There are a lot of pitchers close to comebacks. With Zack Greinke making a quick comeback from his collarbone fracture and Jered Weaver not far behind him, not to mention Johnny Cueto's return, we will see a lot of pitching coming back to the mound. The problem is that there are just as many heading out with injury.
It's been 15 years since Pitcher Abuse Points was debuted by Dr. Rany Jazayerli, and it may be the most influential piece of baseball research in the history of the game.
When it came in, 150-pitch games were a regular occurrence—not common, but regular—and today, the media freaks out when Yu Darvish goes 127. Managers, even the ones that say they're not sabermetrically minded, are managing by a stat, just like they are handling their bullpens by the save.
The issue is that while Jazayerli's research was intended as a warning against regular overuse and gave teams a tool by which to measure the risk of an extended outing, teams decided against measuring and largely abandoned the practice. Adding to the issue was the contemporary La Russization of bullpens, increasing the size and changing the usage of the pen. It allowed managers to pull their starter at 100 pitches or less.
I'm not advocating a return to the days of complete games and huge pitch counts. Those aren't coming back. Pitchers have to throw too hard to today's power-filled lineups and don't have the ability to "coast." (Though I do think they have the ability to try and force hitters to act more quickly in counts, but that's a story for another day.)
I do think that another shift in pitching usage could help—a progressive approach to development and usage, a data-driven approach or maybe something I haven't thought of. There are a full complement of smart people inside the game and more pitching wisdom than I can catalog. Plus it's impossible for these people to say that change isn't possible since the game has changed drastically already!
It's going to take one smart team with the guts to take some risk that wins with a new plan before everyone else will follow. We'll see who wants to be the kind of team the Cardinals were over the last decade. You know—winners.
For now, let's get to the injuries...