<
>

Pitching for Tommy Lasorda

I caught just the middle of the conversation, but Wednesday night, Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy were talking about pitch counts and such, and Kennedy said (among other things) this:

    When all this pitch-count stuff came in, Tommy Lasorda would pitch Valenzuela 160, 180 pitches. You know there were Dodger people that would critique Tommy Lasorda sometimes, but Fernando had the arm to do that. And yeah, OK, he got hurt later on. Was it because of that? Who knows?

Who knows, indeed.
In Fernando Valenzuela's first six (full) seasons, he went 97-68 with a 2.97 ERA. Nobody in the National League was better. Over the next six seasons -- one of which he missed, because he was hurt -- Valenzuela went 42-50 with a 4.11 ERA.

Lasorda didn't get a hold of Orel Hershiser until Hershiser was 25, which did limit the damage somewhat. But in Hershiser's first six seasons, he went 98-64 with 2.68 ERA. In three straight seasons, he led the National League in innings pitched. Over the next six seasons, Hershiser went 52-44 with a 3.70 ERA.

In Ramon Martinez's first full season, he was only 22 but went 20-6 with a 2.92 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young balloting. Martinez never won as many games or pitched as many innings or finished as high in the Cy Young balloting again. After turning 28, he never pitched 170 innings in one season.

Kevin Kennedy's just a guy who talks about baseball on TV, and when you've got that job you have to say so many things that a few of them are bound to be foolish. If Kennedy was managing again, he wouldn't let a young pitcher throw 160 pitches in a game or finish a season with 260 innings. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be allowed to, as those things are now fireable offenses.

I do have just a tiny bit of advice, though: When you're arguing for a bit more flexibility, perhaps a bit of freedom from the tyranny of the pitch count, you might want to avoid mentioning Tommy Lasorda, Bleeder of Dodger Blue and Destroyer of Tender Young Arms.