Dwight Gooden was once of the best young pitchers baseball had ever seen. Rookie of the Year in 1984. Triple Crown winner in 1985. A Cy Young winner.
He was great.
But imagine how much greater the four-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion would have been if he pitched today, as ffensive numbers are way down and two or three runs are often enough to win a ball game.
Well, imagine it all you want – because Gooden isn’t.
“No, the only reasons I don’t wish I pitched in this era is I don’t like the pitch counts, and I don’t like the inning limitations that they put on all these young guys,” Gooden said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think it slows down their development, so no, I don’t (wish I had pitched) in this era at all. As a pitcher, I do like the 2-1 ball games, 3-1 ball games as opposed to the 10-9 games.”
While many doctors believe over-use is the main cause of developmental problems among pitchers, Gooden believes just the opposite. He believes teams are coddling and overprotecting their pitchers into injuries.
“Oh definitely, I think that has a lot to do with it,” Gooden said. “It starts in the minor leagues. They start punching numbers and all these different things and saying they can save the pitcher’s arm down the road. Yeah, but he might get hurt before he gets down the road. The thing is, let the guy develop. And it’s a big difference – a big difference – between throwing 80 pitches in three innings as opposed to 80 pitches in eight innings. Big difference. If a guy don’t show no signs of tiredness or arm fatigue and the mechanics are sound, he’s going to be fine.”
Gooden disagreed with the Washington Nationals’ decision to shut down then-23-year-old Stephen Strasburg after 160 innings in 2012, even as the team was in a pennant race.
“They said, ‘Oh, we got plenty of time,’ and it worked against him because he still gets hurt,” Gooden said. “You can’t stop that with a pitcher. He could throw one pitch warming up, he could throw one pitching in training, he could throw one pitch working out – anytime. If the injury is going to happen, it’s going to happen. There’s no way you can detect that.”
Gooden also said that pitch counts are about more than just the raw number.
“If he’s pitching in and out of trouble like the first four innings, okay, that’s a lot of stress on the arm,” Gooden said. “I wouldn’t let him go as long unless he finds his grove early in the game like the fifth or sixth inning, but if he’s just cruising along and he’s at 110 pitches in the seventh or eighth inning with no tough innings, let the guy go. Let the guy pitch.”
Gooden also doesn’t like that a pitcher’s pitch count appears on the scoreboard, as it encourages the opposing team to take pitches in the later innings to get the starter out of the game.
“And then the pitcher who’s pitching, especially a young guy, he looks at the scoreboard,” Gooden said. “He knows how many pitches he has, and it could work against him as well. He’ll try to pitch perfect.”
Gooden said he averaged around 114 or 115 pitches pitched per game during his career.
“I always felt fine,” he said. “Even my no-hitter, I threw 150 pitches. That’s not talking about the pitches you threw warming up in the bullpen. I always warmed up for about 15 minutes, and the last five minutes, I was pitching in the bullpen like I was pitching in the game.”