Bitching About Pitch Counts Is BS

I don't follow college baseball as much as I should. The ping of the aluminum bat just bugs me. But there were was a really good College World Series game the other night between the University of Texas and Boston College. The game went 25 innings before Texas finally pulled out the victory.

The hero of the night for Texas was reliever Austin Wood who went 13 innings (throwing 169 pitches).  And because of this, Richard Justice and several other experts want Texas coach Augie Garrido fired. Apparently, Garrido was wrong for using a pitcher who wasn't laboring (who was actually averaging only 13 pitches an inning, which is actually a low number per inning) because he could have ruined the kid's pro baseball career.  

Now this might come as a shock to Justice and the other experts (primarily Keith Law of Stats. Inc.), but Garrido's job description doesn't include preparing anybody for a career as a professional athlete. If Garrido and all of the coaches of major college sports concentrated on just helping their guys have pro careers, most of these coaches would end up fired because they would never win any games.

"Just remember that if you think your kid has a chance to pitch in the big leagues, and if you want him to go to college, be very careful about picking your school," Justice writes. But wouldn't that equally apply to Mack Brown. What did he do to prepare Vince Young for a  pro career?


By running a simplified offense that played to Young's strengths, an offense that no pro team would ever run on an every play/every down basis, didn't Brown harm Young's pro career? Wouldn't it have been in Young's best overall interest for Brown to install a pro offense with multiple sets and four wide receivers which would force Young to learn how to make proper reads, something which he's had trouble doing as a pro? And wouldn't it have been in Young's best interest if Brown would have ordered Young to stay in the pocket and not run the football?

Yet Mack Brown is hailed as a genius.

And no college football coach is going to limit his best running back to 15 carries a game because that is what is best for the kid's possible career. A coach doing that would be fired because he wasn't winning games.  

College sports aren't developmental leagues. That's what Major League Baseball's minor leagues are for. And the NBA's D-League (or Europe). Or the AHL in hockey. These are the leagues that players go to develop into professionals. College is where they go to play, and to win.  

If Justice was really concerned about Austin Wood and other college baseball players and their potential professional careers, he'd start bitching about the use of aluminum bats which are actually deadly and which inflate batting and power numbers while encouraging bad hitting habits (Chris Burke, after all, was a great college hitter). And one would think that death and inflated batting numbers would be a greater deterrent to a professional baseball career than pitch count, but I guess Justice would disagree.  

Garrido's job at the University of Texas isn't to prepare Austin Wood for a possible pro career. Garrido's job is to win baseball games, and I'm pretty damn sure that, if the Texas baseball program stunk, Longhorn alumnus Richard Justice would be calling for Garrido to be fired. And based on statements he's made recently, Justice ought to be happy that Nolan Ryan ain't running the UT baseball program, because Ryan has made it pretty clear that he thinks that pitch counts are jokes and that pitchers should be prepared to pitch complete games every time they pitch.

But that's Nolan Ryan. He's just one of the game's all-time greatest pitchers. There's no way he can possibly know more about the sport than Richard Justice.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal