People talk about pitch counts a lot. It seems like they have been doing it less over the past year and change than was usual in the past decade but that might just be due to my selective perception. I hope not. I hope people are talking about pitch counts less often because on the whole pitch counts as they have been traditionally calculated (by counting the number of pitches thrown) are dumb.
I could write thousands of words on this subject. I could go over how it relates to starting pitchers. How hitters are stronger now and parks are smaller, leaving pitchers with a smaller margin of error. How that forces them to nibble and gun for strikeouts more which raises not just the number of pitches they need to throw per batter, but the effort level on each pitch as well. I could then transition into talking about how individual pitches are not all thrown in the same way because the leverage of the situation can influence the pitcher into trying to throw faster or bite off more curve, potentially adding stress to their arm.
All of these are valid concerns when we talk about pitch counts and there are plenty more. Last night's 20-inning game between the Mets and the Cardinals highlighted one more that I feel gets left out a lot because discussions on pitch counts tend to focus on starters. Relievers are not to be forgotten either and they have undergone a similar shortening of their usage as starters. One reason why is because they throw so many pitches warming up because they have to enter the game at 100%.
Four Mets pitchers threw at least two innings of relief, allowing Manuel to save closer Francisco Rodriguez for a save situation. That did not occur until the 19th... Rodriguez, who had warmed up every inning from the eighth through the 19th, estimated that he threw more than 100 pitches in the bullpen. And he admitted to being somewhat gassed by the time Manuel finally called his name.
Pitch counts are dumb because they are literally dumb. They don't tell us anything.