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Big Mac Chat with Orel Hershiser

ORELhershiserYou may have forgotten but there was a time when former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser was the pitching coach and a special assistant and some other things for the Texas Rangers. 

He is with ESPN now and serves as an MLB color analyst.

Few people I have met in pro sports speak as well, or know each member of the media's role, as well as this man. He knew your job and what you are looking for, which made it good and bad. 

We chatted a while back ago to talk Rangers, his famous record, and the state of pitching today. 

The Big Mac Blog: What do you think has been the biggest reason why the Rangers were able to develop into a pitching oriented team? 
Orel Hershiser: It takes a mindsent from the individual pitcher and then it grows into the whole staff like you do in Texas. We had a few when i was there - Kenny Rogers and Chris Young. They knew it was going to be hard but they weren't going to be defeated by it. 
The other thing is they have quality arms there now. They are going to be aggressive and tough. They say, 'I may give up runs but I'm never going to give up.'

What (pitching coach) Mike Maddux and (GM) Jon Daniels have done is that you need great depth in those parks. You need quality arms and it requires a lot of good pitchers. Every bad pitcher is emphasized in a hitter's park. Once he is bad and you have to call on someone else and then you do that and it gets worse and worse and it wears a staff down. 

The Big Mac Blog: Your record innings streak - 59 1/3 scoreless in 1988 - will it ever be broken? 
Orel Hershiser: My stock answer to that is that I hope it does. I hope somebody else breaks it and gets to live that experience. I had a good individual year and it was extended for the playoffs and it was just so memorable and so much fun not just for me but for my team.

Orel-hershiserThe Big Mac Blog: During that season what do you think your highest pitch count was in a single game?
Orel Hershiser: Wow ... close to 140, I guess.

The Big Mac Blog: You threw 153 against the Reds on June 4.
Orel Hershiser: I believe that.

The Big Mac Blog: When/why did the pitch count craze come into play?
Orel Hershiser: It came into effect because the media started to look at it and people were writing stories about it as more people realized there was a line of demarkation when a pitcher looks tired. Then it leads to injury. So it became a CYA thing. Then pitching coaches have clickers. It became a question coaches and managers had to answer. It became part of the culture.

The Big Mac Blog: What do you make of the pitch count craze and are we too focused on it?
Orel Hershiser: It's a chapter. Pitching has gotten harder. They lowered the mound in 1968 to make it better for the hitters. Then you had stadiums with far less foul ground. Balls that landed in the first 10 rows of seats used to be strikes. Every game is on TV and everything is charted. A pitcher used to be a mystery and now there is none of that. 

The Big Mac Blog: Do you think there is a mathematical correlation between the number of pitches and inury, etc.?
Orel Hershiser: It's part of it. Remember, math is about the past. You scout with your eyes and understand the situation of a game because the stats for a batter 'clutch hitting' can't take everything into account. It can't take into account the direction of the wind, whether the pitcher was a specialist, was the starter still into the game, or all of it. The mathmetician will tell you that all of those situations will balance out to reflect how the player is going to perform. I don't believe that. If I play one million hands of poker they will all balance out? No.

Does it have a place? Yes. Math does reveal things where we have biases and were re-think something. But to say I'm going to build a team based on math? I'm not buying that. 

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