I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. We were talking baseball stats and the subject of pitches thrown came up. “Why does nobody keep track of pitches per inning?” he asked. “The better pitchers must work faster and end up throwing less pitches than the goofs like Josh Towers.”
It makes sense, right? Watching a guy huff and puff his way through a 140-pitch complete game can be inspiring, but isn’t the 80-pitch version a lot more impressive? Along the same lines, I love the idea of the 3-pitch inning and the 9-pitch striking out the side.
Anyway, I thought he made a good point, so I did some math and then plugged the pitches per inning of all Blue Jays pitchers from last season and this season into a spreadsheet. Figuring there might be some sort of correlation, I added their xFIP values in as well. (I only plugged in the values earned as a member of the Blue Jays. Doc’s 2010 stats being the exception. Also, all stats came before last night’s ridiculous slugfest that forced the Torontos to make changes to their pen.)
What did I find? It looks like there is a correlation between pitches per inning and FIP, but I don’t have the software and am not interested enough to calculate z-scores and whatnot by hand to find out how strong it is. Just know that throwing fewer pitches per inning is generally a good indicator of a good pitcher.
Which brings me to the part of this whole exercise that surprised me a bit: The dude named Shawn Camp.
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t hold down one of the glamour spots in the bullpen and he’s not really a candidate to steal a starting job… well, actually I think that’s it. Camp tends to be used in relatively low-leverage situations, i.e. the time of the game when I get another drink or go out to run an errand or just generally glaze over for a little while. It’s not that I’ve never seen him pitch, I think it’s just that I’ve never really paid attention to him.
You know how you stop hearing the buzz of the fridge after a while? Shawn Camp my buzzing fridge of the Blue Jays.
But no more. I’m going to make a concerted effort to pay attention when he gets into games now. At a time when the (beloved, but now dethroned) Sausage King is averaging 23.4 pitches per inning, Camp is clocking in with a team leading 13.7. What does that mean? Well, this SABR guy seems to think the key to “endurance and effectiveness in any given game” is to throw 14 or fewer pitches per inning.
Yeah, I know. Looking at this year’s stats so far is a pretty good way to incite cries of “sample size!” so how about this: Last season, Camp was second on the team in terms of pitches per inning with a rate of 14.6. That was second only to Doc, who put up a 14.2 number.
Would you have guessed that it only took Camp 0.4 pitches more than Halladay to get out of any given inning?