In 2009 the Texas Rangers decided that in order for pitchers to throw often and without injury, they should throw more often and strengthen their arms with long toss. This is the same logic as pretty much every other physical activity. Want to run faster and not pull a hamstring? Run more often, as fast as you can, and work out hard. No one ever told an Olympic sprinter that they should protect their legs by resting.
“Everybody has been on a pitch count since they were in Little League,” Ryan continued, emphasizing that he wishes to push pitchers’ physical capacity. “And unless you’re willing to explore that, I don’t think you’re getting the maximum amount of your investment out of these kids.
“In my opinion, we’re seeing too many injuries.” The Rangers, therefore, are fighting back. To put it mildly.
Heeding Ryan’s first major edict, the Rangers set forth this season with an ambitious mandate that pitchers up and down the organization build arm strength and get in better shape.
How it manifests itself ought to be interesting. Born out of frustration over a rash of injuries last season and a nearly decade-long streak of futility, the plan is blowing up new-era thinking by herding pitchers to the mound to throw live batting practice and by pushing their limits in long toss.
A New Pitch
So its been 3 seasons since then. In 2011, the Rangers starting pitchers all made at least 29 starts. The average MLB team only had 2.5 pitchers on their staff make that many starts. And they weren’t limited to pitch counts at all.
Here is a look at the Rangers’ starting five:
* C.J. Wilson: 16-7, 2.94 ERA with 34 starts/223 innings pitched. Had 100 pitches 28 times, 110 pitches 17 times, season high of 129.
* Colby Lewis: 14-10, 4.40 ERA with 32 starts/200 innings pitched. Had 100 pitches 21 times, 110 pitches 8 times, season high of 121.
* Derek Holland: 16-5, 3.95 ERA with 32 starts/198 innings pitched. Had 100 pitches 22 times, 110 pitches 12 times, season high of 119.
* Matt Harrison: 14-9, 3.39 ERA with 30 starts/186 innings pitched. Had 100 pitches 20 times, 110 pitches seven times, season high of 119.
* Alexi Ogando: 13-8, 3.51 ERA with 29 starts/169 innings pitched. Had 100 pitches 15 times, 110 pitches five times, season high of 116.
“Best way to summarize is that Nolan believes pitchers need to throw to develop. The Rangers added more long-tossing programs, at more than 200 feet, and also removed pitch-count limits in the minors. The manager and the pitching coach make the call based on how the pitcher is performing.”The idea is to get pitchers thinking about going the distance rather than looking over their shoulder for help after five innings. Nolan likes to use the term“accountability.” If you’re the pitcher, it’s your game.”