On Wednesday, MLB fans were a buzz over an extremely controversial decision that may have prevented a historical moment for one of the division rivals of the Colorado Rockies.
Leading the Minnesota Twins 6-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided to pull starter Clayton Kershaw … even though he had thrown seven perfect innings on a mere 80 pitches. This cost him a chance to become only the 24th pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game.
After the game, Kershaw stated that he was on an 85-pitch limit and that the team’s season goals are more important than just one game.
Kershaw’s explanation may help smooth over some the controversy, but it also shines an even bigger spotlight on what is a big after effect of the lockout.
The lockout ended March 10, which was almost three weeks after pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to spring training. This pushed back the start of spring games from February 27 to the middle of March, leaving teams to play a skeleton schedule of a 17 spring training games where in past seasons they played approximately 30.
As a result, MLB managers are going to have very short leashes for their starting pitchers for the first month of the season until they have worked up their arm strength to mid-season form. This has been the case for Bud Black and the Colorado Rockies.
Through the first turn in the rotation, Colorado Rockies starters have averaged 74.4 pitches per outing with Chad Kuhl throwing a team high 80 pitches in the Rockies’ 4-1 win over the Rangers on Tuesday.
Somewhat like Kershaw, the limited pitch counts have likely kept some of the Rockies’ starters from earning some accolades. Germán Márquez was pulled after throwing 74 pitches even though he had only given up one run on hits over seven innings of work. The bullpen went on to give up his lead.
Even with the Rockies leading in both games, Austin Gomber was relieved with two outs in the fifth after 78 pitches on Monday and Kuhl after 4.1 innings of work.
Had they had time to build up arm strength over the spring, Màrquez likely would have been given the chance to go for a complete game and not allow the bullpen to blow his lead. Black also probably would have given Gomber and Kuhl the opportunity to get those last couple of outs that would have gotten to that magical five innings where they would qualify to be the winning pitcher.
Had Wednesday been May 13 instead of April 13, MLB fans may have witnessed history and Rockies’ starters might have a few more wins in the left-hand column. Instead get used to a lot of bullpen battles. This is just one of the many consequences of the lockout.