Counting ain't all it's cracked up to be

From the time you throw your first pitch, to the day you decide to stop being a pitcher, you are confronted by pitch counts.

The coach, trainer, and parent wanting to protect young kids arms and their future.

Later it is the team protecting its investment and trying to manage a pitcher through a healthy full major league season as a starter.

The only pitchers escaping this mantra of counting pitches are maybe the knuckleballers, where the stress of throwing the pitch is almost non-existent. Ever watch some of the great ones throwing this pitch, like our own Tim Wakefield? They never break a sweat, they don't have a huge motion, and they step to home plate as if they are taking a stroll down main street. He could do it all afternoon if his knuckleball was dancing and fooling hitters.

For the rest of them, it is a fact of life.

The Red Sox philosophy is a bit shocking to us fans when we are used to seeing pitchers from other teams being pulled before or around 100 pitches. The Red Sox starting rotation have thrown more pitches than any other rotation in the league averaging 100.1 pitches a game.

You might be asking yourself what is going on?

How does John Farrell manage his pitchers and does he have any guidelines around pitch counts?

This week we saw Jon Lester throw a total of 124 pitches. It turns out, John Farrell is using pitch counts as a guide but is more interested in how stressful or hard a time the pitcher in question is having. He is looking for innings with 25 pitches or more, to be considered stressful on the pitcher. If you throw three innings of 25 pitches or more, that pitcher is being worked hard.

This week Jon Lester went into 120+ pitches with only a single inning of 15 pitches over the entire day. This means that it was not a hard outing for him and therefore they were more inclined to let him run his pitch count up. The second guideline John Farrell has, is that he does not like to run a pitcher out to start an inning with a pitch count at 110. He only deviates from this if the situation dictates something special, like a match-up between hitter and pitcher that is favorable for your team.

The third and final guideline that affects the pitch count decision is the pitchers schedule. If there is an extra day of rest in his rotation, then one might be inclined to run the pitch count a bit higher than normal. John Farrell will then look to see if the pitcher in question was coming off a previous start were he had to grind it out.

Outside the crazy things that can happen in baseball, these are the guidelines that John Farrell and the Red Sox are applying to their pitching staff. So next time you watch a game, use your counter and you too can keep a keen eye on what the manager is going to do with the starting pitcher as his pitch count elevates.

Post a comment or via twitter @ericschabell with your thoughts.

More by Eric D. Schabell