Is Yu Darvish being overworked by the Rangers?
Have to keep an eye on postseason
Here's the thing about Yu Darvish's pitch counts: It's not so much that manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux have overworked him so far, but it's the fear that they will do so.
In his last start, a 10-4 win over the Tigers, Darvish threw 130 pitches, which isn't a crime in itself, even if he did throw 127 pitches two starts before that, giving Darvish two of the four highest pitch counts of the season. It's that there was no reason to bring Darvish back for the eighth inning with a six-run lead. Darvish had already thrown 115 pitches, so why the unnecessary inning? Why carry a seven-man bullpen if you're afraid to use it with a six-run lead?
I would even understand the desire to get one more inning out of him if the club had an off day coming up, giving him an extra day of rest between starts, but that wasn't the case and Darvish is scheduled to pitch Tuesday on four days' rest.
You'll hear it said that Darvish often threw 130-plus pitches in Japan; that's true. In his final year in Japan in 2011, he threw 120-plus in 15 of his 28 starts, including six games of 130 or more. In 2010, he had NINE starts with 140 or more pitches.
But the key number there isn't 120 or 130, but 28. In Japan, Darvish basically started once a week. Over here, he has to start every fifth day. The Rangers will want 33 regular-season starts from him and then maybe fix or six more in the postseason.
And that's the catch: The baseball season is really two seasons, winning your division, but then doing it in a fashion that keeps your pitching staff strong heading into October.
Darvish is to be applauded for wanting to pitch deep into games. Too many pitchers are willing to bow out after 100 pitches. But it's also being smart about when to pitch deep into games: A close game against a division rival, 125 pitches or so makes sense.
But 130 with a six-run lead? That's the time to play it more conservatively.
For Darvish, pitch count is overrated
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish threw 130 pitches in his last start and suddenly everyone on talk radio and social media became an expert on pitch counts.
But I've been able to talk to enough coaches and players this week to draw my own conclusion: For a pitcher like Darvish, pitch counts are overrated. And I'll go with those who have played the game.
Rangers manager Ron Washington defended his decision to put Darvish back in the game in the eighth inning last Thursday against Detroit, with his ace already having thrown 115 pitches and the Rangers leading 10-4. Washington cited a bullpen that had been taxed the previous days in Oakland, and the fact that the Tigers have one of the best lineups in baseball.
If this had been the Houston Astros, Darvish would not have pitched the eighth inning. Against one of the best lineups in baseball, however, Washington chose to go with his best pitcher. Watching Miguel Cabrera pound three home runs this past Sunday, it's easier to understand Washington's thinking.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said the weather conditions were perfect to bring Darvish back for the eighth. Ryan said if it was during the heat of August, then maybe you'd err on the side of caution.
Darvish is a feel pitcher and can handle the workload, Ryan said.
Ryan should know. He went over 130 pitches 26 times alone as a Ranger. They didn't keep track of pitch counts before 1988, when they started being tracked in the minor leagues. Surely Ryan was around the century mark for 130-pitch games for his career.
I understand why those in the front office worry about pitch counts and their pitchers' health. It's GM Jon Daniels' job to look at the big picture. Darvish is a prized asset for the Rangers. Protecting him makes complete sense.
On the other side, Washington and his coaching staff are paid to win now. And the Rangers found out last season what one game in the standings can mean. One more victory in 2012 and the Rangers would have been division champs again.
Given a chance to nail down one game, Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux decided to let Darvish throw one more inning and -- hitting 96 mph on the radar gun -- Darvish retired Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez in order to effectively end the game.
Darvish said he feels fine and has no fatigue from the 130 pitches. It's doubtful he'll come close to that count in his next outing.
But if he does, I'd say let him go.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Ron Washington's decision to send Yu Darvish to the mound for the eighth inning Thursday night and how he would handle a situation like that if he were still a GM.
ESPN MLB Insider Jayson Stark joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss if the Rangers are the best team in baseball, what makes them so good and if he thinks the team will trade Jurickson Profar.