As expected, much talk has surrounded the Hughes Rules today because Phil Hughes is making his first start tonight on extended rest.
One article in particular has ignited the debate, written by the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa, which tells the tale of how Yankees’ bullpen coach Mike Harkey is an “example of what the Yankees are trying to avoid with Hughes.” (I couldn’t phrase that any better myself.) A quick excerpt:
On June 24, 1990, at age 23, Mr. Harkey threw 160 pitches in a game after throwing 128 in his previous start. He went on to pitch on short rest repeatedly as the Cubs went to a four-man rotation that summer.
Finally, in early September, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and he was never the same pitcher again.
My pitching theory: If a pitcher looks like he’s losing his control and he’s starting to get hit hard, it’s time to make a call to the pen. Obviously, if it’s the beginning of the year or if the pitcher is prone to injuries, you have to factor that into the decision as well.
Also, never trust pitchers that want to stay in. They always want to clean up their own messes. If you don’t believe me, ask Grady Little.
I’ve always believed the 100-pitch “maximum” set by most managers is ridiculous because high school and college pitchers exceed that limit and pro hurlers used to exceed that limit regularly.
A couple historic examples to back up my point:
- Ex-Japan Pacific League hurler and current Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka famously threw a 250-pitch game the day after throwing a 148-pitch shutout in high school. My own teammate in high school averaged 150 pitches per start and once threw 200 in a 10-inning game.
- I wonder how Walter Johnson was able to throw almost 1,500 innings in a four-year span.
Harkey’s workload wasn’t extreme for his time, yet injuries plagued his whole career. Some pitchers are more fragile than others.
As for Hughes, I support the Hughes Rules because of his recent history of injuries and they’re not nearly as extreme as the Joba Rules were last year.