Dave · September 30, 2004 at 8:14 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I’m not part of the crowd that calls for a managers head when his starting pitcher throws 138 pitches in a complete game to end the season. However, it seems like the sides defending Madritsch being left out for the 9th are using the “how bad can one start hurt?” theory, which ignores the actual pattern of how Madritsch has been used since being promoted.

Madritsch is averaging 110.4 pitches per start, 4th highest total in the majors. Only Jason Schmidt, Livan Hernandez, and Carlos Zambrano are averaging more P/GS than Mads.

Madritsch’s 138 pitch effort last night was the 3rd highest single game pitch count of the season. Livan Hernandez threw 144 once and Jason Schmidt threw 143. No other pitcher in baseball has been pushed as long as Mads was last night.

His last 5 starts, he’s thrown 126, 122, 119, 66, and 138 pitches. Last night’s outing was not an isolated incident. He’s been worked very hard since coming up.

We still have a long ways to go in understanding pitcher injuries and why they occur. It’s an indisputable fact, however, that Madritsch has been placed in a workload category that correlates with future arm problems. There is reason to worry about the effects this will have on him. The Mariners chose to ignore that risk, much like they’ve ignored similar risks with other pitchers, and they certainly don’t have the track record to say “trust us, we know what we’re doing”. When it comes to keeping pitchers healthy, the M’s have clearly shown that they don’t know any more than you or I. We all know very little, but it would be nice if the team would admit their ignorance on the subject and error on the side of caution. The 2005 M’s need a healthy Bobby Madritsch a lot more than he needed that complete game.


32 Responses to “138”

  1. Tod on September 30th, 2004 8:53 am

    Well put, Dave. The organization’s apparent unwillingness to recognize that the horrific percentage of injuries suffered by its pitchers is more than bad luck portends continued problems. And, to top it off, for all the love Bryan Price gets, he doesn’t appear to be any smarter on this issue than anyone else in the organization.

  2. DMZ on September 30th, 2004 9:01 am

    You have to wonder what happened to the Price that got Piniella to stop doing this kind of thing, way back when, to earn the reputation he enjoys today.

  3. m2 on September 30th, 2004 9:30 am

    You’re right, Dave, this is not isolated – it’s a trend and there’s no logical explanation for it. I don’t know if this adds to the conversation at all, but you mentioned his last 5 starts. It goes all the way back to August 5th. I posted this last night on my blog:

    9/29 (tonight): 138 pitches
    9/24: 66 pitches (3.2 innings)
    9/19: 119 pitches
    9/14: 122 pitches
    9/9: 126 pitches
    9/3: 100 pitches
    8/28: 118 pitches
    8/23: 109 pitches
    8/17: 119 pitches
    8/11: 116 pitches
    8/5: 105 pitches


  4. G-Man on September 30th, 2004 9:30 am

    I have noticed how seldom I see Bryan Price or hear his name in the past couple months. No, I don’t have any idea what that might mean, if anything!

    Not to quibble, but it was 133 pitches.

    Lots of fluids, Dave, and get well soon.

  5. JPWood on September 30th, 2004 9:36 am

    Dave hits this right on the noggin: the Mariners need Madritch in one piece and have to break this habit of cramming the Lakota King. I hope this overload practise doesn’t continue next year. He should have been out in the 8th and apparently refused to consider not pitching the 9th after Ichiro got hit.
    There may however be simpler and more childish motivations lurking in the background: the field managers are peeing their pants over how good Madritsch has been, love finally winning games in the AL West and wanted to stick it to the As for 2002 and 2003 like you wanted revenge on a scary old neighbor when you were 6 years old. And after last night’s win, a healthy Madritsch will be able to start next season telling himself that he can stick it to most anyone. Past, current and future revenge was the theme last night, as big as a house. Great game.

  6. DMZ on September 30th, 2004 9:47 am

    Madritsch ranks #7 on the list of Pitcher Abuse Poitns. Considering how late in the season Madritsch joined the team, this is appalling. Had he come up earlier in the year, he’d be top three, behind Livan and Jason Schmidt.

  7. DMZ on September 30th, 2004 9:49 am

    Also, on 133 v 138 — I think it depends on whether you count the IBB pitches or not. ESPN’s box scores (provided by STATS, Inc, I believe) have him at 138.

  8. Ed Wade on September 30th, 2004 9:50 am

    I was in the midst of posting that same comment, DMZ, when my browser crashed. Go figure.

    In a third as many starts as all but six other pitchers in the Majors, Madritsch has been more abused. It boggles the mind.

  9. Jeff Sullivan on September 30th, 2004 9:50 am

    And dammit, Ed Wade didn’t post that.

  10. Ralph Malph on September 30th, 2004 10:07 am

    On a related topic, Baek’s elbow — which was bothering him to the point that they pushed him back 2 days before his last start — is worse after throwing 114 pitches last time out.

  11. Metz on September 30th, 2004 10:11 am

    This is all part of Melvin’s sick quest to avoid losing 100 games. They should have canned him the moment he mentioned the possibility that the new kids wouldn’t be playing much if the team had chance to avoid 100 losses. Once you’re mathmatically eliminated from the playoffs there are no team goals other than talent evaluation for next season.

  12. Matt Williams on September 30th, 2004 10:25 am

    You see back in the mid 90’s management replaced the dugout phone with a payphone as an extra revenue stream (a brilliant move considering the state of our pitching staff at the time).

    Some nights Melvin forgets to bring change, or has to do laundry after the game. On those nights he has to find someone to bum money off, which takes time…hence the long pitch counts.

    Price didn’t lower pitch counts because he’s a great coach, he actually had a ton of leftover quarters because he always did his laundry at his mother’s house. Eventually that supply dried up, and that’s why they’re abusing the staff again.

  13. Dave T. on September 30th, 2004 10:35 am

    Now I know that a 110+ pitches is generally considered a lot. But pitch counts are not an undisputed indicator of injury risk. I think everyone is premature to castigate the M’s. They have a horrible history with pitchers and there’s no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt. But for statistically inclined group, I think there’s needs to be more caveats added to the pitch count criticism.

  14. Jeff Sullivan on September 30th, 2004 10:48 am

    That’s one of the reasons behind Pitcher Abuse Points.

    What it boils down to is that, according to the best metrics we’ve got access to, Madritsch is throwing too many pitches.

  15. DMZ on September 30th, 2004 10:50 am

    I’m sorry, but… no. We’ve talked about this before, but —

    Pitch counts are one part of a larger set of factors that determine injury risk, that’s true. There’s mechanics, a pitcher’s stamina (throwing tired is what pitch counts are an attempt to proxy), high-stress innings, natural resistance to injury…

    … but high pitch counts risk injuries. There’s a high correlation between going over 120 and reduced effectiveness in your next start, and a high correlation between sustained high pitch counts and injuries.

    I don’t flip out if a pitcher get to 120 once in a great while, particularly if it’s someone with smooth mechanics who gets through a whole game cruising, no 30-pitch innings. But sustained usage like that? And hitting 140, ever? It’s bad. There’s no getting around it.

  16. Jeff Sullivan on September 30th, 2004 11:03 am

    For the people claiming that one start can’t wreck Madritsch’s arm – would you say that to Bud Smith? Ruben Quevedo? Jesus Sanchez?

    There are countless examples of pitchers whose entire careers were ruined because one day, for whatever reason, their manager was careless. It’s a feeble argument at best, and it isn’t applicable to Madritsch’s case anyway, given that this isn’t really an isolated incident.

  17. Sane on September 30th, 2004 11:16 am

    And everybody continues to ignore the fact that Madritsch regularly pitched this deep into ball games in the Independant Leagues before he even became a part of the Mariners Organization. Unless I’m misinformed. Some people complain about such strict restrictions on pitchers and their pitch counts in this era of baseball … then a pitcher finally comes around who has consistantly, throughout his career, been able to go into that 120-130+ range, and we all start throwing the red flags. Again, unless I’m misinformed about Madritsch’s career, which I could be.

  18. DMZ on September 30th, 2004 11:27 am

    What kind of pitch counts, did Madrtisch get into and how regularly did he get into them in these independent league games?

    Seriously — does anyone have a citation, box score, anything? If he regularly racked up 120+ I’d be shocked.

  19. Dave on September 30th, 2004 11:45 am


    I just don’t believe that’s true. Madritsch was in the indy leagues because he got released by Cincy after having serious arm problems. There’s simply no way to believe that the team would take a guy who is basically rehabbing and turn him into a 130 pitch-per-outing guy.

    If you have some evidence, feel free to present it. I just don’t believe it’s true.

  20. G-Man on September 30th, 2004 12:24 pm

    Risk vs. Reward:

    Risk: Screwing up an excellent pitcher under team control for several more years. Let’s even say it’s only a 20% chance of injury, and a 10% chance of serious injury.

    Reward: Letting his pitch a complete game. Personal achievement; a positive outcome that could feel good to the team as well.

    It’s clear to me. Nolo contendre; it isn’t worth it.

    There another minor bad effect. Free agent pitchers and pitchers drafted before they finish college might take a look at the workloads and injuries that the arms in the M’s organization are enduring and deciding not to risk their careers here.

    Would you play Russian Roulette with one bullet in a 100-chamber gun? Why?

  21. eponymous coward on September 30th, 2004 1:33 pm

    Why should Melvin care? He’s trying to avoid 100 losses and must know he won’t be here next year.

    And it’s not surprising Madritsch would try this- I suspect he’d try and pitch if his arm was held together with Elmer’s Glue.

    What’s more shocking is Price. Yeah, he’s officially not our Genius Pitching Coachâ„¢.

  22. Sane on September 30th, 2004 1:38 pm

    If you have some evidence, feel free to present it. I just don’t believe it’s true.

    Unfortunately I don’t have any evidence, I’ve only heard it through the grapevine from somebody who I thought was familiar with Madritsch’s time spent in the IL. But I would agree with you guys if it proved to not be true.

  23. msb on September 30th, 2004 4:01 pm

    “This is all part of Melvin’s sick quest to avoid losing 100 games. They should have canned him the moment he mentioned the possibility that the new kids wouldn’t be playing much if the team had chance to avoid 100 losses.”–Comment by Metz — 9/30/2004 @ 10:11 am

    FWIW, Melvin said he was reluctant to play the kids all the time in the divisional games affecting pennant races, not because he was trying to avoid 100 losses:

    “The kids are here for a reason and need a chance to play, but for the most part, we’re going to run our lineup out there,” Melvin said. “We’re not going to run nine rookies out there and say, ‘Go get ’em’ against these playoff teams. We owe it to them, and to the rest of the teams in the league and to ourselves to send our lineup out there for the most part.”

  24. Dave T. on September 30th, 2004 4:52 pm

    DMZ, while I agree that, from a brief look at the articles in BP, that there is a correlation between short term loss of effectiveness and long term correlation with high pitch counts and injury risk. It’s still not a clear connection that the number of pitches is the most informative risk factor. One counter argument that I’ve read is that the number of pitches in one inning is a better predictor than the total number in a game. And a correlation between short term ineffectiveness is not by itself good evidence for a correlation with injury risk. I think that it’s the most obvious and simplest one notice.

  25. DMZ as Trollotron 2000 on September 30th, 2004 5:34 pm

    I’d totally agree with you that pitch counts are not the most informative risk factor. But it’s not bad. Personally, I’d say the most informative risk factor would be mechanics, followed by natural susceptibility, followed by pitching-while-tired, be that in-inning or through the course of a game.

    But at 140 pitches… there’s just no way that’s good. I wouldn’t want someone with a beautiful smooth motion and the stamina of Hercules to throw 140 pitches.

  26. jemanji on September 30th, 2004 6:42 pm

    You guys talk like he had a Curt Schilling workload. Good grief!, the guy threw 119-133 pitches a handful of times at the end of the year. … that’s after 150 IP all year.
    Supposing Madritsch had pitched the M’s to the pennant by throwing 125 pitches three or four times. Would you be wringing your hands over the TJ surgery?!
    Nobody seems to have noticed that the PAP leaders have been HEALTHIER than average, as demonstrated by James in the ’04 James/Neyer pitcher book. PAP is just something that was screamed from the rooftops so loudly, that everybody started trembling at it.
    But in any case Bobby Madritsch did NOT throw a ton of pitches. He had a handful of 8-inning games at the end of a light year. You’re just eager to bash.
    Settle down,

  27. jemanji on September 30th, 2004 6:48 pm

    ‘case we didn’t get it across above … do note, that Madritsch *now gets the playoffs, um, off.*
    Like we sez, if Madritsch throws 119-133 pitches in four or five starts in October, nobody blinks. …but since “IT’S FOR NO REASON!!!” now his arm is about to fall off at the shoulder.
    You’ve taken a bunch of DECISION POINTS that you don’t like … “no reason for it” and “#7 on my contrived PAP list since the last blue moon” and turned that into “Madritsch’s arm is on its last, um, legs.”
    As noted, Mads had 150 IP for the year, and he has drop-and-drive mechanics, and he was throwing beautifully and effortlessly even in the LAST game of the year.
    Like Bill James said in his PAP refutation. “For a healthy veteran pitcher to throw 120, 130 pitches is not bad for him. It’s probably good for him.”

  28. jemanji on September 30th, 2004 6:54 pm

    Und take zis mit you ;-)…
    There IS a reason for it.
    The reason is that the 9-IP CG win is very important to … Bobby Madritsch.
    Mads now gets 6 euphoric months of visualizing himself kicking MLB hitters’ keisters. Ask MADRITSCH whether confidence matters, and whether CG wins affect confidence. Don’t ask your local ‘net rat (me); ask MADRITSCH (and Meche, after his shutout).
    90% of baseball is half mental,

  29. jemanji on September 30th, 2004 6:56 pm

    But cheer up …
    Bob Melvin DID start throwing Ace Madritsch and (yer USSM fave) Ace Meche out there with an air of “take this with you, suits. If I gotta go I’m taking some office supplies with me.”
    But think about what that implies.
    Melvin is obviously clued into his own (non-)status for 2005.


  30. Bela Txadux on September 30th, 2004 9:01 pm

    On the issue of Madritsch going 138, pros:

    He has clean mechanics, and while I’m not expert he was throwing very well in the 8th and 9th, not straining at all (his last pitch of the game was a beauty, perfect location and execution).
    His inning count for the _year_ is moderate, as jemanji notes, in part because he missed nearly a month with a strained oblique.
    As has been said, Mads sustained high pitch counts in the I-leagues in recent years.
    The lefty is 28 with years of pitching under his belt, and so well past the ‘tender years’ for a pitcher: if he IS handling the counts, probably he CAN.
    Bobby wanted to go out late, had the other team tied up good, and clearly confidence is a big part of his package on the mound.


    His pitch totals have been consistently high, and while he, personally, may handle it, as has been said the numbers do not play well.
    138 is a high total for anyone at the ML level, at any time.
    Madritsch was available to be snapped up from an I-league team because he’d been knocked out of the pro-minors by arm injuries (of type unspecified. Anybody know? I think it was an elbow, in which case OK, but if his problems were in the shoulder, this should be a double negative).

    This package suggests that it was not a CRIMINAL thing for Madritsch to go out, even though I cringed to see it personally. There are more pros than cons here.

    . . . But the problem isn’t Madritsh, it’s Melvin. BoMel isn’t just using Lefty this way, he’s using EVERYBODY!!!! this way. Madritsch has a package that suggests he can handle it; Franklin has a package which suggests he can handle it (though too little effectiveness to warrant such counts); Meche does not; Baek certainly does not. Baek was throwing beautifully in Texas, yes, it was unquestionably good for his confidence to stay out there through eight pitching like that—just as it was certainly bad for his arm. Afterwards, his elbow was tender, and the team scratched him for the year. THAT is the cost of BoMel’s Last Stand. The idea that Madritsch was left in for 138 as a specific, rational decision of risk/reward/context is, I think, unlikely since on the evidence Melvin is using all his starters _exactly the same way_ regardless of the total divergence of their personal risk contexts from this approach: He wants them to go deep and hard ‘for the team,’ and ‘to build their confidence.’ Ostensibly. Actually, this last turn around the division is, for Melvin, the equivalent of managing in a pennant race, so that is how he’s managing. That’s the issue; not pennant races; not 100 losses; not player development. Melvin is gone, and this is his last chance to show the world what he can do, for the record and for the chances of a future hire. The team is being managed for _Melvin’s_ benefit, get it?

    Sort of managed. What bothered me most about Melvin’s decision to let Madritsch go all the way is what he said to the media afterwards, that Mads “really wanted the complete game.” In other words, MADRITSCH decided how long he would stay in, Melvin just shuffled his feet in the dirt saying neither yea or nay. Although obviously Melvin’s preference is for ‘gamers who want it,’ and smart pitchers can figure out pretty easily what will keep ’em on Skip’s good side. This comment by Melvin is not isolated BTW, he’s made effectively the same remark about Franklin and Meche down the stretch when queried about the deep games he left them in for, that the pitchers ‘wanted to stay out there.’ Melvin isn’t running this team, he’s cheerleading and letting his ‘gamers’ run the show. And that’s a big problem. I wasn’t anti-Melvin personally until about mid-August, but watching this kind of dynamic unwind is exactly why I think that if BoMel is back next year, the team will just chew him up and spit him out, and it’s time for him to exit the airplane for the greater good, with or without parachute.

    On Price, yes he’s been extremely quiet for the last few months. But remember this: it’s the manager who makes the decision about how long a pitcher stays, not the pitching coach. BoMel took control of innings and counts from BP somewhere in mid-season, this has been obvious. —Just about the time that Price stopped having much to say to the media about anything. Which is a good way to avoid being boxed into having to criticize your boss for his decisions, i.e. don’t get in a position where you have to say _anything_. Molitor, too, has been extremely quiet; you wouldn’t even know that he was on the team judging by the media’s ability to get him for attritubion. Does this sound like a pair of subordinates who are _pleased_ with the decision-making of BoMel?? If they agreed with his decisions, one would expect a few hear-hear kind of comments; instead we have total silence. I have always liked Price, and I do now, but that is substantially because I think he’s being completely overridden by a much less knowledgable man right now, and has the professionalism to avoid saying anything about it. If Price flat told Melvin someone couldn’t go, I think Bob would accept that, but short of pointblank statements like that I think BoMel has’taken control of the situation’ in ways that are in NO ONES interest. Melvin doesn’t see any difference between what Madritsh and Baek can handle, won’t take advice from somebody who has demonstrated that he can see that difference, and THAT’S a problem. Which is why I’m voting for BoMel -> GoMel -> gone.

  31. jemanji on October 1st, 2004 12:11 am

    I dunno who Bela Txadux is … Jabba the Hutt’s bounty-killer for hire mayhaps?

    But since he’s an independent contractor like Jemanji, and kinda-sorta a loose cannon opinionwise … I’m guessing that USSM would let us slide if we invited him to pull up a stool at Top Forum when he’s not busy here…

    Or not,

  32. Bela Txadux on October 1st, 2004 4:08 am

    To Jemanji,

    You’re near right: phonetically bel-e txa-du-ts, “shadow-seizing black one,” the god of the eclipse in an ancient language. It means I’m November born—not technically true, but another fulsome tale as well.

    Now, if you’ll clue me in on Top Forum, what/where/why, perhaps I’ll know when and how, supposing I venture thence.