Sunday, September 13, 2009

With Ohlendorf Out of the Pirates Rotation, Count on 100 Losses

by The Last Hollywood Star

Have Pirate pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and manager John Russell ever heard of Nolan Ryan?

I ask because Pirates’ pitching ace Ross Ohlendorf is about to be “shut down” for the season. Through last night’s 4-2 loss to the Houston Astros, Ohlendorf’s innings are at 169 2/3 and the Pirates want to cut him off when he reaches 170-180. That translates to one more 2009 start despite 22 games remaining on the schedule.

Last week, in a pre-game interview with Steve Blass, Kerrigan justified the move by claiming that it’s a proven that once young pitchers go over a certain number of innings, their likelihood of injury increases dramatically.

“Shutting down” is the kind of abject nonsense that extends out of the 100 pitch count limit. Pirate greats Bob Friend and Elroy Face have told me directly that they consider the pitch count foolish. Bob Feller, Tim McCarver and other pitchers and catchers with impeccable credentials say the same. By the way, when Feller was Ohlendorf’s exact age of 27, he pitched 372 innings and won 26 games with a 2.18 ERA.

Like Ryan, Ohlendorf is a big, Texas-born cattle rancher. Ohlendorf is 235 pound, 6’4”, slightly taller and heavier than the 6’2”, 195 pound Ryan.

In his 26 year career, Ryan averaged 262 innings per year. In 19 of those years, Ryan exceeded Ohlendorf’s projected 170-180 “shut down” total. At 44, Ryan pitched 173 innings (and compiled a 12-6, 2.61 ERA season).

My guess is that Ryan and Feller would tell Russell and Kerrigan to follow Friend, Face, Feller and McCarver’s advice: Let pitchers pitch.

Whether protecting Ohlendorf will help him in the long run remains to be seen.

But taking Ohlendort out of the rotation and replacing him with, variously, Virgil Vasquez, Donnie Veal and Jeff Karstens assures the Pirates a 100 loss season.

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