Jimmy Nelson threw a complete game for the Brewers Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres. It took Nelson 118 pitches to record the 27th and final out in a game the Brewers desperately needed to rest its weary bullpen. Believe it or not, this was the first complete game thrown by a Milwaukee pitcher since Taylor Jungmann did it in 2015. If you listened to the telecast with Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder on FSN Wisconsin, you would have picked up on how Schroeder continued to make comments about how hard of a decision this must have been for manager Craig Counsell.
The Number 100
The reasoning behind this was because of Nelson’s high pitch count. The Brewers bullpen has been used quite a bit and has been awful this season. Nelson was in uncharted territory for him. He has averaged 93.5 pitchers per start this season, and was already over 100 pitches after he finished his eighth inning of work. Counsell believed in his pitcher and Jimmy came threw for the Crew as he finished off the Padres in the ninth, and gave the Brewers a series win. Nelson struck out 10 batters, while only surrendering one run on six hits and two walks in his complete game.
When I was a kid a don’t ever really remember hearing much about pitch counts for Major League pitchers. I can still remember my junior high days when CC Sabathia was grabbing the ball every third day and throwing complete games like it was nothing. It feels like all of a sudden Major League Organizations decided on the number 100 for when to go out and pull your starting pitcher. 100 is a nice round number to wrap your brain around, but shouldn’t be the factor that ultimately ends a pitcher’s start.
Going Deeper into Games
There is no perfect time to know when to remove a pitcher from the game. To me it should come down to feel. The manager should have a feel for when his pitcher is at the end of this rope. I applaud Counsell for staying with Nelson in yesterday’s game. Nelson was rolling along. He was pitching well and was emotionally invested in the game. You could tell he didn’t want to come out of the game in that spot. If the pitcher is still pitching well and feels good, why not leave him in?
Brewers fans know how bad the bullpen has been this season. The bullpen has already blown 19 of the teams 33 losses. That leads the Major Leagues in games blown by a bullpen. I don’t care if the bullpen has been heavily worked or not. I’m not confident in handing the ball to any of the relievers not named Barnes or Knebel! The Brewers are winning and leading the National League Central and should be able to lean on their starters for more innings. It would be easier to put more on the starters plates, than to revamp the bullpen at this point in the season.
I’m sick of hearing how they need to protect young arms. These guys aren’t “young” anymore. Outside of Zach Davies, all of the Brewers starters are in they’re late 20’s or early 30’s. This should be a time in their careers where you can stretch out their innings. Allowing for these pitchers to work through tough situations should make them better pitchers in the long run. When pitchers are tired and don’t have the same velocity as they did in the earlier innings, this is where they learn how to pitch. It will make them have to rely on their location, develop new pitches and tricks to get batters out, etc.
Some may argue that more innings and pitches equals more injuries. I think that’s true to a point. Yes, more pitches and innings allows for more opportunity for injuries. But in today’s baseball, guys are throwing harder than ever before and surgeries are becoming common practice. Arm injuries no longer end guys careers, and in some cases allow them to come back stronger. It’s not if your starting pitcher is going to have arm surgery, it’s when. Injuries are a part of the game, but shouldn’t deter managers from allowing pitchers to go longer in games to help the team win.
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