Joe Posnanski writes about injured pitchers and wonders how injury can be prevented:
But let’s be clear about something: I don’t believe for one minute that there’s some new epidemic of starters and relievers getting hurt. I think this is a story as old as baseball. I think that as long as pitchers throw baseballs as hard as they can, often mixing in various twists and turns and grips, elbow ligaments will burst and shoulders will pop and rotator cuffs will tear. And while there might be ways to protect pitcher’s arms, to limit the damage, to give pitchers their best chance to survive – long toss, limited innings, ice treatments, heat treatments, five man rotations, progressive inning increases, occasional skipped starts – the worldwide reality will not go away. Pitchers get hurt. A lot.
Good piece, as usual, by Posnanski.
Regarding the methods in which to "protect" arms, I don't like them one bit. In my opinion, pitchers are overly babied in contemporary baseball. Managers and pitching coaches and general managers are all so deathly afraid of their Big Ticket getting hurt. So, they use pitch counts and limit innings. But I think the opposite strategy should be used: have young pitchers throw more. Use the time spent in the minor leagues slowly building up strength and stamina in the arm. As Posnanski notes, injuries obviously can't be avoided completely, but my feeling is if stamina is gained early on, then by the time a pitcher is called up to the majors, they have a better shot at staying healthier. Thus, being healthier means starting more games and going deeper into games. Most importantly, a healthy arm is (presumably) an effective arm.
That said, the days of real horses starting 30+ games and pitching 250+ innings are long gone. That's just the reality of the game today. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't piss me off every time I see a pitcher getting yanked in the 6th or 7th inning of a game where he's doing well simply because he's hit his pitch quota. Why not let him go? If anything, save your bullpen for when it's absolutely necessary — i.e., when the starter is genuinely tired and/or in trouble.