June 24, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) is congratulated by Tigers manager Jim Leyland (10) after pitching a complete game victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in an interleague game at PNC Park. The Detroit Tigers won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Justin Verlander Should Not Have a Pitch Limit For ALDS Game Five

You never want to be in a win-or-go-home situation, but if you find yourself in that spot, it never hurts to have Justin Verlander as your team’s starting pitcher. He’s been baseball’s best pitcher for two years now, and he’s the biggest workhorse in the game. As such, there doesn’t exist a number of pitches after which he should be removed from the ballgame.

If I’m Jim Leyland (which I’m not) and if I’m talking to Verlander before the game (which I won’t do), I’d tell him to tell me when he’s had enough. Leyland will need to keep an eye on his effectiveness – if he’s tiring, missing his spots, and walking batters then it’s time to go get him – but there’s really no reason to save him for “tomorrow” because “tomorrow” doesn’t come if the team loses.

I mean, sure, you don’t want to damage his future by leaving him out there forever, but if there’s one guy in the game that could shoulder an extremely heavy load (by today’s standards) it’s Verlander. In baseball today, we typically start looking for the manager to come bounding out of the dugout shortly after the 100 pitch mark. Jim Leyland shouldn’t (and won’t) even bat an eyelash at the century mark tonight. He shouldn’t have any qualms about sending him out to begin a new inning if he’s anywhere south of the 130 pitch plateau. Verlander has thrown 130+ pitches twice this season; I wouldn’t find it crazy or unreasonable if he crossed the 140 mark tonight (again, with the caveat that he had remained effective).

There will not come a point in tonight’s game where anyone will think “[name anyone in the bullpen] is probably better suited to come in and get these outs” so long as Verlander is throwing strikes. I probably wouldn’t let him throw 150 pitches (simply because it’s a semi-round and scary-big sounding number), but anything up to that point should be fair game.

Verlander is a prototypical workhorse and Detroit’s best hope for surviving Oakland. There’s no reason for him to come out of the game if there’s anything at all left in the tank.

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Tags: ALDS Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander Playoffs

  • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

    Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches to complete his no-hitter in 2010. As long as Verlander is still effective, no reason to pull him short of that.

    • Chris Hannum

      I’m going to have to disagree with you guys here. Think Kevin Appier 1995 (or Austin Wood and Kenny Baugh in the College World Series). There are very, very good reasons to pull him short of that. The damage that too many pressure pitches do to joints and tendons is real and as a Tigers fan, game 5 or no game 5 I have no interest in starting the 2013 season with “what’s left of Justin Verlander”. The fact that some have punched a wall and come away without a broken hand doesn’t make it safe or smart.

      • Larry Weisenthal

        C’mon, Chris. Mickey Lolich pitched three complete games in a 7 game World Series — the third of these on 2 day’s rest! He went on to have a long, durable career. What I’d love to know is the pitch count for each of these three games. Anyone know?

        - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

        • Chris Hannum

          Unfortunately we can only guess, it might or might not have sent pitch count alarms blaring if people had kept track back then. The folks at Retrosheet have done a great job in digitizing old box scores, but pitch logs were rarely kept track of by anybody. We know he faced 34, 37 and 33 batters, though. At JVs career pitches-per-batter average that would come out to 135, 147 & 131 pitches – which seems like it would be pushing it a little. I did find ONE pitch count for Lolich (in ’76 with the Mets) – he faced 29 hitters and it only took him 98 pitches. That’s the tiniest of tiny samples, but I’d still guess that Lolich was more efficient than JV (as pitchers in general were more efficient back then). If you take that pitches-per-batter number from his ONE game in ’76 you’d estimate that Lolich only had to throw 115, 125 and 112 pitches for 3 complete game WS wins.