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Pre-game warmup and pitch counts

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#1 longstrangetrip

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 08:30 AM

A couple weeks ago I spent a pleasant day at the Big A with Glunn and Ashbury John Jr. (congratulations, John, on raising such a nice young man)...well, the company was pleasant...the game, not so much. Anyway, I posed a question to these two guys, and although both are baseball PHD's, neither had an answer. Glunn suggested I bring the topic to the board.

I went to all three Twins/Angels games (yes, I am responsible for this mid-season swoon), but I went solo to the first game. I got to the park an hour early and spent some time watching Gibson and CJ Wilson warming up. They both started with about 15 minutes of long toss, and then ventured over to their respective bullpens. Here, they gradually ramped up the velocity of their pitches under the watchful eyes of their pitching coaches, and each threw about 150 warm up pitches...at least 50-75 seemed to be at full velocity.

It made me wonder about the magic 100 pitch count and the impact of the pre-game warm up on this barrier. If pitches during the game have such great importance in determining how long a pitcher can go, why don't full-bore pre-game pitches count? Or do they? Put another way, if a pitcher significantly reduced his pre-game warm up, say 75 easy throws and 25 full velocity, isn't it logical to assume he could go much further in a game...i.e. perhaps the arbitrary barrier might increase to 125 or more instead of 100? Bert Blyleven is fond of talking about how much sturdier pitchers were in his day and how many more complete games there were. Could it be that pitchers back then just weren't leaving as much in the bullpen, and hadn't thrown as many total pitches by the time the 8th inning rolled around?

Pitchers aren't trying to learn how to pitch in the bullpen...they're merely warming up and fine tuning their mechanics. Perhaps they can achieve these goals in a more compact fashion, and have more left in the tank when the game begins.

I had baseball practice in Irvine the morning after this game, and I had a chance to talk about this with a couple pitchers in my league. Both of them scratched their heads in a "never thought of that" way, and agreed that 50-75 all-out warm up pitches would have an impact on their in-game durability.

What do you guys think? Have I just unlocked the secret to pitchers being able to go deeper into games, like they did in the good old days?

#2 Shane Wahl

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 08:35 AM

That seems like a LOT of warmup pitches. What on earth?

#3 longstrangetrip

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 08:43 AM

I thought so too, shane, but they each threw for 20-25 minutes at a rapid pace...had to be well over 100 pitches.

#4 Seth Stohs

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 09:29 AM

Definitely an interesting question and one I wish I had an answer for... Something to look into.

#5 Kirby_Waved_At_Me

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 09:50 AM

Cuellar is on the Sunday morning pre-game show on KTWIN from time to time, maybe it's a perfect question to ask him?

#6 Jaykay

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 09:54 AM

I can't tell you how happy it makes me that someone is finally questioning this.

I've mentioned this in casual conversation a few times and never understood why it isn't discussed more often.

#7 ericchri

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:05 AM

Tossing out random thoughts on this: Pitchers often speak about having the "feel" on any given day for their pitches. Would the large amount of warmup relate to trying to find their "feel" that day?

But then I know I've seen postgame quotes about guys who had horrible bullpen warmups who then went out and threw a gem of a game.

#8 twinsnorth49

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:13 AM

That seems like an extraordinary amount of warm up pitches. Here's an article I read from a few years back, it's mostly about how the focus on pitch count has risen dramatically but further in it describes how that has altered the pre game warm ups of Cardinal pitchers. Dave Duncan reveals that they have cut the pitch count before games from a typical 75 down to 40 in order to help protect their pitchers.

You would think that this mindset has further deepened over the years with the investment teams are now making with starting pitching.


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Edited by twinsnorth49, 08 July 2014 - 10:21 AM.


#9 longstrangetrip

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 10:37 AM

Playing off of ericchri and twinsnorth's thoughts above, I wonder if I was watching an exception that day. It was clear that both Gibson and Wilson were struggling in the bullpen...both catchers were emphatically trying to get them to bring the ball down, and neither appeared to be able to command their breaking balls. In fact, I texted my son back in Minneapolis 15 minutes before game time to tell him he was going to have to stay up really late to watch this high-scoring game...sure enough, there were 10 runs scored in the first inning and a half. Perhaps the pitching coaches extended the pregame warmup in an attempt to allow the pitchers to find their command.

Maybe the next person to get to a game early can watch the bullpen session, and see how many times the pitcher lets loose pre-game.

#10 curt1965

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 12:01 PM

Speaking of getting to the game early, I used to try to arrive early so I could watch batting practice and infield. Now the gates are closed so you are not able to do this. What's up with that?

#11 ashburyjohn

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 01:39 PM

Makes it seem very strange when you watch an otherwise good pitcher quite obviously not have a feel for his arsenal in the first inning, and by the third inning he's cruising. If he threw 75 pitches warming up, it seems very odd that pitches 75-90 were still no good and only by around pitch 100 does he have that feel, even granting that the first 50 or so bullpen pitches were not done in earnest.

/ PS thanks for the kind words about my son, we enjoy him too. :)

#12 Shane Wahl

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 01:47 PM

I pitched some back in the day. This does not count as any sort of analysis or comparison, but I probably threw no more than 30 hard pitches total between warmup and the first inning actual warmup on the field. I would get loose by another 30 or so before then, but that is it.

One has to wonder about first inning blowups with regard to this too. Maybe there is a perfect storm of ideal offensive lineup (first inning is the only time this happens for sure) and pitchers at certain level of wear vs. the situation. What I mean about the latter is that perhaps game pitching after throwing 50 plus pitches at full velocity is a problem, and perhaps getting to the bottom of the lineup at that point would be better. Or, in other words, pitchers have basically thrown a bit in warmups to get a bit tired before the adrenaline and focus that the game brings by playing in it. This might contribute to some of these first inning debacles.

What I want to know is what Verlander did back when he was great. He seemed to treat the early innings as a getting loose period before cutting fully loose by the second time through the order.

#13 twinsnorth49

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 01:48 PM

I don't think a pitcher would throw that many extra pitches trying to get a feel down, most seem to be creatures of habit and that would be quite a break from their pre-game routine, and one that would certainly risk wearing them out.

Many a crappy bullpen session has resulted in a good game.

#14 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 01:55 PM

I asked that question once, though I don't remember to who, and was basically told that it's built in so to speak. They already know that the pitcher is going to the X number of pitches.

I would add that pick off moves also don't get counted, but certainly put strain on the arm.