches, or an average of 21 per game.  Here's a look at the top ten in the NL in saves for 2007, the number of games they've appeared in, the number of pitches they've thrown and the number of pitches per game:

 

Player G # Pitches P/G
F Cordero 22 311 14.1
J Valverde 24 400 16.7
B Fuentes 25 349 14.0
T Hoffman 22 272 12.4
T Saito 21 328 15.6
J Isringhausen 20 283 14.2
S Torres 24 352 14.7
B Wagner 22 367 16.7
R Dempster 21 328 15.6
D Weathers 21 377 18.0
       
B Myers 18 378 21.0

You could argue that Myers wasn't a closer his whole time in the pen.  He got his first save on May 3.  In his eight relief appearances before he got his first save, he threw fewer pitches per game on average than after he got his first save.  In his eight relief appearances before May 3 he threw 154 pitches, or about 19.3 per game.

Baseball-Reference tracks the number of pitches thrown by a pitcher in each of his outings.  From the player's page, select "Gamelogs."  Here, for example, is the list of Myers' outings for this season.


May 30 2007

Ugly game for the Phillies last night as the streaking Diamondbacks won their sixth in a row.  After trailing all game, the Phillies scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to get within two at 5-3.  And in the top of the eighth they imploded defensively with two errors that led to five unearned runs.

On the game, the Phils made three errors and gave up 17 hits.  Arizona scored 11 runs without a home run.  Ryan Howard left the game early with a problem with his leg. 

The Phils lost their second straight last night, falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-5.  They are back at .500 with a 26-26 record and in third-place in the NL East.  They trail the second-place Braves by three games and the division-leading Mets by eight.

Jon Lieber got the start for the Phillies and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on 13 hits and no walks.  Four of the hits went for extra-bases, three doubles and a triple.  He struck out five.  The 13 hits are the most given up by a Phillies' starter this season.  Eaton gave up 10 to the Fish on April 28, which is the only other time the starting pitcher has allowed more than nine.

Eric Byrnes led off the first with a single and moved to second on a balk, but the next three Diamondbacks went in order.

Arizona scored five times in the second.  Stephen Drew led off with a single and moved to third on a double by Chris Young.  Alberto Callaspo hit a fly ball to right that Victorino handled.  Drew scored to put Arizona up 1-0 and Young moved to third with one out.  With the infield in early in the game, Miguel Montero singled to right and Young scored.  2-0.  Lieber struck out Micah Owings for the second out.  Byrnes was next an he moved Montero to second with a single.  Conor Jackson doubled to center.  Montero scored and Byrnes moved to third with the score 3-0 and two down.  Orlando Hudson brought them both home with a single to center that put the Snakes up 5-0.  Mark Reynolds doubled to right and Hudson went to third.  Lieber got Drew on a fly ball to center to end the inning.  Five runs without a home run or a walk in the inning for Arizona.  Four singles and three doubles.

Callaspo singled with one out in the third, but Montero followed and hit into a double-play.

Lieber threw a 1-2-3 fourth with the Phils down 5-1. 

Hudson led off the fifth with a single, but Lieber set down the next three.

Micah Owings tripled off the wall in right with two down in the sixth.  Lieber got Byrnes on a fly ball to right to end the frame.

Lieber started the seventh and got the leadoff man before Hudson singled to right.  Reynolds flew to right for the second out, but Drew was next and he singled to right.  With men on first and second and two down, Manuel pulled the plug on Lieber.  Yoel Hernandez came in to pitch to righty Chris Young and struck him out to end the inning.

Geary entered the game in the eighth with the Phils down 5-3.  He got the first man he faced before Montero hit a ground ball to short that handcuffed Rollins and went off his wrist or glove for an error.  Montero moved to second on wild pitch, but Scott Hairston struck out for the second out of the inning.  Byrnes chopped a ball between third and short.  Dobbs charged and gloved, but his throw to first was high.  Second error of the inning on the Phils.  With men on first and third with two down, Jackson walked to load the bases.  Geary looked like he had struck Hudson out with a breaking ball on the 1-2 pitch, but he didn't get the call.  Hudson smoked the next pitch up the middle and into center, scoring two runs and moving Jackson to third.  7-3.  Carlos Quentin was hit by a pitch to load the bases again and Drew tripled off the wall in left center, clearing the bases. 10-3.  Condrey entered the game and struck out pitcher Tony Pena to end the frame.  Five runs charged to Geary in 2/3 of an inning, all of which were unearned after the pair of errors.

Condrey came back for the ninth.  Callaspo led off with a ball down the first base line.  Howard fielded and tossed to Condrey covering first, but his toss was way high.  Error on Howard, who looked like he hurt himself on the play.  After the play he was holding the back of his left leg at or just above his knee.  Montero was next and popped a ball behind third that dropped in between Dobbs, Rollins and Werth.  Awful.  It looked like Dobbs was going to catch it and changed his mind at the last minute, maybe cause he lost it or thought someone else was going to make the play.  He actually looked a little like he thought he would let it land foul -- I have no idea why he would think that would be better than getting an out.  Hairston was next and he got a real hit to left to load the bases.  Manuel took Howard out of the game, no doubt worried about his leg, and Helms came in to play first.  Byrnes popped to second for the first out.  Jackson hit a ground ball to short and Rollins started a pretty near double-play, but Jackson just beat it out at first.  Hairston blew up Utley at second in a game way out of hand, no doubt remembering Utley's slide into third in the bottom of the seventh.  Callaspo scored from third to make the score 11-4.  Condrey struck out Hudson to end the inning.  Two more bad defensive plays from the Phillies.

The Phillies' lineup against righty Micah Owings went (1) Rollins (2) Victorino (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Dobbs (7) Rowand (8) Ruiz.  Dobbs plays third against the righty. 

Rollins doubled to lead off the first.  Victorino popped to short for the first out before Utley moved Rollins to third with a ground ball to second.  Howard struck out to end the inning.

With the Phils down 5-0 in the second, Rowand hit a two-out double and scored on a single by Ruiz.  5-1.  Lieber walked before Rollins flew to center for the third out.

With one out in the third, the Phillies loaded the bases on singles by Victorino and Utley and a walk by Burrell.  Dobbs popped to second and Utley grounded to short to end the inning.  Phils get nothing out of bases loaded and one out.

Ruiz singled to start the fourth and moved to second on a bunt by Lieber.  Rollins grounded to first and Victorino lined to right for the third out.

Utley started the fifth with a single but Howard followed and hit into a double-play.  Burrell struck out to end the inning.

Rowand walked with one out in the sixth and, with Ruiz at the plate, was thrown out trying to steal second with the Phils down 5-1.  Wouldn't have been as bad a play if the Phils were going to let Lieber hit for himself.  But they weren't.  Werth was ready to hit for him.  Ruiz grounded to short to end the inning and Lieber got to start the seventh.

Bourn, who had entered in the top of the inning with Hernandez, led off the seventh with a bunt to the third base side of the mound.  Good bunt and the pitcher Medders and third baseman Reynolds both went after it.  Medders peeled off at the last minute but as he raised his right knee Reynolds crashed into his side.  Reynolds looked badly hurt and lay face down on the ground for a couple of minutes before being helped off the field.  Bourn was safe with a single.  Rollins flew to right for the first out, but Victorino followed with a walk that gave the Phils men on first and second.  With Utley at the plate, a passed ball by Montero moved the runners to second and third.  Utley dinked a silly little thing into center that scored both runners and cut the Arizona lead to 5-3.  Howard walked, putting men on first and second for Burrell.  Burrell hit a ground ball to third.  Callaspo tagged third and, despite Utley going way out of his way to slide into him a couple of feet towards the mound, threw Burrell out at first for an inning-ending double-play.

Dobbs led off the eighth and started towards first after ball three thinking he had walked.  He hadn't.  He came back and homered on a line drive to right, cutting the Arizona lead to 10-4.  Werth, who entered the game in the top of the inning with Geary, grounded to second for the first out and Ruiz struck out for the second.  Bourn was next and smashed a single back up the middle, but Rollins grounded out to first to end the inning. 

Victorino led off the ninth and reached on an error by Hudson at second.  Utley followed with a double that moved Victorino to third.  Helms was called out on strikes on an absurd call by the home plate umpire on a ball low and inside for the first out.  Nunez grounded to second, scoring Victorino to make the score 11-5 and moving Utley to third with two down.  Dobbs flew out to center to end the game.

Rollins was 1-for-5 with a double. 

Victorino was 0-for-4 with a walk and scored two runs. 

Utley was 4-for-5 with a double and two RBI. 

Howard was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk.  6-for-18 with three home runs and four walks since coming off the DL.  He said after the game that the problem with his leg was a cramp

Burrell was 0-for-3 with a walk. 

Dobbs was 1-for-5 with his fifth homer.  Charged with an error and made another mistake in the field on the pop-up behind third that wasn't called an error.

Rowand was 1-for-2 with a double and picked a bad time to get caught stealing.

Ruiz was 2-for-4 with two singles. 

Jamie Moyer (5-3, 4.18) faces lefty Randy Johnson (2-2, 4.54) tonight.  Hopefully Moyer got back on track with his last outing, which came on Friday in Atlanta.  In his only good start of his last three he held the Braves to two earned runs on five hits and a walk.  He didn't allow a home run.  In his four starts that he's allowed a home run he's thrown to a 6.56 ERA.  In his six starts where he hasn't he's thrown to a 2.83 ERA.  He faced the Diamondbacks on May 9 in Arizona and got the win, allowing three runs in seven innings.  Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes hit solo home runs against him in that game.  Randy Johnson got the start for Arizona in that game as well.  He allowed three runs in six innings on four hits and struck out nine.  After throwing six shutout innings he left in the seventh with the bases loaded and Ryan Howard hit a pinch-hit grand slam off of Brandon Medders.  Johnson has struck out 47 in 35 2/3 innings this season, but allowed five home runs.  Righties are hitting .275 against him, lefties .182.

I wouldn't expect Tom Gordon back any time soon.

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