The Tampa Bay Rays Rotation, Pitch Counts & Rick Peterson

Agree or disagree with the logic behind it, but by now we've been programmed to start paying attention to a pitchers count at 100 pitches. 100 pitches isn't the absolute rule, and guys like Matt Garza and Roy Halladay amongst others are equipped to go past 100. However, on most nights a manager would be happy to have his starter reach the century mark and get him six or seven innings.

For the Rays this has been true on many nights. While each game is different, the Rays starters as a group have averaged 99 pitches per start. However, pitching guru Rick Peterson suggests that 100 isn't the magical number we should be looking at. In fact, Peterson says it's lower.

"The data tells us that once a pitcher reaches 90 pitches, the performance rate is drastically impacted. In fact, the batting average against (BAA) almost doubles. The data is there to support this." "Sure, elite guys like Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia do not have such a variance. But, by and large, the majority of pitchers do."--Fullcountpitch.com

Of course after reading such a statement my interest was piqued. Here is a look at the six starters used by the Rays broken down by pitch count...

Shields

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

176

0.335

0.358

0.471

0.392

5.33

26-50

185

0.256

0.286

0.369

0.295

3.63

51-75

177

0.202

0.237

0.321

0.222

3.75

76-100

167

0.277

0.352

0.486

0.298

1.69

100+

27

0.391

0.481

0.913

0.4

1.25

Kazmir

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

102

0.28

0.422

0.463

0.322

0.95

26-50

129

0.277

0.328

0.479

0.287

2.38

51-75

127

0.265

0.323

0.372

0.312

2

76-100

104

0.283

0.356

0.511

0.31

2.25

100+

17

0.333

0.412

0.467

0.417

1.5

Garza

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

140

0.231

0.279

0.354

0.292

5.43

26-50

165

0.259

0.329

0.422

0.297

2.46

51-75

161

0.21

0.304

0.37

0.223

1.78

76-100

151

0.25

0.331

0.402

0.284

1.65

100+

51

0.163

0.275

0.302

0.179

2.33

Niemann

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

147

0.254

0.327

0.446

0.264

1.91

26-50

163

0.26

0.319

0.333

0.311

2.42

51-75

140

0.246

0.321

0.397

0.269

1.23

76-100

119

0.276

0.333

0.381

0.317

2.2

100+

20

0.316

0.35

0.632

0.25

1

Price

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

86

0.324

0.419

0.581

0.339

1.18

26-50

95

0.193

0.284

0.349

0.23

2.1

51-75

96

0.284

0.344

0.477

0.328

2.5

76-100

84

0.284

0.361

0.425

0.321

1.5

100+

18

0.125

0.222

0.188

0.2

3

Sonnanstine

PA

BAA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

K/BB

1-25

94

0.326

0.362

0.551

0.338

2.6

26-50

97

0.315

0.371

0.506

0.333

1.38

51-75

102

0.255

0.314

0.521

0.254

2.43

76-100

66

0.333

0.364

0.476

0.377

4.5

100+

3

0.333

0.333

0.333

0.333

0

 

Shields follows the Peterson model more than any other Rays starter. After holding opponents to a .558 OPS during pitches 51-75, that jumps 280 points to .838 after pitch 75. This surprised me as Shields usually works deep into the game, and at least my perception was he got better in the latter stages of the game. In fact it's quite the opposite especially after Shields reaches 100 pitches. His BABIP jumps to over .400 and opponents slug .913 against him. Very small sample size, but it seems Shields gets tired very quickly once at the century mark. As for Scott Kazmir, he starts off slowly before locking in during pitches 51-75. After pitch 75, his OPS against jumps up nearly .200 points back in to the mid .800s from 76-100.

For Matt Garza, the split is less than Shields or Kazmir, but there is a nearly 60 point OPS difference as Garza nears 100. As mentioned above Garza is a different animal. He has been his strongest at 100+ pitches, so it should come as no surprise that he leads the Rays in 100-119 pitch performances with 18 on the season. 

When it comes to Jeff Niemann and David Price there doesn't seem to be a noticable difference on the march to 100. Both pitchers, especially Price, seem to struggle early on before settling down and going to work. In a SSS Price seems to channel Garza once he goes over 100 pitches, while Niemann has been lit up like Shields in his small sample size. The final member of the group is Andy Sonnanstine. As much as I hate to say it, Sonny got hit around regardless of pitch count. In no group was his opponent's OPS lower than .835 and that is just not good.

It's no shock that there is not a magic number across the board. Each pitcher is built different and throws different stuff. While there is no specific number, each pitcher will always have some sort of pitch count. We may not like it on some nights, but pitchers are conditioned this way and it's not going to just change.

"Think about it as a runner. Let's say he runs three or four miles a day which would average about 27 miles a week. He's conditioned to that routine. Then, the runner decides to do away with consistent training and will run however long he feels like it - like Forrest Gump. So, one day he runs seven miles, the next 8, and the next 4 and so on. So, one week he runs about 40 miles and then the next he runs 50, followed by 60 miles. What happens to his legs? He burns out and gets hurt."---Fullcountpitch.com

After all, owners are always going to look after their investments, and paying big money to injured pitchers is not a good business practice, right Rick?

Baseball spent $1.2 billion dollars on pitchers' salaries in 2008. $330 million dollars of that money was spent on injured pitchers. We have a problem here."--fullcountpitch.com

For more on Rick Peterson's thoughts click one of the fullcountpitch.com links. H/T to Baseball-Reference.com for the splits.

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