Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle onto Something by Getting Rid of Pitch Counts

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Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle onto Something by Getting Rid of Pitch Counts
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Pitch counts, innings limit...they're all terms we've heard over the last year.

From Stephen Strasburg to various rookies in the big leagues for the first time, managers and general managers alike have taken an interest in saving the arms of their young players.

However, when it comes to Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, pitch counts are something he doesn't pay attention to, according to David Manel of bucsdugout.com.

My approach in terms of pitches, actually we were having a conversation today, I’m not paying attention to the number of pitches anymore, the rest of the year, for anybody. I’m serious. Just so you know.

It’s going to be about the barrel of the bat on the other team. The times men get on base. How they handle the stretch situation. Whether duress picks up or anything like that.

I want to make sure we have nobody looking at the rear view mirror at 95 pitches thinking 'I’ve only got so many left.' That’s out the window. Gerritt’s in that group as well. I mean, just pitch. If you want to have a goal. Some of us men need goals. Pitch seven full innings and we’ll figure it out after that what our next step is. That’s where we’re going.

What makes this interesting is the fact that it was said only a few hours before top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole was set to make his debut.

Some would call Hurdle crazy for making that statement. After all, you have to monitor a pitch count so a pitcher's arm doesn't fall off...right?

However, I think Hurdle may be onto something.

 

Is Hurdle wrong to stop looking at pitch count for his pitchers?

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The Strasburg Example

Last year we saw the Washington Nationals virtually baby Strasburg. And in some cases they did it this year, before he went on the disabled list.

Strasburg has yet to pitch a complete game in his career and didn't go more than seven innings in 2012.

Throw in the fact that he was on an innings limit and it was something that was always in the back of his mind.

As he got closer to his limit, his performance went down.

In his final start of 2012, Strasburg only went three innings and gave up five runs. Although he hadn't reached his limit of 160 innings, they shut him down because it was in the back of his mind.

Then Washington, which had been the best team in baseball during the regular season, lost in the divisional round to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Strasburg could have pitched in at least one of those games and there might have been a difference.

Washington babied Strasburg and it ended up biting them in the butt.

 

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Gerrit Cole makes his first big-league start Tuesday.

Hurdle Has it Right

Hurdle understands the Pirates might not be in the position they're in later in the future.

Even with how good the Pirates farm system is, there's no guarantee they'll be in the thick of things next year.

That's where the Nationals messed up.

Washington general manger Mike Rizzo, assumed there would be great days ahead of the Nationals and Strasburg, according to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.

We’ve got a lot of bright and happy days ahead of us watching Stephen Strasburg pitch. This is something that he’s going to have to accept that it’s on his best behalf, and we’re going to move on from here.

As we can see, the Nationals aren't in the thick of things this year and they may have wasted an opportunity last year.

Hurdle is not taking that chance.

If Cole is the best pitcher, then he's going to pitch. It doesn't matter what others think in terms of how many innings he's pitched or pitches he's thrown.

Cole is a competitor, like many others. If he feels like he can go, then why stand in his way?

Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot at not only making the playoffs, but going to the World Series. Cole will play a large role in that.

Why take away an opportunity he's earned just so you can "save his arm?"

Your goal is to win a World Series. If you're in the thick of it this year, then why worry about a pitch count, only to hope that you'll be in the same position next year?

Baseball is about the present. Managers keep their jobs based on the results on the field, not the potential their team has in the future.

So, who cares about a pitch count? Let them do what they get paid to do.

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