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"Duke" It Out In The "Street": Pitcher Use vs. Pitcher Abuse

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In light of Street's controversial 10 out, 43 pitch, effort on Sunday, here's your chance to weigh in on the type of use that does, or does not, put a pitcher's arm at health risk.

To me, there are three basic types of "heavy use" managers must consider:

  • Type A. High pitch counts (120+)
  • Type B. Extended short reliever outings (4-5 out saves, 2 inning or 40 pitch stints, etc.)
  • Type C. Frequent use (3 days in a row, 4 out of 5, 5 out of 7, etc.)
Let me pose some questions for discussion. You can answer any or all; refer to the "types of heavy use," and the "questions," by number and it will be easier to follow.

Question #1: Which is more likely to strain a pitcher's arm: Being stretched out to 3+ innings and 40+ pitches (as Street was on Sunday), or being stretched out to pitch 4 games out of 5, and 5 out of 7 (as Duke was in Street's absence)?

Question #2: For starters, is pitch count the only key, or is # of innings relevant? For example, if Haren throws 3 complete games in a row, each 100 pitches, you could say, "Low pitch counts, would have been 7 innings for most guys--no problem," or you could say "That's still nine times warming up, nine times sitting in the dugout between innings, nine times going through the stress of an inning--more stressful on the arm than throwing 100 pitches in 7 innings." What do you think?

Question #3: There is some empirical data that starters allowed to go beyond 120 pitches on a regular basis may be prone to arm-related injuries. Prior, Wood, and Schmidt are classic examples--but then again, there are guys like Livan Hernandez, and Curt Schilling, whose high pitch counts have not correlated with arm injuries. Is velocity, repertoire, or simple genetics ("he's a horse") a consideration? Or is pushing a guy beyond 120+ on a regular basis simply playing with fire?

Question #4: A bottom line question--philosophically, which of the 3 types of "heavy use" do you feel puts a pitcher most at risk, and which do you feel puts a pitcher least at risk?

Feel free to weigh in, and also to provide links to any articles that have useful data, or thoughtful analysis, on the effects of "heavy use" on a pitcher's health.