Back on April 26, 2009, Gary Thorne of USA Today wrote about changes in pitching conditioning strategy that Nolan Ryan, the new President of the Texas Rangers was implementing in the Ranger organization. Here is what he wrote:
Under the leadership of club president Nolan Ryan, the Texas Rangers have embarked on a pitching experiment that could be called “back to the future on the mound.”The experiment may also have a major impact on the use of the dreaded pitch count which has been in vogue for perhaps too long in MLB. Ryan has banished the use of the pitch count in determining how long a pitcher stays in the game through out the organization.
Of course, every pitching coach will know that count, but that is no longer the criteria for when to pull a pitcher. We are primarily talking starters here, a role Ryan filled to HOF standards, going deep into games. If a pitch count had been around when Ryan pitched, he would have been out in the third or fourth inning of most games with all the strikeouts and walks.
As part of the effort, Ryan has also established a year round fitness program for pitchers. He told the Dallas Morning News the idea is to “establish our foundation” for starters. Speaking from his own experience, Ryan said he “had to develop stamina because my intent was to pitch a lot of innings.” That message is being sent loud and clear to the Texas starters. Mike Maddux, the pitching coach for the Rangers, says you don’t need a pitch count to know when your day is done. “The hitters will let you know that,” he said.
“The ceiling is off,” said Maddux. “This is a mental thing we have to overcome. We have to change the attitude of the starters to want to go deep and believe they can.” The Rangers instituted the process of eliminating the pitch count and building stamina in spring training said Maddux. “We had the pitchers throwing live batting practice besides their regular work.” “We want guys who want the ball deep in the game,” said Maddux. He believes that the results of this experiment will be seen as early as June.
Andy MacPhail, the president of baseball operations for the Orioles finds the Texas effort “a good idea.” He smiled and said, “We will let them (Texas) go first, but the other 29 clubs are going to be monitoring the results.” “Having Nolan Ryan and his reputation behind the effort lends tremendous credibility to the concept,” said MacPhail. MacPhail cited a number of changes in the game that brought the pitch count to the fore.
”Pitchers are on for the short term now,” he said. “We play the game in high energy, short bursts. It’s a give it all you’ve got for as long as you can and then you come out.” “Specialization also drove the pitch count,” said MacPhail. With middle relievers, long men, set up pitchers and closers all part of a team’s structure, the need to use them in their roles suggested a pitch count on the starter, then turn the game over to the pen. MacPhail thinks it will take years to know if the experiment works. “We need to see if the pitchers under the Texas system remain durable and how many more innings they pitch over an extended time. That’s how we will gauge the results.”
Maddux noted that the system is in place with the Rangers big league staff now. Starters understand that not only does their pitching coach and manager expect efforts deep in to the game, but the president of the club wants the same.
Ryan summed up for the Dallas Morning News at the start of the season what he wants to see from starters: “The dedication and work ethic that it takes to pitch an entire season as a starting pitcher and the discipline to continue to maintain his routine all year. And he wants the ball every fifth day, and he’s going to go out there with the intent of pitching late into games and not complaining.” The rest of baseball is intently watching.
Well, the long-term results may not be in, but so far this year, Texas has turned their pitching totally around. Last year, it was the worst in the league. This year, they have given up the fewest runs in the AL AND THEY PLAY IN A BANDBOX! Typically, the Rangers pitching staff wilts in July and Auguest due to the intense heat. It hasn’t happened this year. Could Ryan and Mike Maddux be on to something? Maybe the Dodgers should take a lesson.
RANTS & RAVES
- One Grand Slam doesn’t mean Russ Martin has turned it around, but he’s headed the right direction. A hot Martin down the stretch would make a huge difference.
- The artist formerly known as “Manny” is awake!
- Every team needs a pitcher like Jeff Weaver. He just shuts up and pitches whenever he is asked. Happy birthday, Jeff!
- Russ Martin has have several bad throws recently, and he needs to realize that rushing it will not make up for the pitcher’s failure to hold the runner. Sometimes, he just needs to eat the ball.
- Kuroda is reportedly recovering rapidly.
- The Wolfman goes today!
Minor League Recap – 8/20/09 by Jared of http://thinkbluela.blogspot.com/
Albuquerque won 5-4
Chin Lung Hu – 1 for 4, BB (.289 BA)
Blake DeWitt – 2 for 5, 3B, HR (5), RBI, 2 R, K (.247 BA)
Jamie Hoffman – 2 for 4, 2B, RBI, R, BB, K, E (.300 BA)
Chattanooga won 8-6
Lucas May – 1 for 4, 2B, RBI, R, E (.281 BA)
Trayvon Robinson – 0 for 4, R, BB, K (.100 BA)
Javy Guerra – 2 IP, 2 Hits, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K’s (4.29 ERA)
Inland Empire lost 3-2
Scott Van Slyke – 1 for 3, BB (.291 BA)
Steven Caseres – 0 for 4, K (.265 BA)
Preston Mattingly – 0 for 3 (.233 BA)
Kenley Jansen – 1 IP, Hit, 0 R, 0 BB, K (7.50 ERA)
Great Lakes won 18-4
Dee Gordon – 2 for 4, 2 R, K (.303 BA)
Kyle Russell – 3 for 5, 2 2B’s, RBI, 2 R, BB, K (.275 BA)
Jerry Sands – 2 for 4, 2B, HR (3), 4 R, 2 BB (.283 BA)
Alfredo Silverio – 2 for 6, HR (13), 3 RBI, R, K (.280 BA)
Roberto Feliciano – 1 IP, 0 Hits, 0 R, 0 BB, K (0.00 ERA)
Ogden won 5-4
BCG – 1 for 2, 2 RBI, R, BB, K, CS (.341 BA)
Nick Akins – 1 for 4, 2 K’s (.250 BA)
JT Wise – 1 for 3, BB (.314 BA)
Kyle Orr – 1 for 4, K (.224 BA)
AZL lost 8-3
Jan Vazquez – 0 for 3, BB, E (.183 BA)
Greg Miller – 1 IP, 0 Hits, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K’s (0.00 ERA)
Amauri Guzman – 1.1 IP, 2 Hits, 2 ER, BB, 0 K’s (3.86 ERA)
Player of the day – Jerry Sands, 1B/OF
2 more extra basehits for Sands. He’s now up to 8 in his last 10 games and 33 in 56 overall. His August OPS is now a ridiculous 1.231. I expected Jerry’s stats to regress drastically once he was promoted and I’m glad I was wrong. Sands is making a case for the title of “Best Dodgers’ Outfield Prospect.”