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Pitch Counts This; Pitch Counts That

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This post isn't aimed towards any one person. I've heard and read these claims on multiple outlets. It seems like groupthink. One based around evidence that has nothing to do with facts.

The Texas Rangers starting rotation is better this year than in 2008.

They are, but only barely:

2008: 5.46 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 5.51 ERA, 5.02 FIP

2009: 4.89 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, 4.36 ERA, 4.95 FIP

The lack of concrete pitch counts has made the pitchers better.

Or it could be their defense.  Last year the Rangers' rotation had a .327 BABIP; this year their BABIP is down to .280. The Rangers team UZR is 18.4, about 70 runs better than last year. Yes, 70 runs. Seventy. -51.7 UZR is an amazing accomplishment, after all the 2007 Rays had one of the worst defenses ever and only record -57.7 UZR.

The Rays are too strict with their pitch counts. They should take after the Rangers.

Let's use facts to figure this out.

The Rangers starters throw 99 pitches per start on average, have topped 100 pitches 28 times, 120 thrice, and maxed out at 124. Meanwhile they've had seven starts where pitchers exited in under 80 pitches.

The Rays starters throw 97 pitches per start on average, have topped 100 pitches 29 times, 120 once, have a max of 120. Meanwhile they too have had seven starters where pitchers exited below the 80 pitch threshold.

So all this hoopla about pitch counts and such, it's over two pitches per start. That's it. Two pitches. The Rangers do get more innings out of their starters, but that's probably because they don't have David Price and Scott Kazmir wasting all of their bullets in the first five innings of the ballgame.

Other topics that make this argument rather pointless:

1. Josh Kalk is a Rays employee. He knows more about how to detect pitcher fatigue than anyone else with a pulse.

2. Why would you want your starter going 8 every game anyways? I get wanting to save your pen, but you have relievers for a reason. Use them. If they suck, get better ones. This isn't a hard concept to grasp. Besides being tired, the lineup gets more exposure to him. A 30-40% energy starter working on his third or fourth time through the lineup, or a 90-100% reliever freshly entering the game? Assuming neither is replacement level or elite, I think I'll go with the fresh reliever in most cases.