Dusty Baker, from McCoy’s blog, talking about how he babies young pitchers:
“It’s the same thing I went through with young pitchers in Chicago,” he said. “They’d pitch five shutout innings and I’d take them out and they’d ask me why and I’d say, ‘Dude, he threw 100 pitches.’ “
Look, we can debate whether Baker ruined Hee Seop Choi or Corey Patterson. We can debate whether he caused Mark Prior or Kerry Wood’s injuries. But I really, really, don’t believe that Dusty Baker ever had to defend himself to the media for babying young Cub arms. (Granted his memory has been right before, but I doubt I’m going to find many of those “Dude” conversations).
Edited: I looked at the game logs, and Dusty’s insane on this one. See below.
Dusty fails this Dusty Memory Test. Badly.
Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Kerry Wood were clearly the best, youngest pitchers that Baker managed in Chicago. But I’ve accepted the argument from Baker defenders that Wood’s arm was damaged by the time Dusty came along. Wood was 26 in Baker’s first year — more Belisle than Bailey.
In 2003, Mark Prior (age 22) made 30 starts. Only once did he pitch fewer than 5 innings, and he neither threw a shutout, nor 100 pitches (4.1 IP, 6 ER, 95 Pitches) – he got drilled. He came out of the game 3 times while throwing a shutout — once after 6 IP/79 pitches(?), once after 7 IP/100 pitches, and on September 1, Baker let Prior throw 8 IP/131(!) pitches . . . with a 7 run lead.
In 2004, Prior only made 21 starts, due to injury. He didn’t make his first start until June 4. He had quite a few shorter starts, especially early in his season. His first game, he left with a shutout after 6 IP/85 pitches. Ten days later, it was 5 IP/92 pitches (0 runs). And another time he left after allowing 0 runs through 6 IP/103 pitches.
In 2005, 27 starts. He only left with a shutout twice – opening day (6 IP/92 pitches) and inexplicably in a game against the White Sox after 6 innings of 1 hit ball and only 79 pitches.
In 2003 (age 22), he left the game with a shutout twice, once after 8 IP/102 pitches and the other after 6 IP/104 pitches. Remlinger and Alfonseca combined to blow that game for the Cubs, so Dusty might’ve been asked about pulling Zambrano in a 0-0 game.
In 2004, the only times Z came out without giving up a run was when his pitch count was well over 110, and the only times he came out of a game early was when he was getting drilled – if he came out before pitching 6 innings, it meant that he’d given up no less than 4 runs, and usually 5-6.
In 2005, Baker rode everyone a little easier. Zambrano was pulled a few times with a shutout and a pitch count of between 100-115, but it was always after at least 6 IP.
Looking at Wood anyway:
In 2003, he came out of several games with a shutout, but never before throwing at least 7 IP and 120(!) pitches. In 2004, it was pretty much the same, except that he pitched worse and typically came out between 110-120 pitches. By 2005, he was in the bullpen.
Looking at these three years, I’m very confident in saying that Dusty’s statement to McCoy is utter nonsense. He was not pulling young pitchers during successful starts due to pitch counts, and I seriously doubt that he was defending himself in the media for doing so.
(Hat tip to Andrew on the Reds List-serv.)