Pitch counts killing early

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

Getting in the groove early can be rather important.

The Red Sox starting pitching is finding this out the hard way.

There is no margin for error when you are fighting for the top spot in the division.

The last two series can be examined to show where the starting rotations got hurt early with pitch counts. First we will look at the three game series with the Yankees, then dig into the first 3 games of the series with the Rays.

The starters John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, and Felix Doubront were the first three against the Yankees. Taking a closer look at the pitch counts per inning and you see a story being told as to where it went wrong in the losses.

Felix Doubront
Went 6.2 innings in a win against the Yankees 4 - 2. His pitch count shows the difference when you make a good solid start from the first inning. He jumped on the Yankees with efficiency, keeping to 10 or less pitches over the first 3 innings. Second time through the Yankees he had a few rough innings, but the 6th inning was again a 9 pitch inning.
  1. 10 (8 strikes)
  2. 9 (4 strikes)
  3. 10 (7 strikes)
  4. 32 (20 strikes)
  5. 21 (13 strikes)
  6. 9 (5 strikes)
  7. 2 (2 strikes)
John Lackey
He lost 2 - 5 to the Yankees and his pitch count over 6.1 innings shows the problem if we look for innings with 15 or more pitches. He had 3 and almost 4 of these types of innings, which leads to base runners. He gave up 10 hits and 4 earned runs.
  1. 10 (7 strikes)
  2. 19 (14 strikes)
  3. 13 (8 strikes)
  4. 15 (10 strikes)
  5. 15 (11 strikes)
  6. 14 (8 strikes)
  7. 11 (6 strikes)
Ryan Dempster
Won his start 8 - 7 from the Yankees, thanks to some great hitting at the end of the game. His pitch count over 5.1 innings is a bit more clear why he was not able to go deeper into the game. He gave up 6 hits and 5 runs, only 3 earned. The pain is in the first 2 innings and again in the 5th inning. Too much wasted effort too with just over half of the pitches being for strikes.
  1. 28 (15 strikes)
  2. 22 (13 strikes)
  3. 8 (6 strikes)
  4. 11 (9 strikes)
  5. 16 (9 strikes)
  6. 13 (5 strikes)
John Lackey was on the edge with just a few too many pitches needed in most of his innings pitched. Ryan Dempster got in trouble early, with the first 2 innings where he seemed to have trouble throwing strikes. Felix Doubront is the template for how to get your team into the game by sitting down the opponents in order for the first 3 innings.

The starters Brandon Workman, Jon Lester, and Felix Doubront were the three against the Rays. There remains a game tonight but we will evaluate what we have seen so far.

Brandon Workman
This start went 6 innings in a loss 0 - 3 to the Rays. He ran into a great opposing pitcher that just shutdown the Red Sox bats, but lets look at the counts. He dug a hole from the get go, but at least he was throwing strikes. Remember, anything over 15 pitches is a hard inning as far as the manager is concerned. The first inning counts for double the load, the 2nd inning was 18 pitches, and the 5th was again 18 pitches. He gave up 7 hits and only 2 earned runs.
  1. 33 (21 strikes)
  2. 18 (13 strikes)
  3. 12 (8 strikes)
  4. 12 (10 strikes)
  5. 18 (11 strikes)
  6. 10 (5 strikes)
Jon Lester
This start went 6.1 innings in a 6 - 2 win over the Rays. He kept the pitch count down early, but in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings he got over the 15 pitch limits. This ended his start a bit earlier than we would have liked, but not a bad pitch distribution for the win.
  1. 14 (9 strikes)
  2. 13 (9 strikes)
  3. 16 (9 strikes)
  4. 16 (12 strikes)
  5. 21 (14 strikes)
  6. 11 (8 strikes)
  7. 5 (3 strikes)
Felix Doubront
Went 6.2 innings in a loss to the Rays, 1 - 5. His pitch count shows he struggled a bit with control, especially in the first inning. He recovered nicely in the 2nd inning, but gave up 3 hits and 3 runs in the 3rd inning.
  1. 27 (16 strikes)
  2. 6 (5 strikes)
  3. 23 (17 strikes)
  4. 12 (7 strikes)
  5. 11 (6 strikes)
  6. 11 (8 strikes)
  7. 14 (7 strikes)
Brandon Workman had no chance with the shutout by his counterpart, but he struggled early to find the plate and that put him in a bad spot from the get go. Jon Lackey was a steady Eddie from the first inning onwards, he got out with the win. Felix Doubront could not repeat his start against the Yankees, going 27 pitches in the 1st inning and 23 pitches in the 3rd inning giving up 3 runs.

Make no mistake about it, pitching makes all the difference to winning and losing. Keep the count low, pitch deep into the game, and you will be the starter chalking up the wins.

Now you can watch the final game in the Rays series and the coming 3 games against the Orioles to see how the starters are doing.

Time to dig out your pitch counters.

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

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