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Jack Morris takes a swipe at the Strasburg shutdown

Oct 17, 2012, 10:31 AM EDT

Jack Morris

Jack Morris was asked about the exploits of aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia. And he used the opportunity to take a swipe at the Nationals:

“I think everybody in the Washington Nationals’ front office should pay attention that guys should go deep into games … when I see CC complete a game two days after Justin did, and I see guys doing it, it reminds me that there’s still hope because — I can say this, Phyllis, and you can’t tell me I can’t say this ‑‑ I believe the pitch count is overrated. I think the whole thing will come to fruition, the cycle, the experiment, and they will see that there is value in starting pitching to go deep in the games, to help save the bullpen.”

At the outset I gotta say that Jack Morris going after the Strasburg shutdown is the very definition of mixed feelings for me. Can’t we just say they’re both wrong and be done with it? Short of that, can we ask Morris what it was like to pitch year-in-year-out with his innings eating peers Dave Rozema and Mark Fydrich?

OK, that’s too simple. How about this: pointing to the accomplishments of perhaps the two most reliable workhorses in baseball and saying “look, everyone should do that” is silly. There have always been amazing pitchers who can do that sort of thing — Morris was one of them, by the way — but that doesn’t mean everyone can or should.

It also doesn’t mean, by the way, that shutting down Strasburg early is somehow justified either. Because even if you advocated keeping him going like I did, I don’t think anyone suggested that he should do things like throw 132 pitches like Justin Verlander or go on three days rest all the damn time like CC Sabathia did back in 2008.  You can extend his season and have him available without him being used like tried-and-true beasts such as Verlander and Sabathia.

How about this: some pitchers can do that kind of thing. Some pitchers can’t. All pitchers should be watched and monitored by their teams so as to maximize their effectiveness. For some that means low pitch or innings counts. For others it doesn’t. All pitchers should be used in such a way so as to balance concerns about their health and concerns about the team winning.

But sure, if you want to reduce it all to “pitching counts are an atrocity” or “no one should throw more than XXX innings or pitches,” go ahead and live in your simple little world.

  1. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Considering Morris hadn’t thrown over 200 IP TOTAL at the same age Strasburg is now, and the fact that Morris’s age 24 season (strasburg’s 2013 season) he still didn’t break 200 IP, he should give the young guy a break and let him build up his strength?

    If Strasburg is 28 and still pitching 160/year, then he can talk?

  2. Francisco (FC) - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    I’m trying to remember who it was last night during the Yankees-Tigers game that said: “I can’t believe Jack Morris still isn’t the Hall of Fame”. We should add that to our playoff drinking games.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      Sutcliff mentioned that there were no less than 10 H.O.F players in the Tigers/Yanks series. That man is capable of saying almost anything…stupid.

      • theawesomersfranchise - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM

        Sutcliffe is without any doubt the worst in the business and a massive Yankees homer. He has been disgusting the entire series.

        “Robinson Cano the best fielding 2b in baseball” was quite funny, I guess he missed the Cincy series. And EVERY game it’s about how the Yankees can win, what they need to do to win, snd how the world centers around his Yankees, even though some other team is dismantling them it’s all about how the Yankees lose, and not about why that other team is winning.

        Just a complete and utter idiot, how he got the job and keeps it amazes me.

      • weaselpuppy - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:21 PM

        I’m gonna take a swing at that….

        Jeter, ARod, -Locks
        Ichiro- Not a lock but hard to imagine he doesn’t get in
        Miggy, JV CC- Sure looks that way if they stay healthy another 4-5 years
        Cano, Fielder- Good start of 6-7 years…need 6-7 more
        Andruw Jones,Andy Pettite- Some think so, most don’t
        Rivera-not there technically but also a lock.

      • Jeremy T - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        If you we’re forced to pick a non-injured player for the tenth, who would it be? Chavez maybe?

    • cur68 - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      Jack Morris/HOF = Drink. Its in the rule book. We should write these down somewhere.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        Or maybe they’re not supposed to be written down? Are these supposed to be like those mythical unwritten rules?

      • cur68 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM

        Maybe what we have here is the paradox of Schrödinger’s Rule Book? The act of writing them down collapses the waveform of rule probability. Until written, all rules exist in potentia. Once written they exist as a factual condition and the potential other rules that might apply cease to exist.

        I wonder who’s gonna call the ballgame? Been some moving strike zones this playoffs. I seem to be spending a lot of time asking “Where was THAT pitch?” I hate Schrödinger’s Strike Zone.

      • stex52 - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        You forgot about the virtual Jack Morris. He’s already in the HOF, unless he hits the virtual anti-Jack Morris and they both annihilate in a flash of energy. He’d better be close to a black hole.

        Also for drinking games: references to The Princess Bride, Slaughterhouse Five, Derek Jeter’s going-away baskets, or cake vs. pie. Time for new referential points.

      • cur68 - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        Stex: we can’t presume that “Virtual Jack Morris” = “Actual Jack Morris” and that, thus, one is an anti-state of the other. “Virtual Jack Morris” is in fact a titan. A monolith. A leviathan. If Virtual Jack Morris met Actual Jack Morris and they collided, we’d have to describe Actual Jack Morris thereafter to be in a sate best denoted by the old saw “run over by a dump truck”. I do believe that Virtual Jack Morris would destroy the world if he existed outside the mind of Actual Jack Morris.

  3. fcmlefty1 - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    This brings up another point: the idea of a strict 5 man rotation, where everybody takes equal turns. Its complete rubbish that teams think all 5 of their starters should be treated the same. Some guys could throw every 4th day. Other guys should probably only pitch once a week. First team that embraces some outside the box thinking when scheduling their starters will be ahead of the game.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      Well the Rockies did try a 4-man rotation with a 75 pitch count limit… Not sure if that kind of thinking is good though.

    • thereisaparty - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      There is substantial evidence showing that performance is significantly worse when pitching on four day’s rest. And that is for just the odd start on short rest. I can’t imagine any pitcher performing well when continually on four days rest. Teams do already manage staffs to make sure #1 starters have more games than the #5 starters (ex. Cueto had 33 starts this year to Leake’s 30)

      • albertmn - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        Did you mean pitching every four days, rather than pitching on four days rest? Pitching on 4 days rest (every 5th day) is what nearly everybody does now.

  4. townballblog - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    I think is fair to mention that every individual is different. We can all agree that Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia have a robotic arm, it’s insane and awesome at the same time. But look at some of the other folks who have tried to throw the same amount of pitches/game they do, their arms die after a few seasons – good examples are Aaron Harang or Mark Prior.

    BUT, does that mean they physically couldn’t handle it? Maybe they had a different muscular structure, their throwing motions were different, some use their legs more than the others, some are all arm, some get 8 hours of sleep on average while others get 7, or some eat right before the game while others don’t.

    I know the last two points are kind of silly but that is my point – There simply is not enough data that shows why some can throw 140 pitches and others can’t. Until this data becomes available (if it ever does) I agree with Craig, all arguments are speculations and cannot be proven correct.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 17, 2012 at 10:48 AM

      There simply is not enough data that shows why some can throw 140 pitches and others can’t

      It’s because every arm is different. Some live by long toss, some avoid it all together. Some never ice their arm, ever while some do it in between starts. Why are some always injured by minor stuff and yet others seem indestructible?

    • thereisaparty - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      There is more than enough data that shows it would be stupid to pitch anyone for that long. Performance suffers when facing a lineup for the third and fourth time. In almost every case (Verlander being a possible exception), it would be poor managing not to go to a bullpen before that pitch count is hit.

      • townballblog - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        That’s true but we’re not talking about whether someone can make it through a lineup a third or fourth time, we’re talking about whether their “stuff” is just as good in the 8th or 9th as it was in the 2nd or 3rd innings.

  5. goodellisruiningtheleague - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Man thank god people are still talking about the Nationals! Now Craig is able to continue writing for Hardball Talk.

    • natstowngreg - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Nah, the Yankees provide enough fodder.

  6. The Common Man - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Strasburg is 23, coming off of injury, and threw 159.1 innings this year. When Jack Morris was 23, he was healthy and threw 106 innings. So yeah, maybe STFU Jack. You aren’t in position to complain about the workload of this young pitcher.

    • vikesfansteve - Oct 17, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      The same Jack Morris who only he and Sandy Koufax have won the Babe Ruth award twice and who has 4 rings to wear when he fists you.

  7. natstowngreg - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Wow Craig, a reasoned and balanced discussion of Stephen Strasburg. Hardly any trolling material at all. I’m shocked! shocked! But seriously, Morris is just using Strasburg to make a larger point, which you have rebutted quite nicely.

    CC and Verlander (and Roy Halladay, BTW) will probably end up in the HOF because of their rare combination of excellence and durability. Emphasis on “rare.” Stephen Strasburg has shown the excellence, but not the durability. The 2013 season will be a test of his durability.

  8. keithosaunders - Oct 17, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Really? I can imagine it. Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Don Newcomb, Denny McLain, and pretty much every pitcher before Earl Weaver came along can imagine it too. We live in a corporate, cookie-cutter, by the book world. Shutting down Strasburg was a travesty and it would serve the Nats right if they do not return to the playoffs and lose Strasburg to free agency, perhaps to the Rangers where he can win Cy Youngs for Nolan Ryan – another pitcher can imagine it.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 17, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Denny McClain

      Did you really reference someone who threw back to back 300+ IP seasons, and then was terrible for the 375 or so until he washed out of the league? Gibson didn’t throw a 200IP+ season until he was 25. Newcombe missed time due to military service, but only threw ~2200 in his career. Whitey Ford was similar to Gibson in that he didn’t throw 200IP until age 24.

  9. natslady - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Didn’t know where to put this, but for other Nats fans who might not have seen it.

    Letter to the Editor
    The Nationals — a class act

    Published: October 16

    Washington Nationals’ organization, you are a class act. Your dedication to our military is unlike any we ever have seen, and the effort you put toward making the playoffs memorable cannot be described.

    Watching your fans behave with such dignity when the Nats’ dreams of extending their season came to an end Friday night demonstrated that they, too, are among the elite of this game. There was no booing, nothing thrown on the field.

    They simply stood and applauded. Some even remained afterward to thank the players as they left the parking lot. Thank you, Nationals owners, employees and fans, for a night we will never forget.

    Dave and Patty LaRoche, Fort Scott, Kan.

    The writers are the parents of Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche.

    Your son is a class act also. Very much hope he is a National next season. Thank you.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Oct 17, 2012 at 3:10 PM

  10. albertmn - Oct 17, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    I am asking this because I was never a pitcher and don’t know. You always hear about starters pitching longer to save the bullpen. But, yet, the relievers end up pitching far fewer innings than the starters overall. You see very few individual relievers that pitch over 100 innings in a season. Is it that much more wear to pitch more days than more innings? Most teams carry more relievers on the active roster than starters, yet a starter making all of his starts will pitch at least 150-200+ innings, while many relievers are half that many by the end of the year.

    You hear a lot of talk about starters needing to get tougher and pitch longer. Why can’t the relievers get tougher and pitch more total innings in a season? Not trying to be a smart aleck. I really just don’t know enough about the mechanics of pitching to know the answer.

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