FWIW, I've done it both ways and now I'm straight form the fridge and into the beer. The temp shock theory is outdated and has been disproved. The current theory is that the yeast will start using up their glycogen reserves once they warm up and become active and you want that to happen in the beer, not before the yeast gets there. I find I get far better yeast performance by pitching cold. I'd encourage you to try it a few times and compare for yourself. At the very least, there's no downside.
Denny, why would warming yeast from 4C to 20C prior to pitching cause them to start using glycogen reserves? Theres no sugar so I don't think they would "spring into action". If you let a culture use up all the sugar in a starter, its going to settle out and be dormant until theres more substrate whether the temp is 20C or 4C. I think we're confusing the situation with dry yeast where you're rehydrating them with water and you don't want to leave them out of a wort for more than 20min.
On the other hand I don't think theres any real reason to warm them first either, tif there is such a thing as shock it would be going from warm to cold.
I kind of like "waking the yeast up" by feeding them some sugar prior to pitching, that way I get the best of both worlds. I get rid of any off-flavored beer from the starter, and I get them going with the small feeding a few hours prior to pitching. Is it necessary, no.
I assume this would apply to pitching WL tubes straight from the fridge as well?? I've always just "read the directions" which say to warm to 70-75.
You're not doing yourself any favors just pitching the tubes straight (unless your brew is very low gravity). To make better beer, you should be making starters.
Maybe he's making a 3gal batch of ale, in which case no starter is necessary. I asked this question of the experts, since the one sells tubes of yeast as pitchable for 5gal, and the other has the Mr Malty calculator that tells us that a tube isn't enough for a 1.030 beer. No word back, but I'm hopeful of a discussioni.