When Jeff Samardzija was allowed to throw 126 pitches on Monday night, I expressed displeasure at that time, and wrote about the interplay between pitch count and the W/L statistic (short version: don’t let a guy throw a ton of pitches just so he can get a “win”). Pitching injuries cannot be predicted with a ton of accuracy, but we do know that, for many pitchers, the number of pitches they throw each night (especially in stressful situations) can have an impact on their future health. It’s simply not worth pushing a guy over 110/115 pitches in any single outing, however well he might be able to do it that night.
That was that, and I was going to leave the pitch count discussion alone for the time being, because I already knew that there was no way Rick Renteria was going to allow Samardzija to go that high again any time soon.
Well, the situation got folks talking, though, and we’ve now heard from all of Renteria, Samardzija, and the front office (by way of Jed Hoyer). Among their comments to the media, roughly in the order in which they took place:
- Renteria said that he could “couldn’t tell you I’d do it again,” when asked about the high volume of pitches. (Cubs.com, CSN) He elaborated a little, sounding like it was a matter of doing right by his player: “I couldn’t do this every time he goes out. Again, why would I put him in jeopardy by doing this continually? So it’s easy for me now, down the road, possibly to say, ‘You know what? I won’t do it again because I’ve already done it to him once.’ If I do it twice or three times or four times, before you know it, he’s throwing 130 to 140 pitches every outing. It’s ridiculous.” (Tribune)
- And in case you were wondering, Renteria said that, if Samardzija hadn’t got that doubleplay ball, he wasn’t going to face the next batter (which would have taken him well over 130 pitches).
- Hoyer essentially admitted that high pitch counts like that are a concern, “In general, you don’t like to see a guy get up that high,” but deflected a bit by saying that it depends on how stressful the outing was, it depends on the individual pitcher, etc. (Cubs.com) Hoyer did say that the front office would monitor Samardzija’s health/performance/pitch counts, and they met with Renteria to discuss the outing. (CSN) That’s not necessarily as ominous as it sounds, although Samardzija’s subsequent comments make you wonder …
- Samardzija got very candid when asked about this whole situation, as you would expect – both because he’s the pitcher involved, and because that’s just the kind of guy Samardzija is. You can and should read his comments here, here, here, and/or here, because he pretty much implied that, on this issue, the front office should butt out. “This is an on-field issue for uniform personnel. That’s all there is to it. I’m a grown man. I’m 29. I’m not a prospect or 22. I feel good. I think I’m grown up enough and responsible enough to understand when I can go and when I can’t go. I’m going to go off that. I’ve earned my right in athletics to be able to understand my body and where I’m at.” Samardzija added that it’s not like he wants to go 120 pitches every night, and he doesn’t think the pitch count story should really be a story at all.
- In some ways, Samardzija is right that it’s his body, and he’s got as much to lose by suffering an injury as anyone. On the other hand, he is a contracted – sorry for the word – employee of the Chicago Cubs, and they have an interest in ensuring that he can continue to perform at his best not just on any given night, but for the next year and a half (or longer or shorter). Sometimes, organizations/coaches/etc. have to protect players from themselves. I have no doubt that Samardzija is an absolute physical beast, and there is no way I – or anyone – can say that throwing 126 pitches on Monday definitely put him at any increased risk for future injury. We just don’t know for sure. But we do know that it’s possible, and it’s avoidable.