Strikeouts, Pitch Counts, and Innings

Pardon the rambling in advance.  This is more of just an inner contemplation in my head that I’m just jotting down…

The game evolves.  Things change over time.  Strikeouts are up.  Innings limits and pitch counts come into play.  On base percentage is paid attention to a lot more.  Pitchers don’t pitch complete games.  Is this really a matter of babying players or just a natural evolution of the game?

Pitchers aren’t pitching as much as they used to.  Or are they?  If you look at the raw numbers, it certainly looks like it.  But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Back when pitchers were throwing 200+ innings regularly and there were pitchers that regularly threw complete games.  

So when these innings totals were  racked up, how many pitches were thrown?  Players didn’t strike out as much.  This was before the moneyball era.  On base percentage and walks weren’t valued the way they were today.  

So what happened?  Did players begin to work counts deeper?  If you’re working counts deeper, you’ll get more walks.  You’ll also get into more two strike counts and as a result, there will be a lot more strikeouts.   If the pitchers are getting worked deeper into counts and striking out more players, their pitch counts are going up earlier in games then they were before.  If pitchers are throwing more innings earlier in games, they’re not going deeper into games.  Remember Matt Harvey’s complete game shutout?  He wasn’t going deep into counts on batters and nine innings was the same workload that we often see in 6 or 7.  Another 2-3 innings per game over 35 starts is adding 70-105 innings to a pitcher’s total for the season without increasing the actual amount of overall pitches thrown.  

So if Moneyball preaches on base percentage and walks, and walks mean deeper counts, and deeper counts mean more two strike counts, does that mean that this era we’re seeing in where it looks like players and pitchers are strikeout machines unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a bygone past really just a byproduct of working counts?  Are pitchers really weaker and being babied more now than they were before?  Or are they actually being worked harder each inning and as a result their natural tiring point that it always has been is just being hit earlier in games?

Just thinking out loud….

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