On Tuesday, Dylan Fosnacht of Rochester (Wash.) high went 14+ innings, striking out 17 batters and finishing the afternoon with a pitch count of 194. In a year where a disturbing numbers of MLB's best young arms are going in for ligament replacement surgery, Fosnacht's undeniable accomplishment is being tempered with criticism for the coach who left him in that long.
We don't know what causes pitchers to blow out their elbows, so no one can say if Fosnacht put himself at any risk. Maybe it's throwing too many pitches. Maybe it's throwing too often. Maybe it's throwing with too much velocity (Fosnacht throws a fastball in the low 80s). Maybe it's throwing breaking pitches too young. Maybe breaking pitches have nothing to do with it.
We don't know the ramifications, but we know that 194 is a cartoonishly high pitch count. That's setting in too for Fosnacht's coach, Jerry Striegel. Striegel spoke with Big League Stew's David Brown, and admitted to post hoc second thoughts:
"I realize that it was way too many pitches," Striegel told Big League Stew in a phone interview Thursday morning. "I can understand everybody's concern about it. And I would tell you too that I am concerned also. I probably would change the decision today."
Fosnacht, naturally, doesn't regret a damn thing. He says he felt fine, didn't want to be taken out, and "loved every minute of it." Of course, no one's criticizing him—no one expects a pitcher to want to come out of a game. That's on his coach. Striegel agrees.
"The biggest issue I have right now is," Striegel said, pausing a moment. "I know that the mentality of a pitcher is, 'Give me the ball and I'll get it done.' I think that's where I sat most of the day. Hindsight being what it is, I know that I should not have gone that long with him. I should have stepped in as a coach and said, 'It's time.' And I did not do that."
But there's context to Fosnacht's performance that really shouldn't be overlooked—he's not going to be a pitcher for very long. Rochester is in one of the lowest divisions of baseball, and Fosnacht doesn't plan on pitching in college. These are the playoffs, and he's a senior, so he literally may have been throwing his last game of competitive baseball. If ever there's a time to shoot your arm to hell for small-town glory, this was it.
Of course, maybe he changes his tune in a few years if his elbow needs work and his insurance doesn't cover it.