The Meat Grinder – Plenty of Meat, But No Grinding

Another view of managing the staff.

Well, we're two games into the season and already the LaRussa-bashers are coming out – conveniently ignoring the fact that he had, essentially a four-man bullpen to work with on Wednesday night with Eldred out with the flu and King still feeling the effects of it – and resurrecting the old "meat grinder" accusations after Jason Marquis threw 111 pitches on Wednesday.

It was even suggested that Woody Williams and Matt Morris were "severely overextended" in 2004, which supposedly contributed to their late-season problems.

However, a check of the records shows otherwise.

Williams was *not* "severely overextended", except for the fact that he stubbornly refused to go to extended ST, as he should have last April, and insisted on staying at the major league level (although, granted, as a major league veteran, he has that right).

But checking my game logs from 2004, we see that Williams, through April, May, and June, threw a total of 1508 pitches in his first 15 starts, or 100.5 pitches per start. In the second half, when he got into his groove, he threw 1621 pitches in 16 starts, which is only slightly more, 101.3 pitches per start.

He only exceeded 100 pitches in two of his first six starts, and in four of his first nine starts. And he only exceeded 120 pitches on four occasions all season; May 16, June 26, July 7, and August 18 - none of which were more than 125 pitches.

Woody Williams was hardly overworked in 2004. 2003 may be a different matter, but there was really only one game – the game in Boston – where Williams was left in too long, and that may have been more Woody's fault than anybody's – he's been quoted several times as saying that "If I can't go 120 pitches, I don't deserve to be out there". Clearly, Woody Williams is not a believer in the 100-pitch count limit. (I still wonder, when did 100 pitches become the "magic number"? And what effect would being limited to 100 pitches have had on the careers of, say, Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton?)

Likewise, Matt Morris threw only 3075 pitches in 2004 in 32 starts, an average of 96.1 pitches per start. He only exceeded 100 pitches in 2 of his first 7 starts, and exceeded 120 pitches only twice all season - June 4, when he threw 120 pitches in a 5-3 win over Houston, and August 17, in a 7-2 win over Cincinnati.

Checking the whole staff, I see that Cards pitchers for the whole season exceeded 120 pitches in only 7 games (Marquis and Suppan never did so; Carpenter only once), and that they threw 110-119 pitches in 25 other games.

That means Cards pitches only threw 110 or more pitches in 32 of 162 games - hardly an overworked staff, despite the number of innings.

Carpenter, in particular, was brought along slowly - he threw 102 pitches in his first start of the 2004 season, then threw fewer than 100 in his next 8 starts - going 5-1 in the process (the Cards went 7-2). In his next 9 starts, he threw more than 100 pitches in five of them, but only exceeded 110 twice, and went 5-3 while the team went 6-3.

Overall, Cards' starters threw 15,807 pitches in 162 starts, going 996 1/3 innings. That's an average of 97.6 pitches per start, and an average of 6.15 innings per start, which means the Cards' starters in 2004 averaged just 15.9 pitches per inning, which is not bad at all.

But the Big Five, who made 154 starts (Haren made five, Reyes two, and Flores one) between them, threw a total of 963 innings and 15,272 pitches - an average of 6.25 innings and 99.2 pitches per start (which still works out to just 15.9 pitches per inning).

And this all kind of flies in the face of the assertion that TLR overworks his starters. The reason they pitched so many innings in 2004 - five starters with at least 182 innings pitched - is because they were *efficient*, not because they were overworked.

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