There was a time -- OK, it was in the wake of
From 2001 through 2008, the number of 120-pitch outings declined every season. But last year there was a 26-percent uptick, which has been followed by another increase this year of nearly 30 percent, based on the current rates.
Here are the number of starts in which a pitcher threw 120 pitches, beginning with 2003, the year Wood and Prior carried the Cubs to within one game of the World Series, only to be hurt the next season:
What's going on? Managers, general managers and the media no longer are running so scared. The environment has calmed. There have been fewer high-profile breakdowns, at least anecdotally. Hall of Famer
Perhaps most of all, this cycle of young starting pitchers has been good enough to help change the culture. Of the 70 starts this year of 120 pitches, 52 have been thrown by pitchers in their 20s. That's already more than pitchers in their 20s threw just three years ago -- and we still have more than two months left in the season.
There is another trend that becomes obvious when you look at high-pitch count games over the past decade: the pitching dinosaurs are extinct. Remember when old dudes such as
In 2004, there were 24 games in which somebody at least 36 years old threw 120 or more. Just four years later? Zip. And this year? Zip, again.
In fact, there have been only two high-pitch-count games thrown by such old pitchers
Take a look at the path to extinction for 120-pitch games by guys 36-and-older:
The old masters, a group that also included
The Phillies fired their hitting coach,
Did Thompson suddenly become a poor hitting coach? No, but in another market he might have survived the dip in offensive production. The team's OBP is the worst that it's been since 1997 and its slugging percentage is its worst since 2000.
What cost Thompson his job, in addition to the expectations, were injuries and a poor roster. Injuries to
Philadelphia bet on too many older players when the game is skewing younger.
Finally, the decision not to keep pitcher