The NCAA's decision to implement a pitch clock this season may not be the only rule people will be talking about.
College baseball fans and analysts are taking to the internet to express concern over the pitching usage of Stanford Cardinal pitcher Quinn Mathews after he threw 156 pitches in a complete game against the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA super regionals.
The number of pitches have led to a debate about whether this was an act of heroics from Mathews to keep his team alive in the postseason or a decision of stupidity from Stanford head coach David Esquer to leave him in that long. The win forced a decisive Game 3 in the Stanford Super Regional Monday night.
Stanford pitcher Quinn Mathews threw 156 pitches in a win last night ?
He finished the game with 16 strikeoutspic.twitter.com/P6FqkBfj8S
— Action Network Colleges (@ActionColleges) June 12, 2023
?I told?em I was good to go, and they weren?t going to get the rock out of my hand?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) June 12, 2023
Additionally, Mathews appeared in two games last week, throwing a combined 180 pitches. So, in these three appearances, he's thrown 336 pitches in one week. He threw 114 pitches against San Jose State on June 2, followed by 66 pitches against Texas A&M on June 5.
The 156-pitch outing has led to outrage by fans. Some, like baseball writer Joe Sheehan, point to the fact that MLB pitchers aren't even used like that anymore. An MLB pitcher hasn't thrown 156 or more pitches since 1997. Sheehan pointed out a few pitchers who threw more than 130 pitches, some on multiple occasions. Many of them, like Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Randy Wolf, had arm problems throughout their careers.
An MLB pitcher hasn't thrown 156 (or more) pitches in a single game since 1997 because of course they haven't. https://t.co/ZJiPyeI2HE
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) June 12, 2023
By the way, if you want to see *why* we stopped using pitchers this way, check out this list of names. pic.twitter.com/Xr4RFKaCMz
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) June 12, 2023
Keith Law, a longtime baseball analyst, points out that Tim Wakefield, a renowned knuckleball pitcher, was the last MLB pitcher to throw that many pitches. Law also points out that the previous non-knuckleball player to hit that mark was Roger Clemens in 1996.
Stanford pushed Matthews to 156 pitches. Last MLB pitcher to throw that many was Tim Wakefield in 1997. Last non-knuckleballer to do it was a 33-year-old Roger Clemens in 1996.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 12, 2023
While some called out Esquer, others called out the NCAA's lack of a pitch count limit.
So conflicted over this. Understand Mathews desire and competitiveness, but feels like an adult should have been responsible and said: I can?t let you do this. https://t.co/ZmwgxBIIf3
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) June 12, 2023
156 pitches! Since some coaches can?t be controlled, there needs to be rules! https://t.co/eqG78KCFIT
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 12, 2023
Of course, there's no way to know for sure whether this single outing will take its toll in his arm. But with how unnatural pitching is on the human body to begin with, throwing 156 of them in one game — season on the line or not — cannot be suitable for future development.
According to How They Play, 32 MLB players had Tommy John surgery in 2021 and another 28 in 2022. From 1974-2022, 562 players have had the surgery. Though research is sporadic in determining what leads to a torn UCL in the elbow that requires surgery, overuse is a massive factor.
There should be a pitch count in the college ranks to protect the players and, hopefully, preserve their development as they go from college to MLB. If MLB players aren't hitting that mark, college athletes shouldn't be either.
Still, some people think this sort of usage is totally fine.
As a former college pitcher with a surgically repaired elbow ligament? I have very little issue with this.
Kid was a 19th rounder last year who went back to school to win a title, not a future big leaguer risking millions. He?d tell you the same. https://t.co/LwnR77h7k6
— Jake Mintz (@Jake_Mintz) June 12, 2023
I have a take here that many may disagree with.
I gave everything for my college teammates. They are family. You fight for them. It really is so different than pro ball.
To pitch his team to a CWS with a historic performance will mean everything to him and his teammates for? https://t.co/OXPHeswZnC
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) June 12, 2023
In addition to throwing 156 pitches, Mathews finished the game pitching all nine innings — allowing three earned runs on eight hits, 16 strikeouts and one walk. Mathews, 22, is 10-4 on the year with a 3.60 ERA, 152 strikeouts and 120 innings pitched. He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays but returned to Stanford. He's expected to be an MLB prospect this year as well, but an arm injury could jeopardize that.
The Cardinal won that game 8-3 and will take on the Longhorns on Monday, June 12 at 8 p.m. ET to decide who advances in the College World Series. Hopefully, Mathews isn't available to pitch Monday.
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