It’s been a while since I have editorialized latey. I have been following a lot of minor league baseball of late and one thing is really starting to bug me. In the past two weeks, pitch counts have played a part in two spectacular games.
I understand the need for pitch counts, but what I don’t understand is why limit pitchers who are performing brilliantly? One more than a handful of occasions this season I have seen no hitters go bye bye because of pitch counts. As a former pitcher I can tell you one thing, if I am near pitching a no hitter, it would take a police force to get me off the mound. I don’t care if my count is 80 pitches and I hit 80 in the middle of the 8th, as a coach you have to let me try and finish it.
The most recent example of this happened last night. Matt McSwain, who was an undrafted free agent signing in 2008, is out of Elon College, where he was a starter. The Pirates farm decided to use him as a reliever. He was doing well as a reliever but he has said in interviews that he is more comfortable in the starter role. So on July 2, the Pirates decided to let him start. In four games since that switch he has only let up 4 runs in 29 innings.
Last night he threw an absolute gem. He is pitching for Hickory of the SAL against Charleston and he had a no hitter going into the 9th. However, his pitch count was set at 75 and he was already at 82. He knew the no hitter was going, but was pulled for a reliever who ended up losing the no hitter. I understand pitch counts are important, but aren’t there circumstances where you let that go? Let him continue pitching through the 9th, if he is struggling or walks a batter, then pull him. Last night he pitched a 1-2-3 7th and 8th inning, and probably would have thrown a perfect 9th as well if he didn’t get pulled.
A no hitter for a pitcher is the holy grail. You always try to throw one, but somewhere it always get’s screwed up. But every once in a while something special happens and the stars align themselves and you spin an amazing game. Ten more pitches might have been all it would have taken, and McSwain could have had his holy grail. Instead, he was lifted because of a number. Seems unfair to me.
On the season Matt is pitching great since the switch and actually his entire season has been fantastic. His stats so far this year are 4-4/1.78/0.99, and he is only allowing a 0.225 batting average against him. He had some trouble when he was promoted to advanced A ball earlier this season, but then again it was as a reliever. I would be interested in seeing how he does next year as a starter in advanced A ball. He only has a Hickory team issued card right now, but that should change in the upcoming year. Look for him in Bowman 2009. No ETA on a MLB arrival as of yet. I need to see how he does against A+ hitting.