Facing a dilemma
Of course the concern is justified; both pitchers are young (Chris Sale of the White Sox is 23; Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals is 24) and both will be key figures in the long-term success of their clubs, so the teams want them healthy and durable.
The Nationals insist they'll shut down Strasburg — who is coming off reconstructive elbow surgery — after 160 innings. He's at 1271/3 now. The Sox say they do not plan to shut down Sale, who has pitched 132 innings, but will find ways to limit his workload ahead of the postseason.
The teams can change their minds, but they face a dilemma: Is a playoff victory worth the risk of their ace going on the disabled list?
When you're giving high school and college pitchers $5 million bonuses before they throw their first professional pitch, it's logical to make sure they don't hurt their golden arms, but some teams are going overboard babying their best prospects.
The Orioles, for instance, have been slow-playing top high school prospect Dylan Bundy throughout his first season, gingerly building up his pitch counts and keeping him way down in the system to make sure they don't have to shut him down for a year the way the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg.
It's hard to argue with that, but if the kid is ready to pitch effectively at a higher level, the O's are wasting some valuable innings.
The Gibsons, the Marichals, the Seavers will always snicker at what they consider to be the babying of today's pitchers.
Bobby Shantz, the 1952 American League MVP, told me he routinely threw more than 200 pitches in games and never thought anything of it. But in 1952, Schantz only made $12,000.
It's not so much babying with today's stars as it is the protecting of investments. Statistical data shows that guys generally perform better with four days' rest between starts and pitch counts kept to 120 or so.
Careers are prolonged and contracts fulfilled when precautions are taken, as in the case of Stephen Strasburg and Chris Sale.
Think Prior, not Gibson
Everyone seems to want young starters pushed like the guys of old, the Bob Gibsons and Nolan Ryans.
But you can't judge the way to manage pitching by how Hall of Famers held up. Those guys are freaks of nature.
For every one of them, dozens were sidelined by bad arms when they couldn't hold up to old-school workloads.
It's smart to preserve your assets, even if you're in a playoff hunt.
The guys to think about here are Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, not Gibson and Ryan.