Teams are constantly monitoring pitch counts with a goal of keeping starting pitchers strong and preventing injuries. During spring training, teams start pitchers off slowly, going from 20 pitches to 30 or 40, then making it up to 80 and eventually 100 by the end of spring to get them ready for the regular season. In the World Baseball Classic, the workloads of the pitchers are out of a team's control. Should they be worried?
There are pitch counts in place at the WBC, but they are still accelerated from a pitcher's typical spring routine. To prepare for the WBC, pitchers need to ramp up their throwing before reporting for spring training, and then pitch in an atmosphere where greater effort and higher stress is likely -- the games matter more than your average spring training contest, after all. Pitchers aren't working on pitches in the same way they would during a normal spring game. It seems unlikely that Carlos Martinez would have thrown multiple pitches over 100 mph like he did against Canada on March 8 if he had been pitching under different circumstances in Jupiter, Florida, at the Cardinals spring training complex.
So teams relinquish considerable control over their players in order to promote the game through the WBC, and there is an inherent risk in pitching. Neither teams nor players want to expose themselves to more risk, but are they measurably at any greater danger by pitching in the WBC? While not conclusive, we can look at past WBC participants and see if there were any more injuries or decreased effectiveness associated with pitching in the WBC.
Over the past two WBCs, I looked at all pitchers who started at least one game and had reasonable expectations of cracking the Opening Day roster on a team's rotation. Twenty-four pitchers fit the description from 2009 and 2013, with nine coming from the last contest and 15 from eight seasons ago.