Meet College Baseball’s Ultimate Ironman

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LINDSBORG, Kan. — Chase Lorg of Bethany College is without question the ironman of college baseball.

Few pitchers in the history of college baseball, if any, have ever taken on the massive workload this man has.

He has thrown 177, 161, 156, 141, 127 and 126 pitches in six games this season which simply doesn’t happen in this day and age of American baseball when 120 pitches is the maximum that is recommended for college age pitchers.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound righthander has unusual physical endurance to withstand these outings without tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow or sustain a shoulder injury.

So far this season, he has pitched in 11 games with 8 starts for Bethany and thrown 1,158 pitches while facing 326 batters.

There is no question he is a throwback to a previous generation.

According to The Cultural Encyclopedia Of Baseball,  pitch counts were not utilized for many years in pro baseball.

The main factor was how successful the pitcher was. If his velocity went down or he was laboring, the pitcher was simply taken out. Common sense ruled the day.

Sandy Koufax averaged 155 pitches per game in one season during the early 1960s which was not unusual for that era.

Washington Senators’ pitcher Tom Cheney threw 228 pitches in a 1963 game as he struck out 21 Orioles in a 16-inning contest.

Luis Tiant threw 163 pitches in a complete game win by the Red Sox over the Reds in Game 4 of the 1975 World Series.

In 1987, there were 106 performances where a pitcher threw at least 140 pitches in a Major League game. Eight years later in 1995, that total was only 36. The protocol by the late 1990s was 120 pitches as the limit to keep pitchers healthy.

If you think these numbers by starting professional pitchers years ago are excessive, the Japanese really push the envelope when it comes to high pitch counts.

In a story by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports several years ago, he discussed Japan’s national high school baseball tournament which takes place twice a year. During a spring championship several years ago, a young 16-year-old boy named Tomohiro Anraku of Saibi High School threw 772 pitches over 46 innings in five days.

He started the tournament with a 94 mph fastball and threw 232 pitches over 13 innings in his first contest.

Then he threw 159, 138, 134 and 109 pitches in succeeding games. In his last game, not surprisingly, he could barely muster enough arm strength to throw fastballs 80 mph as he gave up nine runs during an eventual 17-1 drubbing.

According to Passan, the ultimate compliment for a baseball player in Japan is to be called Kaibutsu which translates to “Monster” and symbolizes an athlete who performs at a remarkable level during the national tournament.

Passan also pointed out that over a decade ago at the Japanese national high school tournament Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 250 pitches over 17 innings during a quarterfinal game. He pitched the next day in relief. And a day later, Matsuzaka fired a no-hitter in the finals.

He pitched eight seasons in Japan pro baseball dominating hitters and signed with the Red Sox for $103 million for six years. In his fifth year at 30 years old, he blew out his elbow which required Tommy John surgery.

When you look at pro baseball, the industry hemorrhages billions of dollars for pitchers on the disabled list every year because of elbow and shoulder injuries.

On the college, high school and youth baseball levels, elbow and shoulder injuries to pitchers cost parents millions of dollars each year.

Having a maximum pitch count is not the easy answer.

To read more of this story, purchase the May 7, 2021 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It explains how Chase Lorg has been able to take on this massive workload and what he did to prepare for the season so he would be injury free.