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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Are baseball’s two aces overworked?

    Are baseballs two aces overworked?

    Pro: Aces need some rest

    Four years ago the Chicago Cubs featured a pair of young aces, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, who were expected to anchor its staff for the next decade.

    This year the duo hasn’t even seen the major leagues, and neither has won more than 11 games since that magical 2003 year. That season they combined to go 32-17 and pitch more than 400 innings, all while running up pitch counts in the 120 range in leading the Cubs within a game of the World Series.

    The same has been true for countless other young pitchers, who flamed out after pitching too much too early.

    With that in mind UA head coach Andy Lopez would be wise to watch the pitch counts of co-aces Preston Guilmet and Brad Mills, who have combined for eye-popping numbers as the pitch count meter has risen.

    With six weeks left in the regular season – not to mention a potential playoff run – Guilmet has already thrown 80 innings, and Mills, 62 1/3. Although those numbers aren’t cause for huge concern, both pitchers are rapidly approaching their career highs, both set last year when Guilmet threw 93 2/3 innings and Mills went for 82 1/3.

    Even more, the pitch count numbers in Guilmet’s four straight nine-inning outings have been alarming, as he’s averaged 131.5 pitches per start in that time, with each total higher than his previous career high of 121 entering the year.

    Pitching is not a natural body motion, hence the shoulders wrapped in ice that have become a common sight for pitchers after an outing. Major league clubs often try to limit the innings of their top pitchers so as to prevent a major jump in innings and protect their precious arms.

    Sure, Guilmet and Mills are the best pitching duo in the conference thus far, but you never know what that strain on their arms will mean for them when it really counts – come tournament time.

    Throwing upward of 120 pitches in a close conference game that Arizona needs to win is no problem – after all, college pitchers throw just once a week. But there’s no reason for Guilmet to throw 145 in any contest outside of the College World Series, especially an easy 8-1 win like Friday’s at Stanford.

    Just as inexcusably, Mills came back to the mound in the ninth inning the next day against the Cardinal up 15-0 in an eventual 126-pitch outing. 15-0! I know Arizona’s middle relief has struggled at points this season, but I think that lead was pretty safe.

    After all, the time to lean on Guilmet and Mills is during June showdowns, not April blowouts.


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    – Michael Schwartz
    assistant sports editor

    Con: Pitch counts don’t tell real story

    Daisuke Matsuzaka once threw 250 pitches in a 17-inning game in high school. He threw 189 pitches on opening day in 2003 in Japan and threw 588 innings for his team before he turned 21.

    So what then if a UA sophomore pitcher threw 145 pitches in his last start? So what if he’s pitched nine innings in each of his last four starts?

    Preston Guilmet, like all college pitchers, throws once a week. Not on four days’ rest like they do in the majors, where pitch counts have become an unnecessary art considering no theory proves low pitch counts save injuries.

    He’s thrown a grand total of 80 innings so far this year, and the season is more than half over.

    The other so-called “”workhorse”” of Arizona’s group is senior Brad Mills. He’s thrown 62.1 innings this year. In Dice-K’s world that would be the equivalent of about seven starts. Oh and by the way, Dice-K ices his shoulder as often as “”Pac Man”” Jones stays out of trouble: Never.

    Mills and Guilmet have avoided taxing situations. Guilmet’s 1.58 ERA and unblemished 7-0 record also come with a WHIP of below one. Plus, they’ve only had four complete games in 20 combined starts.

    UA head coach Andy Lopez kept Mills in for his lone complete game on Saturday in a 15-1 drubbing of Stanford. Because the game was out of hand, Lopez could have taken Mills out to rest one of his two aces. But why use your bullpen when it’s unnecessary? Why take out a guy who wants to finish what he started? A guy who faced just 33 batters in the game and threw 126 pitches against a team that never threatened.

    By all accounts Guilmet and Mills are two of the hardest workers on the team as well.

    “”They’re both very resilient. I would be concerned if they were guys that after you throw them, they’re tight for two days,”” Lopez said. “”Both those guys have unbelievably resilient arms,”” he added. “”That’s not an issue whatsoever.””

    The emphasis on low pitch counts is overblown. Once upon time a man named Cy Young threw 7,356 innings, including four straight seasons of 400 plus innings. Young played in the majors for 23 seasons. If Dice-K succeeds in the majors, maybe managers and pitching coaches will change their philosophies.

    Maybe Lopez can already sense the changes taking place.


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    – Roman Veytsman
    sports editor

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