Different Pitchers Need Different Routines

Pitchers are built differently.  We need not look any further than R.A. Dickey who was born without a UCL.  With that in mind, why do teams and pitching coaches implement similar routines for everyone?  What works for Nolan Ryan could lead to him being able to pitch a record 27 major league seasons whereas Sandy Koufax couldn’t lift his arm after 12 years in the majors.

For a Mets rotation that has battled both season ending injuries and under-performing, the rotation has received advice from sources outside of the coaching staff to help them improve as pitchers.

Last year, Noah Syndergaard was going through a period of a dead arm where his issues with bone spurs might have been overblown.  In a four start stretch, he was 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  The last start was particularly awful with him lasting just 4.2 inning.  The stretch would cause the Mets to hold him out of the AllStar Game.

Looking for answers, Syndergaard looked no further than Bartolo Colon for guidance.  The answer was to change how he was throwing bullpens.  As Syndergaard said, “I think I am going to take a page out of Bartolo’s playbook, he doesn’t throw bullpens, he takes it really light on his arm where every fifth day he feels as fresh as can be.”  (Kevin Kernan, New York Post).

With the new bullpen routine, Syndergaard returned to form.  He finished the season going 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.  He would pitch for the Mets in the Wild Card Game, and he would be great pitching seven brilliant shut out innings.

Like Syndergaard last year, Jacob deGrom was looking for answers.  He had consecutive outings where he couldn’t even pitch into the fifth inning.  He allowed 15 runs on 18 hits.  His respectable 3.23 ERA turned to a worrisome 4.75 ERA.  That’s when he began texting with John Smoltz.

The Mets ace came up with the idea to text Smoltz because he had overheard Smoltz talking about throwing two bullpens between starts.  The end result was a change in his routine with deGrom saying, “I talked to John Smoltz about it and he said he threw two bullpens for 10 years.  It helps me feel comfortable on the mound, keep a feel for my command.”

The routine paid immediate dividends with deGrom throwing the second complete game of his career.  He followed that up with two eight inning gems making him the first Mets pitcher since Johan Santana in 2010 to pitch eight plus innings in three consecutive games.  In the three starts, he has allowed just two earned runs on 12 hits.  He’s lowered his ERA over a full run.  He’s back to being Jacob deGrom.

Looking at it, both Syndergaard and deGrom are different pitchers with different issues.  Syndergaard found less bullpen sessions helped him whereas deGrom needed more.  It makes sense that different routines would work for different pitchers . . . for different people.  This should be a guiding principle for pitching coaches and Mets pitchers going forward.  It’s not the team’s plan that is best.  It’s the plan that fits you individually that is the way to go.


6 thoughts on “Different Pitchers Need Different Routines”

  1. Luis says:

    The level of intensity with which the pens are thrown is a big issue as well…

    1. metsdaddy says:

      It is

  2. Gothamist says:

    You are so right!

    Koufax thrived on less rest and with today’s five man rotation maybe he would of fizzed out in the minors or lasted a few more years than the average major league starter…?

    Sandy drafted in 1955, never had leverage to be a FA or ever get a long term deal.
    He had to pitch for next year.

    I remember in his biography where the GM or O’Malley fabricates a contract on his desk for Sandy to see, goes to the restroom or whatever with a fake number for I believe he said it was Drysdale’s agreed to contract where Sandy immediately then signed the typical length a one year deal for far less than his own number.

    “If anything, Los Angeles Dodger lefty ace Sandy Koufax was abused by his manager Walter Alston … who started managing the Dodgers in Brooklyn in 1954 and continued into 1976 in LA: 23 seasons, 7 pennants, 4 World Series (WS), including 1955 the only one in Brooklyn when bonus baby Koufax at age 19 pitched 41 innings.

    In 1965 Koufax set the modern record for most strike outs (SO) in a season with 382.

    That season the Dodgers were locked in a battle for first place with the Giants, led by players who each won the National League MVP award:

    Willie Mays: 1954, 1965
    Willie McCovey: 1969
    Orlando Cepeda: 1967 in his first season with St. Louis; had only 40 plate appearances in 1965.

    Mays hit over 50 home runs (HR) in 1965 for the second time in his career.

    Koufax started 41 games in 1965, completing 27, and saving two others in relief. 26-8 when no one was killing the win.

    Here are his final regular season games and the three he pitched in the World Series against the Minnesota Twins.

    W7 – L1

    Sept 18 – Oct 14

    A total of 20 days off up to the eight appearance slightly less than three eays rest yet …

    28 days – eight appearances in a reg season where he started 41 times and completed 27 … then off to the World Series.

    Cum Cum Est
    Team LA O DR Inn H R ER BB SO HR SO Inn Pit HR HR

    9/18/1965 @ Cardinals W 1 0 1 9 4 0 0 1 6 0 348 307 114

    9/22/1965 @ Braves (w) 7 6 3 2 6 5 5 0 3 2 354 309 43 Bolling Jones

    9/25/1965 Cardinals W 2 0 2 9 5 0 0 3 12 0 357 318 140

    9/29/1965 Reds W 5 0 3 9 2 0 0 1 13 0 369 327 121

    10/2/1965 Braves W 3 1 2 9 4 1 0 1 13 1 382 336 128 Oliver

    10/7/1965 @ Twins L 1 5 4 6 6 2 1 1 9 0 391 342 98

    10/11/1965 Twins W 7 0 3 9 4 0 0 1 10 0 401 351 122

    10/14/1965 @ Twins W 2 0 2 9 3 0 0 3 10 0 411 360 130

    The first game was on one Day of Rest (DR) after Koufax had saved a game 2-0 with one inning of relief against the Cubs in Chicago. The matrix above includes cumulative SO and Innings for the season through the WS. It also has estimated pitch counts using the Tom Tango formula.

    It was understood that Koufax would not pitch on Wednesday Oct. 6 because that would conflict with the religious beliefs of Koufax. That was the scheduled date for WS game one. Alston could plan his rotation accordingly.

    Games 161 of the scheduled 162 were on Saturday Oct. 2. Entering that day the Dodgers had clinched at least a tie with the Giants who were two games back with two to play. Both teams were at home. The Giants wound up winning their final two games against the Reds to stay alive. The Dodgers had already used their only other two reliable starting pitchers Don Drysdale (23-12) and Claude Osteen (15-15): Drysdale beat the Braves 4-0 Thursday and Osteen lost to the Braves 2-0 Friday. The Dodgers had two more games against the Braves and needed one more win.

    Since Alston knew that Koufax would not pitch Wednesday Oct. 6, why not hold him out until the final game on Sunday Oct. 3 and hope that the Giants lose on Saturday? If the Giants win, Koufax pitches in game 162. If Koufax wins the final regular season game, he could then pitch in WS game 2, which he did in real life on four days, on Thursday Oct. 7 on his usual three days rest.

    In one sense Alston did Koufax a favor.

    Drysdale pitched in WS game one and lost, then Koufax lost WS game two. But Osteen, Drysdale and Koufax swept the Twins in LA to lead the WS 3-2.

    However, Osteen lost game six, setting the stage for the dramatic showdown game for which Koufax is remembered, some say immortalized.

    Koufax pitched a complete game shutout on two days rest.

    His accomplishment seemed enhanced by his ethical stand about scheduling.”

    Do you think Nolan Ryan or Noah Synderguuard could replicate that?


    Sandy’s 162 game usual three days rest was not going to happen in the classic.

    Immortal? They say so but I was not there…

    If Sandy was drafted by the Mets or Dodgers 15 years later, instead of Ryan, Seaver, Carlton or Noah, who knows?

    1. metsdaddy says:

      One thing I’ll say with Koufax is he flamed out. If the Dodgers protected him, he’s Kershaw.

  3. Gothamist says:

    Steroids were legal in 65′ and Willie Mays drank red bug juice with disolved brownies before and during games?

    Nolan Ryan broke no rules and that Guru, Nolan Ryan?

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