Does Reds Manager Dusty Baker Abuse Pitchers?

Matt David@@mattdavidkyCorrespondent IIMarch 1, 2010

CHICAGO - JULY 26: Manager Dusty Baker #12 of the Cincinnati Reds argues with home plate umpire Laz Diaz #63 after a play at the plate in the 8th inning on July 26, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Reds 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Point: Yes, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood...enough said.

Counterpoint: Dusty Baker killed their careers?

P: Yes, it is well known that Baker cares little about pitch counts.

CP: What about Carlos Zambrano?

P: He has not been free of symptoms either.

CP: Abuse happens but your criticism of Dusty Baker doesn't sound very scientific.

P: Take a look at 2003. The Cubs had Prior, Wood, and Zambrano. All three of them threw over 210 innings. Baker allowed Prior and Wood to throw 130+ pitches in seven different starts. Then there was time where he sent out Kerry Wood for a seven inning outing in which he threw 141 pitches.

CP: Yes, Prior and Wood did blow out their arms but Zambrano is still pitching today and Woods has been decent as a closer. Woods threw a lot before Baker arrived in Chicago. Jim Riggleman had him throw 120+ pitches a few times in his rookie season. As for Prior, the inverted-M in his delivery is horrible for the shoulder. Prior was used pretty hard at USC, also.

Isn't it more accurate that Wood's and Prior's mechanics had more to do with their injuries than Baker?

P: Dusty abused all three arms. Zambrano is lucky not to be out of baseball, as he had 129 starts under Dusty Baker from ages 22-25. During that time, he had 31 different outings with 120 or more pitches thrown.

CP: He seems to have had a nice career thus far.

P: Carlos Zambrano gets worse every year and is likely to break down anytime. He'll have Baker to blame when it happens.

CP: Pitchers are conditioned differently now. In the old days, only the most durable could even reach the big leagues. Now, their workload is not the same. They still break down but only when they make it. They appear to be abused but pitching in the big leagues is a tough gig.

P: In 14 out of 16 years, pitchers on Baker's teams have thrown more pitches per start than the average for National League pitchers.

CP: There is no way to prove that Baker caused any injuries. This sounds more like a half-baked theory to me.

P: There are more than just Prior and Wood.

CP: Lets go through your list.

P: Ever heard of Livan Hernandez?

CP: Of course.

P: Would you be surprised to know in 110 total starts for Hernandez under Baker, he had three outings with 140+ pitches, 13 outings with 130+ pitches, and a ridiculous 43 outings with 120+ pitches?

CP: Every pitcher is different. Some pitchers really can take a lot of pitches.

P: Then we have Russ Ortiz.

CP: What did Dusty do to him?

P: In 144 starts under Baker, he threw 120+ pitches 33 different starts, including six starts with 130+ pitches and two starts with 140+ pitches.

CP: Ortiz does not blame Baker for anything. High pitch counts and arm problems don't necessarily go together anyway. Carlos Zambrano, Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz seemed to do fine while supposedly being abused. I'm not seeing any issues there. The only injuries Hernandez had were with his knees.

P: Hernandez has always pitched a lot. I'll give you that. What about Jason Schmidt?

CP: Schmidt's nasty slider likely caused his problems. He threw 120+ pitches only 8 times in 2 years.

P: How about Aaron Harang?

CP: The game in 2008 when Harang threw 63 pitches in relief then made his next start certainly seems like poor judgement in retrospect.

P: Edinson Volquez went from a guy with Cy Young votes to Tommy John surgery.

CP: The problem with Volquez in 2009 was that he pitched a lot in the off season then in the WBC.

P: He rode Homer Bailey a little too hard at the end of last season when the Reds had no chance.

CP: Bailey was on a roll. In his last nine starts last season he put up a 6-1 record with a 1.70 ERA. Dominating like he did was valuable experience for him.

P: We'll see how that works out.

CP: By the way, what is pitching coach doing while Baker is abusing all these pitchers as you claim.

P: I agree the pitching coach shoulders some blame.

CP: This could also be a function of the type of pitchers Baker has inherited. What about Bobby Cox? Did he abuse Steve Avery and Horatio Ramirez? John Smoltz needed Tommy John surgery and Kevin Millwood's development may have taken a hit.

P: All managers have have pitchers with injuries. Is it a coincidence that his starting pitchers consistently throw more pitches than average?

CP: Maybe. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a pitcher like mechanics, types of pitches they throw, how hard they throw, number of pitches thrown during warm-ups, and how much they were used before going pro. The manager can only control so much.

P: Baker has no clue how much risk he is taking with these pitchers.

CP: Obviously Baker likes to play with fire as you have pointed out. But I think if pitchers are going to break down, it will happen no matter what the manager does. We can always second guess.

P: Play with fire? You might get away with 130+ pitches a few times and the pitcher may not get hurt. You might also get away with smoking for 20 years and not end up with lung cancer.

CP: Exaggerate much? Look, some pitchers can throw 130+ pitches with no problems.

P: Baker thinks his whole staff fits that criteria. Aroldis Chapman should be concerned.

CP: Should the Reds never let Chapman get beyond 100 pitches?

P: It seems like stud pitchers like Chapman are extremely valuable.

CP: This is obviously true.

P: Throwing lots of pitches beyond 100 in a given outing is proven to correlate with increased rates of injury. The Reds should be careful leaving this guy in Baker's hands.

CP: I don't know about the part about it being "proven" but they will likely take your advice.

Please go here for more.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.