Leading off today:
Rob Centorani threw some heat this week in the form of a column taking the contrarian view on baseball pitch counts, a subject that made fresh headlines
last month when the National Federation told its member associations to formulate policies.
Centorani, who covers high school sports for the Press & Sun-Bulletin, argued in his column that pitch counts aren't going to fix the issue of arm injuries in young pitchers.
"Consider that since we've started coddling big-league pitchers, going from four- to five-man rotations and monitoring pitches, we still have a ton of hurlers on the disabled list and still have a bunch of guys getting Tommy John surgeries," he wrote.
While acknowledging that some arms absolutely have been injured by "knucklehead coaches who put their interests ahead of the athletes," Centorani went so far as to suggest the ever-growing industry of Tommy John surgeries on young arms "has more to do with kids who don't throw enough. Kids need to play more baseball, use their arms more, build muscles in the arm that can only be strengthened through throwing."
"Yeah, we're addressing the wrong problem."
That's red meat for people -- including numerous medical experts -- who advocate for measures such as pitch counts to protect high school hurlers. They can also point to how shoulder surgeries -- including career-killing rotator cuff tears -- have plummeted relative to ulnar collateral ligament repairs since 1998, which is around the time pitch counts gained critical mass in professional baseball.
It would be helpful to know what differences exist at the high school level between prospects and back-of-the-rotation guys. Logic dictates that pitchers good enough to go on to the collegiate and professional ranks are throwing more innings and more pitches against better hitters than their peers, which may put a dent in Centorani's under-utilization theory. So we need to know about the workloads, right down to the ratio of fastballs to sliders and curveballs.
(In support of Centorani, there's a fascinating analysis written last month that argues "pitch counts can even have a negative effect if they take the place of preparing pitchers to handle heavy workloads. When pitchers no longer train to throw 120+ pitches in a game their arms may be more susceptible to overuse injuries.")
There's no escaping the obvious: Forty years ago, MLB starting pitchers often logged 15 or more complete games en route to 300-plus innings per season. During the heart of his career, 329-game winner Steve Carlton threw 230 or more innings 14 of 15 seasons. He was over 270 innings in eight of those seasons, and he was hardly an anomaly.
To be sure, there are pitchers at the other end of the durability spectrum. The Cincinnati Reds played in the World Series in 1970 and '72. They won the world championship in 1975 and '76. Ask a hard-core Reds fan how things might have been different had Jim Maloney and Gary Nolan not had promising careers derailed by arm injuries, and they could reasonably argue there could have been four or five titles from 1970-77.
You can still count me among the advocates of pitch counts for younger arms, but it's by no means "settled science" at this juncture because data regarding how much is too much in inconclusive when you're trying to compare a 5-foot-11 control artist with a 6-4 flamethrower. No two bodies are the same.
Movin' on up: Recent Shenendehowa graduate Ian Anderson has earned his first promotion after just five outings in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Anderson, the No. 3 overall pick in MLB's June draft, was moved up to Class A Danville (Va.) from the Gulf Coast League Braves. Danville is an advanced rookie-level team in the Appalachian League.
Anderson was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, 18 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit surrendered in 18 innings. He learned of the move after striking out four batters and walking none in three innings of work Friday.