Leo Mazzone, the former long-time pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles, never kept pitch counts. He just observed the man on the mound very closely, and Leo could rely upon his own instincts and experience to know when the pitcher was tiring or if his mechanics were falling apart.
Nolan Ryan, the legendary fire-baller, liked to finish what he started, and the Hall of Famer never paid any attention to how many pitches he threw in a game. He routinely racked up large pitch counts in games, and it didn’t seem to bother Ryan as he pitched well into his 40s. Never really had any arm problems, either.
But of course, the prevailing mentality these days is to mark down every pitch a pitcher makes. Whether it’s Little League, HS, college, or pro ball, pitching coaches get nervous when the count gets to around 70 or 80 or more. Time to warm up the bullpen!
Now comes word of a 16-year-old Japanese prospect named Tomohiro Anraku who, during the course of the Koshien tournament (the largest HS sporting event in Japan – it’s held twice a year), racked up a total of 772 pitches in 9 days. Here’s the breakdown: Tuesday, he threw 232 pitches….Saturday, 159…Monday, 138….Tuesday, 134….Wednesday, 109.
Along the way, the 6-4 righty struck out 37 in 44 innings, walked only 7, and gave up 12 earned runs on 44 hits.
He is routinely clocked at 94 mph, but toward the end of his week-long efforts, his velocity dropped to the high 80s.
At the end, was he tired? Yes. Did his arm hurt, or become injured? Apparently not. Is going to take the rest of the year off? No, the August Koshien tournament starts up soon, and he’s eager to throw in that one as well.
Only time will tell whether this young man is getting good advice from his coaches, or whether he may be risking a serious injury that could potentially derail a possible pro career. We’ll see.