Edwin Jackson’s 132 pitches

Edwin Jackson threw 132 pitches to help the Tigers complete a sweep of the Texas Rangers. Pitch counts and the hubbub around them are fodder for controversy. I tend to favor caution in these scenarios but am willing to consider each game on an individual basis. Who was the pitcher? What was the game state? Is there an off day coming up? How much rest is he pitching on? What is the pitcher’s injury history? And on and on. I don’t think there is a simple answer to the right number of pitches, but today Jim Leyland left Edwin Jackson in too long. I worry if this is going to be a pattern in 2009.

Let’s look at today’s game and analyze the situation. Jackson had an extra day of rest having last pitched on Friday. His pitch count was also a manageable 97 pitches in that last start, well at least it seemed manageable. But don’t forget there was a rain delay that lasted over an hour and Jackson pitched on both sides of that delay meaning he threw extra pitches in the cage. His workload was actually higher that game than the 97 pitches would indicate.

As for today’s game, it was close. Jackson entered the 8th inning at 105 pitches protecting a 3-1 lead. I have no problem with Jackson starting the inning. Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney had pitched the previous two games and I understand that Leyland would want to save one of the two. If he can get Jackson through the 8th he only needs 3 more outs and Jackson looked strong in the 7th fanning the side (and allowing a double).

Jackson then walked the leadoff hitter on 5 pitches pushing his pitch count total to 110. The walk wasn’t a good sign and may have been cause to go the bullpen at that point. Michael Young was up next and Jackson had him at an 0 for 4 day. Young went on to hit the first pitch to the warning track in left-center. So now Jackson is at 111 pitches and has allowed a walk and an very well hit ball. Yet another opportunity to lift him.

Hank Blalock, a switch hitter who mitigates a lefty/righty platoon play is up next. Instead of picking a new pitcher Leyland leaves Jackson in. On the 6th pitch of the at-bat and the 117th of the day Blalock lifted a ball to the wall that was about 2 feet short of home run. Clete Thomas probably should have caught the ball but it went for a double. So the tally for the inning is a walk and 2 hard struck balls and a pitcher with 117 pitches under his belt.

Still no pitching change though and Jackson gets a brief reprieve as Marlon Byrd pops up pitch 118 to the shortstop but the tying run is still in scoring position and Nelson Cruz is up. Both Bobby Seay and Ryan Perry were warm. Perry could have come in, and even if he struggled with his control there was an open base and a struggling Chris Davis on deck. But Jackson stayed into pitch to Cruz and after getting ahead 1-2 Cruz laced pitch 122 to the gap tying the game. At this point Jackson has to come out right? A walk and 3 smoked balls in the inning weren’t enough.

Jackson then walked Chris Davis on 6 pitches. I think at this point, whether you believe in pitch counts or not, Jackson deserved to be lifted for ineffectiveness. To his credit Jackson was still throwing 97, but location was a problem. Jackson stayed in and eventually finished off Saltalamacchia on 4 pitches. I guess that makes it the right decision? I don’t think so.

The reasons for keeping Jackson in this game weren’t the right reasons. It didn’t look right strategically and it wasn’t right from a responsible pitch management perspective. The only reasons to keep him in were either to try and get him the W or an ancient belief that “real men don’t need pitch counts.”

But what worries me more is a pattern that Jim Leyland seems to be establishing this season. I didn’t agree with his usage of Jackson in his last start either to run his true workload that high in a game where the Tigers had a sizable lead. Beyond Jackson, Justin Verlander has thrown 110 pitches or more in each of his last 5 starts and has averaged 119 pitches in his last 4. I haven’t had issue with his use of Verlander in the individual games from a strategic perspective. And if Verlander tops 120 pitches it isn’t a disaster. But to routinely be touching that mark I think is too much. At some point one of these guys will need a light day.

Today’s game has caused me wonder if this is the price of having a manager on the last year of his contract. Is Leyland managing for an in season extension or for the long haul? I don’t mean he is doing anything in a sinister way or with intentional malice. But his situation dictates that the very short term takes precedence over the long term.

26 Comments

  1. Eric Cioe

    May 21, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    We’ll have to see how this gets played out coming up soon. I don’t think Verlander was overextended in his last start, but I think each of these guys could use a 100 pitch game their next time out. Of course, it doesn’t help that Verlander’s been pitching in really close games for 5 games in a row, and that Jackson has too because he hasn’t gotten much run support. There is also the problem of having Porcello, Galarraga, and Willis going back to back to back. None of them are a sure thing to pitch 6 innings. The bullpen could have to get a ton of outs this weekend, so maybe that was in the back of Leyland’s mind. What I’d like to see is Jackson bumped back a day, and put Porcello or Willis between him and Verlander, so that if the pen has to work hard on one day, they have a reasonable shot at only having to pitch an inning or two the next day.

    It’s all well and good to talk about protecting starters, but DTroppens on MTS made a good point today about 4 of the relievers on pace for 60 appearance seasons. It’s a balancing act. I just hope that the next turn or two through the rotation makes it easier to pull Verlander and Jackson at 105 pitches rather than 120. I don’t think that averaging 108 pitches a game is necessarily bad, but 120 a game for five games in a row is probably a bit much, even for guys like Verlander who seem to be able to handle the workload.

    • Nick S

      May 22, 2009 at 8:55 am

      “What I’d like to see is Jackson bumped back a day, and put Porcello or Willis between him and Verlander, so that if the pen has to work hard on one day, they have a reasonable shot at only having to pitch an inning or two the next day.”

      This is exactly what i’ve been thinking as well. Move your two best starters apart one day so you don’t have to worry about using your bull pen heavily for 3 straight days.

  2. Steve Koch

    May 21, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    I think attitude / mental problems have been more of a problem with Tigers pitching the last couple years than have been over-pitching and injuries. (Except Zumaya whose arm looks like it should fly off on every pitch.) Thus, I’ve been really happy to see Leyland leaving guys in longer. Yes, I completely agree with your analysis above and I would have pulled him after the walk. On the other hand, Leyland is a great manager and maybe he’s considering other season-long issues. Such as confidence in young, bad-ass pitchers. I think Edwin Jackson’s comment was huge:

    “It would’ve been easy to go to the ‘pen,” Jackson said of Leyland’s decision to stick with him, “but I’m glad he had that confidence. It rubs off on a pitcher.”

  3. kdog

    May 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Excellent post. I hope Leyland starts gaining trust in other bullpen guys and takes the load off the starters. The season is a grind and we need these guys in August and September.

  4. David

    May 22, 2009 at 12:27 am

    I agree a lot with Eric.

    In my mind
    1) This was Jackson’s game, period. And like you said he did look good in the 7th and parts of the 8th.

    2) You’ve got three guys like Eric said who are not sure bets by any means to go deep into their games. A rested pen is a good pen. :)

    3) You manage to win the game. You start managing for the “long haul” and there will be none because you will be a loser. When a starter has given what Jackson has this year and has looked as good as Jackson did today you let him stay in vs. going to a possibly iffy pen guy.

    As it is Fernando nearly blew the game. You don’t know who has good stuff on any given day and who doesn’t, except the guys you’ve seen in the game. Even the way Jackson was throwing in the 8th you knew he had good stuff, and as they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    The only way I would have yanked Jackson is if I were trying to go to a pen guy for the 8th and the 9th ie Ryan Perry. In my opinion it was more prudent and smart to only use one other guy today.

  5. Mike R

    May 22, 2009 at 1:26 am

    I’m with Bill on this. No reason to not lift him at any point in Bill’s post. But, what else is new? Justin Verlander was over worked in many consecutive starts that eventually led to an implosion (I think it was in Chicago against the Pale Hose, but I”m not 100% positive on that…).

    Maybe this doesn’t bother Jackson or Verlander in their next starts. But it cannot be good (and most assuredly cannot continue) come August or September when we’ll really need and want our guys to go deep into games.

  6. Mr. X

    May 22, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Leaving Jackson out there was the wrong to do. He gave up 2 runs and blew the lead. That alone makes it the wrong choice if the pitch count doesn’t sell it. He threw about 27 pitches in the 8th inning also. Every other inning he threw only between 12 and 20 pitches. That proves his ineffectiveness.

    I think Leyland left him out there just to quiet his critics. Leyland was wrongfully getting flamed for yanking Jackson too early before.

    Side note-
    the Tigers defense hasn’t been charged for an error in over a week.

  7. David

    May 22, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Can’t be good? It showed that Leyland has confidence in him. And I think it can and should continue.

    It also has his body adapt to the possible slight extra stress. If you never stretch guys out (what Leyland was doing last year) you way overtax your pen, blow more games and your guys don’t get used to going long outings.

    This was HIS GAME. I don’t understand why there can be so much complaining when we won.

    Short term it was good – we won and Jackson’s has to feel his manager trusts him to get the job done. Mid term it was good- saved the pen for this next series. Long term in my view this is a win as well.

    If he had blown the game, I could understand this. If Leyland had let him out there for the 9th I could understand. Complaining when we have a solid 1 run win is complaining for complaining sake and just overkill IMO.

    • Mike R

      May 22, 2009 at 2:32 am

      Results should not change anything. Jim Leyland, in my opinion, is wrong in leaving Jackson in. Just because Miguel Cabrera had a game winning hit in the bottom of the 8th doesn’t change the fact that Edwin Jackson was (1) left in for too many pitches and (2) left in far longer then his effectiveness warranted — even when throwing the pitch count out the window.

      The outcome doesn’t change the poor logic behind the move, or lackthereof.

      • David

        May 22, 2009 at 2:40 am

        According to game day his velocity was still up there

        Also according to what I’m looking at on gameday he wasn’t getting several borderline pitches (the last one to Murphy for example and the third to Blalock)

        Plus before the Cruz double that tied it up 3-3 there was only one hit by Blalock. He had 2 outs in the 8th.

        The fact that he had to throw 10 more pitches to Davis and Salty is his own doing.

        I agree with your last sentence – but we did win the game. My point is this —- Its hard for me even to get upset with Jim when we win, even if I don’t agree with certain things he did, or didn’t do.

        • Mike R

          May 22, 2009 at 3:01 am

          Jackson was getting rocked in the 8th. And while I understand getting the win makes it easy to forget about the terrible decision (again, in my opinion. I’m cool with anyone that would like to disagree), I don’t think in that way. For me, the ends don’t justify the means. If he made brilliant moves with the pitching today and we lost 4-3, I’d be complimenting him as well.

          • billfer

            May 22, 2009 at 7:05 am

            I agree with everything you say here Mike. It’s easy to second guess when the team loses. As for Jackson’s effectiveness in the 8th? He blew the lead. The offense bailed him out the next inning. What the offense did in the 8th shouldn’t validated Leyland’s decision.

    • Mr. X

      May 22, 2009 at 2:35 am

      Jackson flat out stunk in the 8th inning. How can you deny that? If Jackson was pitching better, then maybe you “stretch him out”, but he was pitching like crap. He gave up 2 walks and gave up 3 hard hit balls. We got lucky that the Rangers didn’t score more runs.

    • Andre in Chi

      May 22, 2009 at 8:39 am

      David,

      “Complaining when we have a solid 1 run win is complaining for complaining sake and just overkill IMO.”

      Of all people to disparage overkill…

      The only thing that I agree with in your post is conditional: if this outing has “conditioned” him for extra stress, great. If on the other hand his next start is miserable, we’ll have some retrospective grumbling on our hands.

      “This was HIS GAME. I don’t understand why there can be so much complaining when we won. ”

      I usually like to give Leyland the benefit of the doubt (having no baseball experience outside of fanhood), but sometimes the real story is how you win. This outing wasn’t encouraging in that dept, and I would guess that if you were to repeat the scenario in a simulation, the outcome would not favor the Tigers most of the time.

      Jackson certainly did the best with what was asked of him, so its not entirely fair to say that he doesn’t deserve the win, but leaving him in for the 8th clearly did more to jeopardize his chances of winning. What would a loss have done to his confidence? If he doesn’t pitch the 8th, does he feel like his manager has any less confidence in him?

  8. Michael Lee

    May 22, 2009 at 2:27 am

    I had the exact same thoughts as you during the game. Jackson should have been liften after young took him to the track plain and simple. Good post!

  9. Dave

    May 22, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Once in a while you have to look past the pitch count and see the bigger picture. Leyland gambled and left Jackson in the game when conventional wisdom would dictate his removal. He gambled and got away with it as the Tigers went ahead in the bottom of the inning. To read Jacksons comments about his manager showing confidence in him suggests the risk had the desired effect.

    If this trend becomes a regular occurrence then, definitely, it’s pitcher abuse. However, baseball is the biggest head game in sports and it all revolves around confidence and Leyland understands that. Sometimes he manages with his intuition instead of his laptop and I see that as a good thing.

  10. Birdy

    May 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I wondered why he was leaving him in, but I liked it. It fired me up. It fired me up so much that I posted for the first time in a long time, right after the top of the eighth. I got fired up because I believed the Tigers got fired up by it. Check what I said in my post. Billfer, do you think it’s possible that the Tigers got fired up by it? And if they did, would that then be an acceptable reason for leaving him in?

    I’m not suggesting that the decision was directly resonsible for them scoring the go ahead run, but I think it was a decision that made the players feel just a little better about playing for this team and this manager, something quite important over the 162 game long haul.

    Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe they all thought he should have gotten yanked. I didn’t get that sense though, although I realize it wouldn’t make much sense for a player to question the decision by word or deed.

    I’ve only seen quotes from two players, but I’m wondering if there are any ex-players or others not connected to the team, that could give us some insight. I wonder what Rod Allen would have said.

    Jackson said, “It would have been easy to go to the ‘pen and pull me out. But to leave me out there definitely shows that he has confidence in me” and “It would’ve been easy to go to the ‘pen, but I’m glad he had that confidence. It rubs off on a pitcher.”

    Inge said, “”If you leave it to a guy who really wants to compete, he doesn’t care what his pitch count is. He wants to go out there and try to be able to help his team win.”

    Not much insight. Maybe the fact that there aren’t more quotes supports the theory that I’m completely wrong.

    • T Smith

      May 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm

      On the contrary. I think there’s plenty of insight in both those quotes. I understand Billfer’s POV and the analysis is excellent. But I so happen to completely disaggree with it. For once I’m actually happy with Jim Leyland for making a gutsy call. This team is fired up. Baseball shouldn’t be so “clinical” — imo. Ten or twenty extra pithes isn’t going to kill EJ’s arm. Putting some “heart” back into the game can’t be a bad thing for the game, and for this team.

  11. Tbone

    May 22, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I disagreed with JL’s decision to bring EJ out for the 8th, but I don’t buy the theory that leaving him in there is in any way related to his contract status. I just think he felt EJ was his best option for the 8th and once the snowball started rolling downhill, he couldn’t stop it.

    The Rangers had two good looks at Zumaya and Rodney in the first two games and knocked ZuZu around a bit the night before. So he was not going to be an option. But surely some combination of Perry/Seay/Miner/Robertson was going to be as good if not better than a gassed Jackson. After that opening walk, was there any question left? Does he really have so little confidence in his bullpen? It just didn’t make any sense.

    • T Smith

      May 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

      “Does he really have so little confidence in his bullpen?

      Simply? Yes.

  12. briggs45

    May 22, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Mike R- “I think is was in Chicago against the Pale Hose…”

    Has anyone else noticed the MLB Network’s overruse of monikers such as “Pale Hose”, “Fightin’ Phils” and “bump”? It’s almost as annoying as the Von Bondies song they played throughout their “30 Clubs in 30 Days” programing.

    What’s next? Motor City Kitties? Actually, I wouldn’t mind that one.

    Lastly, it’s good to see Matt Dillon getting some work on their network. Whoops, that’s Greg Amsinger.

    Great posts gents.

  13. Chris in Dallas

    May 22, 2009 at 10:32 am

    When Grady Little came out of the dugout after the Davis walk, I figured EJax was getting the hook. I was releived. Then when Grady Little walked back to the dugout and Jackson was still in the game, I was mortified. When the game was 3-3 shortly thereafter, I was furious. Fortunately, the game ended well. Unfortunately, these excessively high pitch counts will take their toll. Maybe this is why the Tigers have struggled in August/September under Grady Little?

  14. Ryan

    May 22, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I think the real problem is the bullpen. There are only three guys (Rodney, Zumaya, Seay) who you can legitimately throw into a high leverage situation. I wholly disagree with letting Jackson have more than one batter in the eighth, but worrying about the overuse of those three is pretty legit. Either Perry or Lyon has to be the fourth guy. If they can’t, they need to be off the roster. If neither of them steps up, you almost have to look at guys like Fien, Ni, French, and Dolsi and see what you can get.

  15. Chris in Dallas

    May 22, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I would’ve been perfectly fine with Perry pitching to start the 8th. Once EJax let the leadoff batter on base, though, I guess it was kinda his inning. Perry walks too many guys right now to be trusted to come in with baserunners. If Lyon never throws another pitch wearing a Tigers uniform, I wouldn’t be sad. Miner was available, though…he maybe could’ve been used to try and get a ground ball/double play after Jackson issued the leadoff walk. But whatever. They won, and life is good.

  16. Kurt

    May 22, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I would have been perfectly fine with Perry pitching in the eighth too. I know Leyland wants to “stretch him out” and have him in lower pressure situations, but it’s not like Perry hasn’t pitched in the eighth in a tight game before and survived to tell about it.

    Far as Jackson goes, I was fine with him going out to the mound in the eighth to see what happens. But when he was struggling with his location, walking batters and giving up some hard-hit balls, I think the responsible thing is to pull him. Maybe there’s some Jim Leyland-psychology going on and it really works in the long haul. I hope so. Otherwise, the move made absolutely no sense, regardless of pitch count.

    So count me as in agreement with Bill on this one.

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